At a yard sale Saturday, behind a stack of Time magazines, Ella saw a small, pale green quilt—trimmed in white with a faded red heart in the center. The stitches were uneven and the edges frayed. Holding it to the light, she noticed patches where padding was gone and felt its desire for a home, to be cared for. Ella bought it, washed it, and hung it outside to dry, somehow knowing it would enjoy the warmth.
She’d always been attracted to used objects, whether a pair of jeans or a cast iron skillet, creating stories and tales for everything she bought, found, and saved. Sunday she leaned back in the La-Z-Boy salvaged from the curb and draped the newly-acquired quilt over her legs. Its scent was fresh as if the sun’s rays were still passing through spaces between threads, radiating heat. But then the spread began to feel heavy, weighing her down and constricting like bandages squeezing her skin. The cover wrapped tight around a baby’s body, so tight that the infant gasped for air and cried, louder than she cried on coming into this world. Then the cries stopped. Ella jumped up. The coverlet heaped on the bamboo floor.
The following morning, wearing purple rubber gloves, Ella folded the quilt and stowed it on the top shelf of the hall closet next to a box of old photographs. After making coffee in her rescued moka pot, she poured some into her father’s mug that she kept when he died. Her bathrobe started to whisper, the chair told her bones to ache, and the Indigo Girls T-shirt filled her with music and cigarette smoke. As her lips touched the mug’s rim, she felt a hand grab her arm. The cup fell and dented the bamboo, hot liquid burned her ankles.
She ran into the backyard and pulled off her clothes down to the cotton underwear, brand new with nothing to tell Ella. As she looked back at the house full of other people’s cast-offs, she wondered why they all had decided to wake up today and what, if anything, she could do.
Chella Courington’s poetry and fiction appear in anthologies and journals including SmokeLong Quarterly and New World Writing. Her flash novella, Adele and Tom: The Portrait of a Marriage (Breaking Rules Publishing), is featured at Vancouver Flash Fiction. A 2020 Pushcart and Best Small Fictions Nominee, she was raised in the Appalachian south and now lives in California.