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Contemporary Fiction

The spindly shop reached up through the Lego block office buildings and crawling freeway ramps as if reaching for the sun, to escape from the street below. The plate glass front looked out with sad eyes on what had become of its home, doing all it could to grip the ground, to hang on and not be sucked up by the great maw of progress. This little building, a colorful grandma, held tight, though the rest of its neighboring shops had left, away from the dark shadows, and detritus of the street below.


When it had been planted into this fertile ground over 100 years ago, this Town had little to its name, not much more than a gentle turn into a small valley along the road to the Big City. It had grown up on the fresh air, bountiful sun and chattering neighbors, little shops popping up like friendly toadstools. Something about the green park, the fresh air and the vibrant goodwill of the community drew people from far and wide, traveling down the narrow two lane road to discover something new. 


Lilibeth landed in the Town accidently, blown by a gentle wind, and soon put down hesitant roots. She opened a little store, Crafty Creations, no more than a hobby she wanted to share, until it grew into a destination, a place to escape reality. Big-eyed little girls and boys dragged their smiling mothers and fathers in through the yellow door to marvel at her magical creatures. Crocheted pink pigs, blue bears, and purple platypus’ stared back with huge button eyes. Stuffed with the softest cotton, square, round, large and small pillows flew off the shelves to add soft warm cushions to the hard realities of City life. For the DIY’ers ambitious enough to make their own creations, piles of patterns, yards of yarn, and narrow buckets of needles sat waiting for the next project.  


It was only a coincidence, probably, that when Billy, a smart businessman, moved right next door, everything went to hell.


The opening of Computers & More, coincided with the construction of the first of the new concrete buildings, a huge monster built to feed off the new prosperity glittering on the streets.


Thin and energetic, full of fire and gumption, Billy started just one of the many new businesses growing in the Town, hoping to capitalize on the steady stream of customers coming into Town.


Wary of this man who spoke in a strange language of, ‘bites of a ram’ or ‘floppy drives’, Lilibeth ignored him. Eventually, his gregarious smile won her over, and she looked forward each afternoon at 5 PM when he would stop by to end his day, and she would make them both a cup of tea. Lilibeth’s language of ‘H-8 hook for worsted weight yarn’, didn’t translate either, but their nods and smiles did. Lilibeth’s needles clicked happily as Billy spoke to all the animals in her shop, especially his favorite the Teddy Bear. With her thriving business and new friend, she didn’t notice that other new buildings followed, creeping into Town at the dead of night, so that one bright shiny morning Lilibeth looked out to see her little shop surrounded by fat, gray Lego blocks.


Striving, and desperate to grow his business Billy agitated and organized to build his little corner of the world into a vibrant center of commerce.


“A Freeway To A Better Future! His signs read, in bright red paint. 


“We just need a way for the people in the far flung suburbs to come here.” Billy said to everyone who would listen and even those who wouldn’t, like Lilibeth. “Once they learn about this pocket of perfection, this community of cooperation, they’ll come back again and again! Let’s build a highway for customers to our stores!”


Lilibeth plied Billy with tea as she tried to change his mind. She could see what was going to happen as clearly as she could read the pattern to make her famous Valentine Teddy Bears.


“The Town’s fabric can stretch only so much, before the stitches tear.” Lilibeth explained, but Billy didn’t speak her language.   He wrote a marketing plan and drove it forward. Posters, presentations and proposals swirled about the town like a tsunami, blowing a wind of hope and opportunity into the Town.


Voted for with great fanfare, the freeway slithered in, long, sleek ribbons of freshly poured concrete divided the town in two; east and west, for and against.


Billy’s plan worked, more people, more customers took the new offramp, to learn about this hidden gem, the small Town with the wonderful views, fresh air and cute shops.


But the beautiful but delicate flowers of Growth and Community faded in the dark caverns under the new overpass. Those suburbanites, with their big cars and golden wallets did get on those freeways, did want to get out of their blocks of identical houses. Then the ease of the new road became too much, they didn’t stop in the little Town, they kept driving onto the Big City and faster than ever before.


