Friday, June 3, 2011

Old Clothes - #fridayflash

“Get over here, Josie, you’re missing out!”
It was the fourth time Anita had swung by my desk.
“The clothes will not fit me, Anita.” I pronounced her name with tight-lipped diction, my exasperation showing. “They’re way, way too small.”
I think she heard me but it was hard to tell. She blew by in an almost visible rush of Oscar de la Renta-scented air.
Feeling overwhelmingly size 16 in a size 8 world, I got up from my desk and poked my head around the cubicle divider. Down at the other end of the hall was Anita’s desk, although at the moment I couldn’t actually see it. The desk was covered, mounded, piled high with bags and bags of new and lightly used designer clothing. A gaggle of giggling middle-aged women were pawing through it like ants at a honey sale. Smart little jackets, pencil skirts and leather stilettos from Italy were held up, tried on, snatched and coveted by my excited co-workers.
In an alternate universe where fat wasn’t my curse, I would be there with them, snapping up all that juicy free stuff.
Madeline, a secretary from the front office, came and stood beside me.
“How come you’re not over there?” I asked. 
“I couldn’t wear them,” she whispered. 
“Yah, you could. They’d definitely fit you. Maybe too big, if anything.”
“No, no,” she said. “They’d fit. I could just never wear them. I’d be too weirded out.”
I looked at Madeline like she had three heads.
“Don’t you know whose clothes they are?” she asked. 
“They’re Anita’s friend. She was cleaning out her closet or something.”
Madeline lowered her voice even more. “They’re not Anita’s friend. They’re Anita’s. She’s got cancer and it’s terminal. She’s dying.”
“Oh,” I said.
“I don’t think many people know,” she added. “You might want to keep it to yourself.”
Madeline and I watched the women digging through the pile of clothes. Inexplicably I thought of grave diggers. Soon the top of the desk was visible and only a few items remained. The happy, chattering women went back to their cubicles, arms loaded with treasure. 
Madeline went back to her desk. I went back to mine but no sooner had I opened up a new file than Anita showed up.  
“This,” she said, “will fit you.” 
 She put a stunningly beautiful scarf in my hands.
“It’s pashmina. The real deal. Very expensive,” she said.
Jewel-toned and soft, heavy and luxurious, the scarf was unlike anything I had at home in my closet.
“Wow,” was I all I could say. Then, “thank you, Anita. It’s gorgeous.”
“No problem. I wanted you to have something,” she said, as she bustled off.
Her exuberance in the office never ended. Right up until her last day.
As I dressed for her funeral I remembered her positive spirit lighting up even the dreariest days. She brought doughnuts every Monday. She decorated her cubicle for holidays. She always had a smile on her face. Always.
I pulled the pashmina from my lingerie drawer and unfolded the tissue paper I had wrapped it in. The paper rustled, like a whisper, and the heavy garment slipped unfolded like a sigh.
I draped it over my rounded shoulders, over my sensible black dress, and I didn’t feel weirded out at all. In fact, I smiled. Through the tears, I smiled.


  1. So beautiful… if we could all be like Anita when it comes to that.

  2. People better bring some cheer to my funeral. I'll sit up and tell y'all to do it again if you drag down the atmosphere.

    Was there a clever reference to Doughnut Day in here, or was I just hungry? The lady did seem sweet enough to warrant serious mourning. Lessons learned.

  3. Aw, Cathy, I missed you too.
    This was beautiful. You have such a way with characters and emotions, and showing without telling.

    I knew the ending once the reveal of the cancer, but I still had goosebumps at the end of this story. (Literally! I had to rub my arms.)

  4. For me, this sad but heartwarming story really made me thing about how often we take for granted the people we work with. Beautifully written. Thank you.

  5. And here I was, thinking that this would be like when the colonists gave the locals gifts of smallpox-infected blankets. I must be a twisted person.

  6. Great story. The weirded out took a turn for the better.

  7. Aww, this was a lovely story. So glad Anita was determined she should have something. Beautiful writing.

  8. Have you read Joshua Ferris' :Till We Came To The End"? I think you might enjoy it.

    marc nash

  9. Wow. That was amazing. Perfect, actually. :)

  10. Aw, Cathy, that's one lovely way of coming back. :D

  11. Thanks, Far!
    John - we'll be putting on a big party for ya, don't you worry! And there WILL be doughnuts, I promise! (Doughnut Day is the best day of the week.)
    Peg - goosebumps? Awww... I hear you wrote about a squirrel - must check that out!
    Henrietta - sometimes the people we work with are even closer than family. Some of my best friends are or have been colleagues.
    Tony - that is SUCH a good idea.. way better than this story was. But yeah, you are twisted. Sorry. Door!
    Thanks, Cheese!
    Thanks, Icy!
    Marc - No, I haven't read that book but I just googled it and it sounds terrific. (I love the official website with all its rooms - very cool). I tried to buy it right there and then for my Kindle but will have to kill some trees, I'm afeard. Thanks for the tip!
    Kat and Mari: Thanks you guys! And thanks for the smiles! :)

  12. Cathy, this is such a heartbreaking, heartwarming story. As always, you show us the characters' emotions so very well. Thank you for a beautiful story!

  13. Anita's special gift made this piece very endearing.

  14. That was lovely, very heartwarming. Anita's attitude to life even in death is to be admired.

  15. Oh, Cathy, that was just beautiful. It stung my heart a little, but good stories will do that.

  16. Look at us Newfoundlanders commenting late...must have to do with the time difference.

    That was a wonderful story, Cathy. You're reveal about the source of the clothing is hits the reader had but is handled with sensitivity. Loved this one.

  17. Bugger. I think I picked a bad week to get back into this.

    Seriously, what am I supposed to say?

  18. Deanna, Lara & Helen & Laurita - thanks so much, ladies!
    Alan - If it's the time difference, shouldn't youse guys be early???? Better late than never. You're always welcome here.
    Anton! You're alive! WOO HOO!

  19. I dunno, Cathy. He looks a bit pale to me--hold him down and I'll check him for a pulse!


  20. You've written this with true tenderness and a delicacy which makes it all the more touching and uplifting. Anita is the star of this story for me, and all the inspiration I need today.
    Great story Cathy.

  21. Very touching story. Brought tears to my eyes.

  22. I'm commenting late cuz i was at SESAME PLACE this weekend and then had to cover the darned MTV Movie Awards... But this, like all of the others, was so beautifully written, Cathy... it may be time to start thinking e-book, darlin' ...

  23. Aww, quite touching and beautifully written as has been said, but I like your trademark touches of humor too. Very nice Cathy!


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