|Suffolk County Sewing Club '53|
Stitch and Bitch
By Jamie Wyman
Most Wednesdays played the same tune. Rene DuBois tumbled out of bed like a bear in January and growled his way to the kitchen. He sucked down his coffee with a shot of Tennesse whiskey and hauled himself off to the Cummins factory down on Kennedy. Her husband didn’t talk much, and that suited Junebug just fine.
She looked forward to Wednesdays like a child and Christmas. As soon as the rusted out Chevy turned off of
DuBois flew into action. She swept the house clean and opened all of the
windows to air the smells of cigars and gin-sweat. Then she put on her Sunday
best and set out a fine spread of cucumber sandwiches and butter cookies. There
weren’t lace doilies or china teacups, but for a few hours a week the ladies of
could pretend the little tin-and-wood shed was Buckingham palace. Suffolk County
For years now, Junebug hosted the weekly sewing session. Mae and Felicia walked up the road together with baskets on their hips full of clothes that needed mending. Coraline brought the latest quilt she was making to sell at the church bazaar. The bell on Ruthie’s bike announced that she’d arrived with her knitting. Once Junebug heard the rumble of tires on gravel, she knew that the Marlette sisters—Jennie and Boo—had arrived in their daddy’s old Woody. Every Wednesday those girls filed into the tiny living room and set to their tasks. Every Wednesday they stitched with their hands while their voices wove a tapestry. They’d talk family and gossip, tongues wagging and fingers flying.
They never did talk about the bruises. At one point or another all seven ladies bore their marks silently. A fat lip or a black eye. Did Boo seem to be limping? Probably just twisted that bad knee of hers jumping down from her daddy’s tractor. No time to fuss over cuts and goose eggs when there’s stitching to be done.
One day, Mae and Felicia turned up early. Junebug didn’t answer, though, when they knocked. The ladies let themselves in through the kitchen door and found the DuBois couple in a strange tableau of either ecstasy or hatred. With Junebug and Rene, either of the two would be possible.
Rene lay ass-end-up and facedown on the peeling linoleum with his pants down around his knees. Junebug’s dress had been ripped open and one sleeve torn to ribbons. Her hair was all a mess and one eye was damn near swollen shut.
“Junie Bee,” Mae gasped.
The questions wouldn’t come, though. The answers were written in the claw marks trailing down Rene’s meaty arms, the sweat stains on his undershirt and broken bottles strewn about.
Felicia knelt down beside Junebug and took the girl’s trembling hands. With the same tenderness she’d use to soothe her boy back to sleep, she stroked Junie’s hair away from her face.
“Is he dead?” Felica asked soberly.
Mrs. DuBois made to answer, but winced. That jaw hurt something fierce where Rene had got in a hook. In stead, she just shook her head.
Felicia nodded. “Well, we’ll just have to fix that then, won’t we?”
The Suffolk County Sewing Club arrived and promptly set to their work. The Marlette sisters were especially happy to help. Even Coraline took off the silver cross at her neck and grabbed an arm to lug Rene’s fat ass into the bedroom. No one bothered to pull up his pants.
From Junebug’s side Felicia barked out, “Don’t worry ‘bout makin’ those knots too tight. Does he have any more belts, baby, that we can use?”
Silently, Junebug emptied the closet of his leather belts and bootlaces.
When Rene was fastened to the bed and snoring away, Coraline brought in one of the small wooden chairs and sat at the foot of the bed with her quilt over her lap. Ruthie knitted on the new baby’s blanket and Felicia darned her boy’s socks. Though she could have nothing of them, Junebug brought in a plate of butter cookies for the ladies.
Just as the sun began to go down, Rene woke up. Other than the pounding headache, the first thing he noticed was the circle of angry glares.
“What is this?” he sputtered.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Felicia sang. “You looked a bit peaked and we didn’t want you to go off to meet the good Lord just yet. Thought we’d let you get your rest.”
Jerking his fist Rene tested the leather around his thick wrist. “What the hell are you doing? Let me up.”
“No,” Felicia said flatly. “You see, Rene, I came over her to talk with your lovely wife, but it seems she can’t do much talkin’ at all. You know anything ‘bout that?”
“Junie? JUNIE!” he bellowed. “You get your skinny ass in here, girl, and get these friends of yours to let me loose!”
Rene watched as Mae and Boo stepped aside from the foot of the bed to let Junebug through. Still wearing her torn dress and swollen mask, she held in her hand a gleaming butcher knife. She tapped it lightly on the palm of her hand.
“Junie,” Rene growled, “you let me up right now or I’ll tear up outta this bed and get my gun and go bitch huntin’.”
Coraline clucked her tongue. “No, no, Mr. DuBois. You must keep a civil tongue in your head around ladies.”
With a flash of silver, she brought her quilting needle down to his lips and began to sew them shut. When she’d finished, Coraline backed away, satisfied at her fine stitches. Boo plopped a pillow on his face and sat on it to seal away his screams.
After that night when Rene DuBois bled for his sins, the ladies didn’t have to ignore bruises any more. Every Wednesday, the widows of
got together to gossip, to
watch Ruthie’s belly grow and to ooh-and-ahh over Junebug’s butter cookies. Suffolk