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On pins and needles

June 11, 2011

I bought a new suit on Thursday. The pants were too long, but it was too late to deal with it that day and I had to leave early on Friday to make it to a 9:30 meeting on the south side of Chicago. By the time I got home, and I decided to see if the dry cleaner could help me out. I could probably do it, but I’m a sewing novice and I thought it would be better to call in a professional.

The dry cleaner is on the other side of the main road. I pass it when I walk out to the cornfield. I don’t know her name, although I feel like I should. She knows mine, and my phone number, from memory. Even after months have passed since I’ve stopped by. She’s Chinese with a very thick accent that’s very hard to understand. For a long time, she didn’t say much. But now she talks to me, asks about AJ when he’s not with me. I don’t always understand what she says, but I’m getting better.

When I walked into the shop, she was in the back with the racks of clothes, chasing her two-year-old grand-daughter, who was hiding somewhere, giggling. She came out with the bag of clothes I’d dropped off a few days before. “I have an emergency,” I confessed, “I have to leave town on short notice. Can you hem them by tomorrow?”

“I don’t know,” she took the pants and rubbed the fabric between her fingers, testing it. “Tomorrow very busy. Very busy.”

“I know it’s short notice, but I don’t think I can do this myself.”

She nodded briskly. “Yes, I think I can do. You go in back. Try on.”

I went into the tiny changing room and put on the pants with my work shoes. They pooled around the floor.

She got down on her knees and started testing different lengths. She pulled a bunch of open safety pins from a round plastic box and poked them gently through the fabric.

“There. What you think?”

I stood on my tiptoes to see if I could wear taller shoes with them if I wanted to.

“It’s perfect.”

“Okay. You leave them. You pick up tomorrow after 4. But before 5. I close at 5.”

When I went back today, she was in the parking lot, arguing with a man with a leafblower. From the look on his place, I’m pretty sure he had no idea what she was saying. When she saw me, she came back to the shop, holding the door open for me.

“Oh, I forgot to bag. I so mad. I pay so much. He work for me but he just blow the leaves around. He blow right in my door. I come in, it all nice and clean, but now…”
She fumbles for the word, and instead blows out through her lips with exasperation. She hangs my pants on the bagger and pulls clear plastic down over them.

“Here you go. Where are you going?”

“New York.”

“New York?” her eyebrows are in the up position. “Your husband and boy, they go too?”

“Not this time. I have a job interview.”

“A job…”

“Interview. I’m trying to get a job.”

“In New York? You move there?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Is big place.”

“Yes, it is.”

“It’s $15.”

“Thank you so much for doing this for me. I don’t know what I would have done.”

“It’s no trouble.”

I paid her and took my pants and said goodbye. I’m in the parking lot, opening my car door when she comes flying out of the shop. “Wait!”

I look up.

“Good luck!”

“Thank you.” I smiled all the way home.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2011 7:03 am

    Certain “good luck”s feel like true blessings, don’t they?

  2. June 12, 2011 7:49 am

    You write her voice well. Just finished reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and I have her pegged as the storekeeper.

  3. freshhell permalink
    June 12, 2011 11:27 am

    That made me smile too. Good luck! Wish we weren’t going to miss each other.

  4. June 12, 2011 11:49 pm

    Lass, that’s it exactly. MKM, I hadn’t heard of that book before, but it looks good. I’m putting it on my list. Freshhell, thanks and me too.

  5. June 13, 2011 11:03 pm

    Hooray for the Chinese drycleaner! Good luck!

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