Garment Feud

Posted on February 26, 2011

4


By David Hartley…

I had a scarf. She had a scarf.

Both scarves were home-made and of roughly equal length.

Mine, however, was better. There was no doubt in my mind that mine was better.

Knowing that my scarf was better, I excelled in the improvisation games in the first Drama class of the term. I got bigger laughs, more applause and even a pat on the back from the teacher.

She got a few giggles, nothing much more. She was off her game. I was on mine. And my scarf was better.

As I walked home that day, making up songs in my head to the tune of Big Spender based on random themes, I was already certain that I had clinched the lead role in the next production. This time, I would get the final bow. This time, my name will be top of the cast list.

I twirled my wonderful scarf around and then tucked it down the front of my coat.

*

The next day, her scarf was longer.

She’d added at least half a metre overnight. She’d used a new colour – a sort of off-ochre – and she’d let the ends hang loose so they would fray in a totally cool way.

No-one else really noticed. But I noticed. And, of course, she knew what she was doing.

And then, during the warm-up, she did an impression of Cher from X-Factor and it was really good. The class swooned at her starlet feet and stroked her golden scarf.

I didn’t sing that day.

*

I stayed up all night, knitting. In, over, in, over, looping loops and tying off ends. I used black thread upon a white background and, after many failed attempts, I managed a reasonable impression of the Drama Club logo – a mask in a spotlight on a stage.

It was magnificent. The flow of the stitching and the blend of the colours. It was firm, straight and thick. I vowed never to take it off, even as the spring approached. I laid it on the end of my bed and went to sleep.

*

The next day, when she took off her coat, her scarf unravelled three new metres on both sides, a rainbow of colour and a silhouette picture of a leaping dolphin wove therein.

If I wasn’t so tired, I could have cried. I looked into her eyes. They looked as heavy as mine and betrayed no hint of joy or triumph.

Even the rest of the class had noticed our garment-feud and had now stopped commenting on either scarf.

That day, neither of us were up to scratch. It was the worst Drama class ever.

She approached me afterwards.

‘Hey.’
‘Hey.’
‘We mates?’
‘… Sure.’
‘I like your scarf.’
‘Yours is better.’

She shrugged. We paused, twirling our fingers into our knit.

‘Listen,’ she said ‘I don’t want to always try and have a better scarf than you. You’re funny, I like you.’

My heart thumped but I was dumb.

‘Let’s not do any more knitting. Ok?’

I nodded and walked away.

*

But I couldn’t stop. Her scarf was still better and would stay better forever if I just left things as they were. And I would never get the lead role. I would never get into Drama College. Never get to the West End stage. Never perform for an adoring crowd of thousands, as long as her scarf was better than mine.

And so, for the second night in a row, I stayed up, never sleeping, perpetually knitting.

*

The next day, her scarf was longer.

But this time only by a little bit. I kept mine tucked inside my coat where it was making my body heat rise to dangerous levels. But I wanted to wait until I’d seen what she had done before I revealed mine.

‘Hey.’
‘Hey.’
‘I know I said I’d not do anymore knitting, but I thought I’d just do one last little bit.’

She smiled and showed me the new addition. It was a red background with a face stitched in brown thread. I frowned.

‘Its supposed to be you,’ she said.

And then I laughed. Laughed and laughed and laughed like I’d never laughed before, falling to my knees and clutching my belly, with tears streaming into my eyes and no time for breath. I could feel the heat as the convulsions of laughter shook the sweat off my face, so I tore open my jacket and my scarf burst free like a fabric firework, uncoiling through the room in an explosion of colour and image, every bird and flower billowing into the dusty space and slamming into the faces of every doubting person there. With me, in the middle, forcing out the laughs so I could pause for a moment for a breath and a few snatched words;

‘It looks more like Roy Keane you stupid bitch!’ I said before my scarf enveloped me, swallowed me, held me, hugged me and then I was gone.

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