Imagine yourself at a social gathering. There’s 20 people in the room and everyone’s talking, sharing food and drink, enjoying one another’s company.
Now imagine what happens to the mood of that party if just one person starts to dominate the room with arguments, a loud voice or offensive words.
Why and how is it that the actions of just one such person can change the dynamic of twenty?
The members of Carding’s quilt guild, Shades of Emerald, are grappling with just that issue.
Enjoy the latest Carding Chronicle.
The membership of Carding’s quilt guild has fluctuated over the years. Sometimes, the number of people who pay dues to Shades of Emerald coasts above 70 people. Other years, it’s as low as 50.
But in general, you can count on 60 people to show up on the second Wednesday of each month in the community hall of St. John’s Episcopal church.
Edie Wolfe and her friends, Ruth Goodwin and Agnes Findley, were the founders of the guild. Over the years, their activity levels have waxed and waned because of life events and energy levels. But none of them has ever drifted completely away from the group, treasuring the friendships they’ve formed over the years.
“The guild is a place of refuge,” Edie liked to tell herself whenever she grew tired of volunteering. “And it’s worth keeping.”
But that was before G.G. Dieppe darkened their doors. A shortish, roundish woman of enormous bustle and little understanding, G.G.’s presence changed the equilibrium of the group.
And not for the better.
“Does that woman ever stop talking?” Agnes screeched in frustration as she made her way home with Ruth and Edie. “She prattles on and on and on. You can’t get away from her.”
“And if she has a lick of common sense or any sensitivity to the feelings of others, I’ve never seen it,” Ruth added. “Did you catch the look on Reverend Lloyd’s face when she started criticizing his sermons in front of the whole group? And the way she stuffs her political opinions up everyone’s nose…argh!!!”
They shook their heads in unison.
“Why are we polite to her?” Ruth asked. “You can tell by the looks on other people’s faces that they’re as offended by her opinions as we are, and yet none of us speaks up. Why is that?”
“Because the guild has no formal way to rid itself of an obnoxious member, and we all know it’ll just cause a big scene if we speak up,” Edie said. “I keep hoping she’ll get tired of haranguing us after the election, and go away.”
“Or at least shut up,” Agnes added. “She’s ruining the guild for me.”
“Yeah, me too,” Ruth said.
Alas, Edie’s wish was not going to be granted. Or at least it was not going to be granted in the way she had hoped.
On election day, Vermont was the first state called for Hillary Clinton, a result that could have been predicted before the polls opened that morning. But as the night wore on, it became apparent that the Green Mountain State’s three electoral votes didn’t count.
Except for G.G. and a small handful of others, the residents of Carding were devastated by the election results. The silence on the streets, in the schools, and in the stores resembled the silence following the assassination of John Kennedy and 9-11.
G.G., however, was ebullient, bubbling over with enthusiasm, and a perverse delight in the misery of others. She hooted and shouted that the election result was under the protective custody of her personal version of the deity, that “God and the Republicans won.”
Reverend Lloyd, ordinarily an unflappable man, was so exasperated with the woman’s unseemly display in the aisles of Cooper’s General Store, that he was momentarily struck dumb. When he finally found his voice, G.G. was long gone, prattling at her next victim and the one after that.
Edie watched the silly woman’s display from a distance, first with despair but then with a mounting sense of disgust. As the day after the election wore on, her phone began to ring…and ring and ring.
“I can’t bear going to the guild meeting tonight,” Cate Elliot started. “That G.G.…she makes me gag.” There was a pause. “What does the G.G. stand for, anyway?”
“Not sure,” Edie said. “Ghastly Godzilla, I presume.”
Chloe Cooper called next. “I won’t be at the guild meeting tonight,” she began.
“Because of G.G.,” Edie finished. “I’m hearing a lot of that.”
“I’ve never felt so awful about an election in my life,” Ruth said when she called. “And that G.G., she’s the worst. Do you think she even hears what she’s saying?”
“I doubt it,” Edie said. “Fools seldom understand that they are fools.”
After several more telephone calls, Edie’s disgust morphed into anger, and she realized she had to work some of it off. So she fished her work gloves out of the closet, threw on the jacket she reserved for grubby chores, and headed out to the backyard to stack wood.
Chunk. “He’s not my President,” she yelled at the logs.
Chunk, clunk, slam. “He will never be my President.”
Chunk. “How could this happen?” Chunk chunk.
The sun’s shallow November arc had started to fade when Edie uncovered a discarded snake skin between the logs. She gently picked it up, admiring the detail of the animal that had once worn it.
She laid it to one side then attacked the logs with renewed vigor, trying even harder to replace her fear and despair with exhaustion.
Chunk, chunk. Slam. A small movement caught her eye, and Edie stopped, log in hand. Tucked in the crevice of the wood holder, a dark spider hovered over her newly exposed nest. The small critter had obviously made plans for the spring.
Spring. Would there even be a spring?
Edie’s eyes teared up as she placed the next few logs with care so the hopeful mother would not be disturbed.
Small things, she thought. I need to step back and remember what’s really important here.
And it’s certainly not G.G. Dieppe.
Finally, the muscles in Edie’s hands began to ache from gripping the heavy logs. The sun was much closer to the horizon now, and twilight was sliding down the hills to fill the valley.
As she straightened up, three cars pulled into her driveway, each of them full of women from her guild.
“We tried to call you,” Ruth yelled from the window of her Jeep. “We’ve moved the guild meeting to Belmont Hill to watch the moon rise. Come on. It’s supposed to be up in a half hour.”
“And we’re bringing wine…”
“…and crackers,” Agnes yelled. “Just drop everything right where you are. No time to lose.”
Edie stuffed her gloves in her pocket, dove into the circle of her friends, and they took off with a roar, climbing to the top of the highest hill in Carding.
When they arrived, they saw a riot of colorful quilts covering the hill’s eastern face, and a companionable silence reigned among the growing crowd.
“What about poor Revered Lloyd?” Edie asked. “He’s going to be stuck at the church with G.G.”
“Ha, are you kidding?” Ruth said, pointing to a collared man perched on a patchwork of blue and white. “This was his idea.”
Down in the village, G.G. stood at the door of the dark church, tugging on its locked door with frustration. She had so looked forward to cheering the victory of Team Red in the face of so much Blue opposition in the guild.
But she stood alone on the street, her mouth robbed of words.
The joy of life had moved on, leaving her behind.
Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning along with food photos and recipes from the Crow Town Bakery (on Fridays), and other green peak moments from Vermont (Mondays and Tuesdays).
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The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):