“By a Silver Thread”
Written by P.T. Mayes
Copyright 2005 2014 by P.T. Mayes
Finding the eye of the needle, day in day out, for close to forty years had ruined Vera Tung’s eyesight. Even with the aid of a powerful lamp and the largest magnifying glass she could find, she still had to squint as she guided the ragged thread of silver towards the incredibly tiny loop of steel. Why did they have to make the wretched things so small? She knew why, of course, but that didn't make it any easier.
Pressing her front teeth down hard into her bottom lip helped a little, so much so that she now had two permanent indentures on her bottom lip. Her son always laughed at her when she did this, cruelly pointing out that she looked like a chipmunk. She hated him when he said that. She didn't like chipmunks, which she guessed was some sort of rodent. She hated rodents more than she hated the eyes of needles, and the apartment block was infested with them, especially at night. She could hear them scratching and scurrying behind the skirting board when she put the lights out, and the sounds never failed to make her skin crawl.
“Where has the dratted thing gone now?” she grumbled to herself, nudging the magnifying glass a little to the left with the side of her thumb. The eye of the needle, held steady by the jaws of a jeweller’s vice, popped neatly into focus. Now, if only her hand would stop shaking for a moment she might get it in one.
If she was very, very careful...
She held her breath again, bit down on her bottom lip and brought the end of the thread, shaped into a twisting cone by the application of a little saliva, towards the eye. For a second the world froze.
Nearly there! Nearly there!
The tip of the thread trembled.
This time I’ve got you, she thought, a feeling of victory swelling in her breast. Just as the thread was about to penetrate the eye the front door slammed shut with such force it sent a great gust of wind charging through the apartment. Curtains billowed, newspapers rustled on the table and the silver thread bent back against Vera’s thumbnail. Spitting a ripe Cantonese curse she threw the reel of silver thread down and shoved the magnifying glass away from her. Cookie crumbs on the workbench came sharply into focus, a chocolate chip as big as a boulder.
“Dean? Is that you?” she yelled, hoping the visitor could clearly hear the irritation in her voice. “Dean?”
“Ah-yer,” came the reply from the kitchen.
How she hated that damn Ah-yer. Couldn’t Dean speak proper English for once? He was too lazy to learn Cantonese and the English he picked up off the street seemed more like an alien language made up of grunts and facial tics than anything Vera had ever heard. And to think how she had worked her fingers to the bone to give him all the opportunities she had gone without. Deep down she knew Dean did not want education. He did not want 9-to-5; he did not want to get out of bed before midday -- in fact he did not want to be bothered with anything that caused him to sweat, which was just about everything. He was unemployable and he liked it that way. Anyway, why did he need a job when his old ma gave him good pocket money for helping her out? Without Dean she would have to deliver the garments herself; deliver them to the four corners of the city, and that would mean spending profitable hours away from her sewing machine. Dean might be an oaf, but he was an oaf Vera had come to rely upon. With profit margins as narrow as they were -- if not to say nonexistent -- Vera Tung could not afford to employ someone else; especially not someone who might be actually reliable. They might start demanding that she pay them a living wage, and that was beyond her means.