The Seamstress’s Revenge
By Dana Faletti
The soldier’s eyes are hidden beneath the rim of his cap.
He clicks his heels and salutes, a husky “Heil!” escaping his throat like the growl of a savage dog.
I know why he has burst into my shop this January morning. I know he has work for me, and, even as my belly roils at the thought of completing his request, I know I cannot refuse.
Carelessly, he drops a bulging sack onto the counter, between brass baubles and miscellany, knocking over a chipped teacup and saucer. In pieces, it scatters across the worn wooden floor.
He doesn’t apologize.
I thank him for the sack and watch him leave.
Inside the scratchy burlap there are bloodstains. Shit stains. Stains that symbolize the most heinous crimes committed against human beings. Ever. I finger the sleeve of a child’s pajama shirt. I don’t want to imagine the little one who wore it. Instead I conjure the image of my tiny Oskar with his blue eyes and blond hair, features that will keep him safe in a world that’s lost its mind.
But none of us is safe.
And it is for this reason that I must empty the sack and scrub out every stain on each piece of clothing. I am an eraser, deleting all evidence of suffering from the narrative, negating lives. This is what they want from me.
And I do it. For my Oskar.
But, after the stains are gone, after I’ve cut and pieced material for The Reich’s reuse, I do something else.
Something the Fuhrer did not ask me to do.
As I close up hems, needles slips from my fingers, into collars.
Unnoticeable until they scratch at the necks of unsuspecting soldiers.
The bump of a few metal buttons hidden inside a waistband may seem like nothing but an irritation.
But they are my only opportunity for resistance.
And, in a world that’s lost its mind, we do what we can.