Sew and Sew (Part I)

SH.sew and sewLife is made up of small details, don’t you think? So much can depend on the lift of an eyebrow at a certain moment or the angle of a tone of voice that leaves hurt in its wake.

In the run-up to this year’s town meeting, a lot of folks are learning it’s important to watch G.G. Dieppe’s eyebrows and tones of voice.

She’s running for the empty seat on Carding’s selectboard, and so far, she’s unopposed.

But if I’m any judge of how things happen in Carding, that is about to change.

Carding’s town-meeting saga continues with this two-part story about how a small detail builds into a much larger movement. Unless, of course, we get the chance to find out more about G.G. Dieppe and her new antagonist. Then this story could grow to three parts.

Stay tuned.

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out in 2018.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

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In all the years that he had been rector of Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Carding, Vermont, Reverend Gordon Lloyd could not recall a time when he had dreaded going to work.

Oh sure, there were crises from time to time—personal, professional, and financial—among his parishioners. But as a group, the members of Gordon’s church had learned how to amicably help one another weather storms of all sorts.

But over the past year, that camaraderie had all but disappeared, and Gordon despaired that it would ever return.

Though he would never say it out loud among his flock, he could readily finger the source of the discontent—G.G. Dieppe.

“It isn’t that the woman doesn’t recognize the anger and hurt she sows in her wake,” Gordon explained to his sister during a family visit over the holidays. “It’s that she relishes it. If you watch closely, you’ll see this tiny smile in the corner of her mouth when she cows someone into submission or gets them so irritated with her prying or her way of judging everybody that they quit coming to church.”

“Does she know that you see that smile?” his sister asked, her forehead crinkled with worry.

Gordon had to think about his answer for a moment. “You know, I believe she does.”

“Then I would be careful if I were you, dear brother. People like this Dieppe woman do everything they can to obliterate anyone who sees them as they really are. The one thing they cannot abide is the truth about themselves,” she said.

But what is a good priest to do? G.G. couched her activities in such sweet, deceptive language while rallying the parish to support a wide variety of good causes, none of which she (or her husband Anthony) contributed to in any way.

She usurped the committee set up to decorate the altar by bringing in her own store of plastic flowers and decorative containers, explaining that she was saving the church money for more important activities. Of course, this activity meant that her name was always in the church program.

Gordon knew folks were complaining about the shabby altar decorations but after his sister’s warning, he decided to wait for the moment when G.G.’s hypocrisy became visible. Most evenings before bed, he dedicated his prayers to the fervent hope that that moment would soon arrive.

Imagine the priest’s surprise when the answer to his prayers turned out to be a quiet woman who sat in the back of the church every Sunday.

Being the third of four girls meant that Brenda Underwood was often overlooked while she was growing up. The eldest in her family became the pretty one while the youngest was the star athlete, and the second sister crept deep into the world of books and seldom came out.

That left Brenda with a meager menu of distinctions from which to choose.

She was content with her lot almost all of the time. Invisibility had its advantages, after all. But Brenda’s quiet exterior belied an inner strength that always took would-be bullies by surprise.

In high school, Brenda landed like a meteor in the midst of a controversy over handicapped access to the local hockey rink. As her parents watched open-mouthed, their quiet little girl fought the school board, reluctant voters, and a nasty athletic director to widen doors and make space for folks in wheelchairs.

In college, she stood up to a formidable prof whose misogyny kept female students out of the campus newspaper until the man was forcibly retired. She demanded (and got) equal pay for her work as an accountant, and then demanded pay equity for all of the other women in her firm.

“You’d never know it to talk to her,” her husband Clark told their friends. “But my wife turns into a super-hero when she sees injustice.”

Now in their seventies and retired, Brenda and Clark had settled into a peaceful Vermont life of grandchildren, pottery making (Clark), and quilting (Brenda). That’s how she met G.G., through the Carding Quilt Guild.

Like most quilters, Brenda learned the rudiments of sewing through a home economics class when she was about twelve. After that, she made Halloween costumes for her kids and patched blue jeans, sewed on buttons, that kind of thing. She’d never considered herself a high-end sewer, just someone who knew enough to get by in the world of needle and thread.

But now that she was released from number crunching, Brenda decided to stick her toe into the world of geometric patterns and color.

“I don’t want to spend a lot of money until I know this is something I want to do for a while,” she told her husband when she bought a second-hand sewing machine. “I’ve been warned that quilting can be quite the addiction.”

“Oh, you’ve got to join our guild,” several women purred to her after their yoga class. “You’ll meet a lot of new people and we have great programs so you’ll learn all these techniques and how to make different blocks.”

“And G.G., our president, is great,” one of them added. Brenda thought she saw a couple of the other women’s faces cinch up with fleeting distaste at the mention of G.G.’s name but it passed so quickly, she wasn’t sure if she imagined it or not.

“When and where are the meetings?” she asked.

“Oh, the third Thursday of the month in the Episcopal church hall.”

“The next one is the day after tomorrow.”

“Oh, please say you’ll come.”

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