Invasive weeds, the buildings and the freeway choked off the vitality of the little shops, blocking the bright, life- giving sun. The roar of cars and trucks rumbling by, rumi- ami- guri! Rumi- ami guri! replaced the sound of children laughing in the no-longer-green park. Soon slides were replaced by flat, abandoned cars, the swings by towers of broken appliances. Billy’s belly grew bigger as his business shrunk, the customers hesitant, the receipts small.


Lilibeth stayed, one of only a few businesses still open, her and Billy in the faded shop, watching it all change from sun beams and flowers, to gray shadows and black garbage bags growing fat with the fertilizer of neglect and abandonment.

She folded her arms tight, her heart hurt to see the community she loved fading like a dying rose, slowly losing its bloom, turning dry and brittle. The joy she used to have with her next door neighbor Billy faded, their conversations became awkward, as they walked on tiptoes around the landmines of freeways, foreclosure and debt.


A knock at the door, 5 PM. Lilibeth pattered over, glancing through the peephole of the yellow door to see Billy. This new town scared her, she couldn't let danger in from the dark streets.


Lilibeth muttered, unlocking the 2 deadbolts, one chain hook, twisted the lock on the door handle, and then removed the block at the bottom of the door.


“Any customers today?” His large belly entered the door first, followed by his bushy beard, and finally himself. His fingers danced gently over the newest Teddy Bear, picking it up to touch the well-made tight stitches, the soft fabric of the sash.


Lilibeth went back to her front window of Crafty Creations, watching the trash spin on the empty streets, a dust devil of despair. “No customers today.”


The market on the corner had closed, when the families stopped buying donuts and milk. The restaurants shuttered with no lunchtime workers for a deli sandwich, and the wine bar closed with few couples feeling safe walking the shadowy dark streets. The tears were close, a dammed river behind her eyes. The dirty park across the street called out to her.

Come out, here is your new home.


“What are we going to do?” Lilibeth said. “How can we bring people back to this neighborhood, to my store? Valentine's Day is my biggest day of the year, and now nothing, nothing! She ripped the Teddy Bear out Billy’s large hands, the stitches tore apart and stuffing flew up, surrounding them both with white fluffy cotton. “This is your fault!”


The flood of tears broke along with the Bear, the fear of moving out, her inescapable future created a storm of emotions inside her, exploding out in a precipitation of tears, winds howling in despair.


“I might be able to help- “ Billy said, cotton puffs turning his brown hair preternaturally white.


“Get out! This is all your fault, get out!” Lilibeth closed her eyes, clutched her chest and fell like an exploded building, a trail of cotton puffs flowing up in her wake.


Billy watched as Lilibeth was carried out in a stretcher, the torn Bear still in his hands, rubbing the soft yarn, his face as dark as the shadows of the freeways overhead.


The ambulance driver left the front door ajar, he couldn’t imagine anyone would want to steal yarn stuffed with cotton.


A week it took for Lilibeth to be sent home, she arrived in the morning and pulled out her keys but found the door unlocked. A cold wind blew through her. She stepped through the yellow door to see her worst fears had come true, her shop was almost empty, shelves, normally full of brightly colored yarn animals, bare. The cupboard of crocheted hearts, yawned back blank.

She dropped her bag, her hands in front of her face as the floor tilted, an unbalanced world threatening to topple her.


“Lilibeth- you’re back!” Billy burst in, a huge smile underneath his thick beard.


“All my work is gone, stolen! I have nothing, no money, no future, what is going to become of me!?" Tears flowed down her face, a river threatening to wash her away.


Billy reached out with huge hands to straighten her up.


“Your animals, pillows, and things were not stolen.” He said in soft words, sunshine trying to break through the overcast day.


“But everything’s gone!” She gulped through wet cheeks. 


“I know isn’t it amazing?” Billy smiled at the empty shelves.


“What do you mean?”


“It all sold! Customers from all over the world are asking for your creations. Actually since you’re back, if you could make some more, those Teddy Bears are on back order-”


“How, what?”


“Etsy! I took a chance, posted a few of your creations on the site, for sale you see. If the customer’s can’t come here, we’ll go to them!”

Billy’s hands spread out wide.


