hand, just as Nancy reached the first floor. Rachel and Ned, picking up the uncomfortable vibration from the elder quarters, soon followed up to Granny and Grandpa’s apartment to make coffee and share the cannoli. Nancy hadn’t had the chance to tell Granny about Grandpa’s losses; she didn’t need to.
“So black a sweater. Makes you look like a rat in the subway.” Was Granny scolding her instead of Grandpa? Nancy knew he’d get it later.
“It helps me blend in,” she said. It had been a long afternoon, and it was getting longer.
“Too true,” Granny said. “But well knit, Nancy.”
Nancy’s face went hot with surprise and pleasure. She had carefully knotted a strand of yarn through the hole she’d found. Did it matter, since she’d fixed it? Granny didn’t let her feel proud for two minutes before starting in on the color again. “A pretty face like yours…You’ve got a face like a flower, but you keep it allboxed in. You ought to get that black hair off your face and wear some color.”
“I’ve got color!” Nancy flipped up her skirt to show off the purple tights.
“On your backside! Who needs color there, besides a baboon?”
“Show her, Nance,” said Rachel. “See what she’s putting together now, Mother.” She closed the cannoli box and pushed the little plates away. Ned turned his back on the room and stirred the big pot of sauce on the stove, but Nancy knew he was listening as closely as the others. Grandpa Joke nibbled at his cannoli, not close to finishing it, and watched Nancy.
She dumped her new project out of her backpack onto the table: balls of Mama’s scrap yarn in every jewel tone. Red and purple, pale blue, turquoise, all the dark blues, emerald green, and one black. All she would need to buy was gold.
Granny grabbed. She had to touch such colors, couldn’t resist. She rolled the balls into a row with her gnarled hands. “What pattern are you knitting?” she asked.
A stand-out sweater,
Nancy said to herself.
“No particular pattern,” she told Granny.
“Why, yes it is,” said Mama. “The stripes are all exactly two rows wide.”
Grandpa Joke raised his eyebrows. “Ah, a nonesuch sweater.”
Precisely. “Each time I start a new stripe I reach into the bag and pick whatever comes out.”
“Every time? Whatever comes out?” Grandpa’s eyebrows bent down.
“Yeah, unless it’s too much like the last color or it’s too ugly a combination.”
“Oh, so your taste
come into play?” Ned asked.
Triumphantly Nancy said, “No. Sometimes I use them anyway, because they’re so different from what I would normally choose.”
“Uh-huh,” said Granny. Except in her West Virginia accent it sounded like “aha.” Maybe that was what she really was saying. She leaned back in her wheelchair, looked out the window at the courtyard where Mama’s greenhouse hovered over her loom. Everyone waited to hear what else she would say. “In the country,” Granny said, “it is very dark at night.”
They all looked at her for a beat. Only Grandpadidn’t look away. Rachel, Ned, and Nancy caught one another’s eyes.
“Yes, Tina?” Grandpa Joke said.
Granny Tina laughed. She didn’t finish her thought. She didn’t have to. What she meant was that Nancy’s nonesuch sweater could be knitted in the dark, if it was as random as all that.
Nancy was the only one who got it. “You think the pattern is choosing me,” she said quietly.
Then the others understood, too. They all nodded. Then they burst out in hoots and hollers of laughter.
What a family.
The phone rang. Ned scooped it up. “Hello?” A tremor came into his voice. “Giacomo Greene? That’s what you said? Yes, this
his number, but Green Medicine—” Pause. “No, that’s not our listing. You’ll have to try the operator.” He hung up.
Then three people said, “Nancy—” Her mother, her father, her grandmother. Not Grandpa Joke, but maybe he would have, too, if the others hadn’t
Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman