Marla need to earn the dough to be able to go to band camp, but this old lady had to be nuts. What a way to spend a Saturday morning. She’d listened to her mom who’d said this old thing needed the help. Grandpa raised his new hoe and agreed, following her out the door. “Darling, go aid our neighbor. I hear tell the woman down there lives all by herself. You’re lucky the Preacher found out she could use a hand and would pay somebody willing.”
Yeah, she needed help alright. This was her second time here and planned to make it her last. There had to be another job to find in this little town.
Drying the last of the dishes, the dish towel snagged that darned Velcro glued across the counter again. She ripped it up and the dratted Velcro came with it. Then she noticed Miss Grady stood two paces away. She laid the towel down gently and moved in front of it.
“I have your wages for today. There’s a little extra because of my mess you helped me clean up. Nasty, I know, but at my age I can’t always make it to potty in time.”
Embarrassed for the poor thing, she smiled. “It’s okay, Miss Grady, my Granny did worse than that.” She took the cash and slipped it into the little purse she kept slung across her shoulder. “I appreciate you letting me do the few odd jobs around here so I can go to camp.” So much for her plan.
“I took the free time to make you a Sunday dress, if you’d like to try it on. I mean, in case I got your size wrong.”
Dread drenched Marla’s skinny body. No dress ever fit her awkward form, and who knows what she’d made it out of. She’d seen a glimpse of the sewing room and it was filled with piles of cloth. For all she could imagine, this dress came from the first scraps reachable. “Thank you. I’ll just take it home; I’m sure it will fit fine.”
Miss Grady leaned back and raised an eyebrow. “You doubt me, young lady. Come on back and let me show it to you.”
Reluctant to be rude after just getting paid, she followed the seamstress back to her lair. They stopped inside the room. Marla raised her gaze from the floor to see a beautiful, cap-sleeved dress on a hanger. She reached and felt of the fabric. The full skirt felt soft yet substantial enough to have some bounce to it; the dress made her want to wear it so bad.
Miss Grady lifted the purse strap over Marla’s head and eased it off. She placed it on the cutting table. “I’ll leave you in here to try it on. Holler when I can come in.”
When the door clicked, Marla shucked her t-shirt and jeans, then her shoes and socks. A new dress! She unzipped it and stepped inside it, holding her breath. She got it zipped up and saw herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. “Miss Grady, I’m ready!”
“Aren’t you a pretty gal. Now, tell me how it fits. I can alter it quick.”
“It’s like it was made for me. And the pattern with the flowers and all is so perfect. I…I don’t know what to say.”
“Honey, you already said all I need to hear. I’m thrilled you like it!”
Marla slumped and frowned. “I admit, I thought you were crazy and didn’t expect much. I’m sorry.”
Chuckling, Miss Grady said, “I am off my rocker; however I can sew fairly well in spite of it. With all this cloth I figured I could finally put some to good use. You can pick any material you like and I’ll make another if you want.”
Marla straightened. “I would, if you take it out of my pay.” Grandpa would make up the shortage for the camp if he knew she’d tried to earn her way. Couldn’t she have both?
“Look around you, dear. Humor me and let me do this for you, please.”
Marla started walking around, fingering the different materials, her mind distracted from money matters. The silks would be too fancy and the solid cottons too plain. She turned at the sound of a scrape and saw Miss Grady had pulled out a chair to sit by her sewing machine. She stepped over and pulled a stool over to sit near her. “Why do you have so much cloth? Were you a tailor or something?”
Miss Grady got a sad look and rubbed her eyes, shoving her bifocals up to do it. “I had dreams years ago of a fellow dropping from the sky to sweep me off my feet. I felt it necessary to have a fine wardrobe to befit my prince. I’d have such a dream and accidentally drop a dish rag and be eagerly expecting him to arrive.” She threw her hands up. “Of course he never showed. I fell for it every year or two for a long while. No more.”
“That’s why you Velcro’d the counter? To keep from dropping the towel?”
“That’s right. I make it a point to forget my dreams when I wake up, too.” She put her seam ripper and small scissors into a bin and turned the sewing machine light out. “I’m surprised you know the omens; I thought they’d die out with my generation.”
“Granny taught me some, like your ear itching means a person is talking about you.”
“And your right palm itching means money coming in.”
“And a dropped dishrag means a visitor is coming. Did nobody ever come?”
“The mailman would deliver a package or a Jehovah’s Witness would bring me a Watchtower. Yes, always someone. Not who I wanted.”
Marla got up and returned to the material bank. “How about this one, with the different colored polka dots?” She held it up as Miss Grady wiped a tear.
“There’s enough of that for a dress and a matching jacket. Do you prefer a long jacket or a short, bolero type?”
“Long, with a pleat in the back if you can.”
“I can and will.” She levered up on the table to rise and walked over to a pole that spanned the room, full of clothes. “Sort of like this?”
The chocolate brown velvet jacket made Marla lick her lips. “Yes, wow, yes. With the buttons on the back like that if you have them.”
“Well, let me take some actual measurements so I get the sleeves and shoulders right.”
On Marla’s way out, she waved goodbye with her new dress draped over her other arm. All the way home she thought of her Grandpa who’d been so lonely the last three years, and really the three before that while Granny got worse and worse. He could sure use a nice jacket. What excuse could she use to get him there? He loved to garden and her roses looked puny and weedy. Yes, she would tell him to follow his own advice and aid his neighbor. When she remembered ripping the Velcro off the counter, she grinned ear to ear. She hugged the dress close and wondered if Miss Grady dropping another dishrag might not assist her urging in some cosmic way. Grandpa might be very happy to make friends with so talented a woman. And such a payment for her lovely new clothes removed the cloud of Miss Grady’s sadness and the negative feelings she’d harbored earlier. Altogether, it felt so right.