“Et- what?”


“You are so popular, I have been shipping patterns and yarn all over the world! You should see the bank account.


Lilibeth pressed her hand to her mouth, sobs of joy leaked out. 


“I can’t take the freeway down for you, but maybe we can still make it work, together?”


Bright sunshine glowed from her smile.


“I learned there is a word for these.” He packed up a small crocheted penguin. Three Japanese words for different thinks, but stuck together; knitting, wrapping, and stuffed doll." He smiled back. "Kind of like us, different but stuck together. "


Billy stopped, the freeway roared, filling the silence.


‘Ami-gur-umi’  


February 16, 2024 20:59

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16 comments

Alexis Araneta
08:59 Feb 17, 2024

Marty ! This was adorable ! I love how the very thing that Lilibeth and Billy disagreed about, modernity, was the thing that saved her business. I love the rich descriptions, as usual. Lovely job!

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Marty B
17:11 Feb 17, 2024

Each person has their own strengths, and together then can conquer anything, I want to believe anyway. Thanks!

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Mary Bendickson
03:52 Feb 17, 2024

Some good from the internet!

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Marty B
04:50 Feb 17, 2024

The internet can be a connector ;) Thanks!

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Tom Skye
14:13 Feb 23, 2024

This was a very sweet read, and the happy ending was a delightful surprise. Paragraph by paragraph the flow of this was very natural which made it a joy to read. Premise reminded me of 'You Got Mail' at first but developed very differently. Typo at the end. 'thing' not 'think'. Great work! It made me smile a lot. Thanks for sharing.

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Marty B
19:24 Feb 23, 2024

Oh that made my day- 'It made me smile a lot' Thank you!

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Joseph Ellis
14:08 Feb 22, 2024

Wonderful modern fairytale of a story. You have a way with descriptions and a distinct style Marty.

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Marty B
16:22 Feb 22, 2024

I love to hear it came across as a 'modern fairytale'. Thanks!

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Karen Hope
13:52 Feb 21, 2024

This is beautifully written. The story of the town itself is as vivid and intriguing as the story of Lilibeth and Billy. As a crocheter, I loved “The Town’s fabric can stretch only so much, before the stitches tear.” That really says it all.

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Marty B
16:52 Feb 21, 2024

My mom is a crocheter, though she tried to teach me, I didnt have the patience. Great creative outlet! Thanks!

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Michał Przywara
23:43 Feb 19, 2024

A nice twist, and not one I was expecting. The setup very much sounded like “small town good, business bad” but that's a simplistic argument, like pining for an idealized past and staunchly opposing progress of any kind. But on the other hand, small business can certainly be devoured by such progress, and neighbourhoods can vanish. So I like the twist, which is a merging of the two things. They don't have to be opposed at all. Enjoyable - thanks for sharing!

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Marty B
00:34 Feb 20, 2024

Small towns are good, but business and growth is good too. Unintended consequences' abound when the pendulum swings too far either way. And, either way, live and love still grows around the both. Thanks!

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Mike Panasitti
12:50 Feb 18, 2024

This starts off powerfully as a fable about urbanization and commercialization, of Town against City and sustains some of that compelling fabulist nature until the following line: "Then the ease of the new road became too much, they didn’t stop in the little Town, they kept driving onto the Big City and faster than ever before." However, despite the centrality of Teddy Bears (which I thought a cliched choice for the symbol of potential romance, why not the stuffed penguins?), as a love story it doesn't really work for me. And the endin...

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Marty B
17:51 Feb 18, 2024

Thanks for your review, all good points. Back to my yarn and needles to craft the next creation!

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Yuliya Borodina
05:53 Feb 18, 2024

"Lilibeth’s language of ‘H-8 hook for worsted weight yarn’, didn’t translate either, but their nods and smiles did." "faded in the dark caverns under the new overpass." "The tears were close, a dammed river behind her eyes." You have a beautiful way with words. I could almost see the metaphorical sun of this changing town and Lilibeth's life setting down in slow motion. Very touching!

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Marty B
00:31 Feb 19, 2024

I appreciate your good words, and am glad the vision came through to you! Thanks!

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