Ours is a country almost city school and today the air is fresh frozen, not yet winter. November. Art Teacher clears her throat. Some days a shadow bounces in the corner of my eye but when I look nothing. Before
Halloween I’d close my eyes and she was there, the up and down graze of her eyes locked in my
childhood, her glance at Dad and his suggestion I straighten my room, help with dinner, dress
warmer or drier or younger. She saved her words for the good times. Now I close my eyes and
see only my own eyelids blocking out the light. The sweater is soft with age and too much
washing, ancient as the prairie beyond her window. The yarn waters my eyes into the past. I am
there. Take something, says Dad - her body boxed for burning - to remember her by. He nudges
me gentle to her belongings. Not much, no need, little money. I choose this, I say, and Dad
smiles long and slow and drags his fingers against the yarn to sniff, I echo his measure and it is
flowers. Lavender, says Dad. I slip the lavender scent next to my skin and roll the sleeves three
times at the cuff to bare my hands, so translucent you can see the blood pumping and the stringy
finger bones ridging outwards. She always wore it large, says Dad, and she was taller than you,
broader than you. But not stronger than me, when she was fifteen her life was close to half over.
It will keep you warm in winter, says Dad. Its hand made with curly ridges like vines weaving in
and out each other like fallen trees in a burned forest. I wear it every day, swallowed by the yarn,
living in the belly of my mother’s sweater. I close my eyes and search for her body. Listen up!
says Art Teacher. It’s late November and the sweater is mine. She is gone, gone, gone, no longer
sullen in the Value Village recliner, no longer searching my face for connection. I never knew
the sweater’s lavender and optimism. I cover it with green paint and wriggle out, skin slithering
against the backs of painted vines, I toss the sweater on an art pad on the floor, a heap of mustard
brown smelling of no one and green acrylic paint (Clover, Number 2463), sticky yarn from a
long dead sheep. And from the teenage disorder, the human smell of feet. Ricky Hillis had
slipped his shoes off. Again. He does it every class but only gets away with it in the art room
stink. Put your shoes on, I say. Me, silent Clare talking, loud. Put your shoes on now! Everyone
is quiet. Stop, says the teacher. I roll the sweater on the paper, paint side down and I press.
Alexina Dalgetty lives in Camrose. Her short fiction has been published online and in print. Her first novel will be released in late 2023 by Liquorice Fish Books.