Originally posted on Patreon in September 2019 and part of the Great Patreon Crossposting to WordPress.
This story was prompted by this toot here – https://elekk.xyz/@eightbitsamurai/102849547549670548 – and is technically the last “Very short” (shh) story of the July Patreon theme, “arts and crafts.”
It is set, in my mind, in the Fae Apoc ‘verse, but while Esther uses a little bit of magic to …. nudge… things, it’s all very low-key.
Esther was knitting people together.
She was not all that good at hunting, having tried it twice and not gotten anything at all, but she was good at helping the hunters prepare the food they brought in and she wasn’t squeamish with the carcasses.
She had a bum leg and ankle, no matter what she tried, that meant that she couldn’t really do that much scavenging, though she went along when she could and she knew better than some what the good places would be around here and which should be avoided.
She could garden, and she did, did her best, but again, the ankle kept her from doing nearly as much as she wanted to. She wasn’t helpless; although she was lousy at hunting she was still a cold shot with a shotgun or a pistol, never mind the rifle she sometimes borrowed. And she had skills not many in their little community had, knowledge not many had focused on. She’d done canning as a kid and was quick to pick it up again and nearly as quick to teach.
But more than any of that, she could knit – and she could knit people together. She’d had sheep before, a few of them, but she’d had neighbors who had decided somewhere else was the place to be about a month before everything went down (“before the shit hit the fan,” as the guys liked to say when they thought she wasn’t in earshot), and now she had twice as many sheep.
And if her sheep gave more wool then maybe they ought to realistically, if they were healthier and more willing to eat some slightly-unusual things than most sheep were (and if their forage was more lively and their grain more plentiful than sense might suggest), and if they maybe slightly better behaved, smarter than most sheep, well, most of the people that she was around, they didn’t know all that much about sheep, much so it worked out just fine for her.
Their little community – before, it had been a campground, two farms, three houses built on former farmland, and a gas station; some people had fled away when the trouble went down, and some had fled to, setting up camp in the campground, preferring their mountainside to the crowds.
They hadn’t gotten gas in seven months. They hadn’t gotten milk in four. They hadn’t seen even the National Guard in a month, but they were safe, and they were doing okay. They’d had a giant barbecue with half the food left in coolers and ‘fridges and then moved the solar panels and generators all to one house, one fridge. That had sealed their agreement. Some hunted, some gardened, and some scavenged. Some built and some dug. As the weather got chilly, Ester made room in her house for as many as she could, and then helped them take over her neighbors’ house when it was clear the Donovans weren’t coming back.
She stood guard while more mobile people hunted. She taught them the area, the tools, and the tricks you learned when you lived in the area.
She figured out plant dyeing and used up every bit of scavenged dye and, when all else failed, she quietly coaxed a couple of her sheep to give birth to black lambs.
And she knitted. She stood guard and knitted, she supervised canning and knitted. She sorted out piles of scavenged canned goods – and knit. Sweaters over everyone’s shoulders and scarves around their necks, the wool softer than her mutt sheep had any right to give, their fibers surprisingly non-itchy and very, very durable. She told stories to the kids and knit afghans. She helped sort out arguments and knit mittens.
When they were asked who their leader was, people in their little community pointed to one of the hunters, or their best scavenger (depending on who was available, and the mood at that particular week). But when the community needed holding together, they looked to Esther and her knitting.