Fiction · Writing

The Knitter and Mashed Potatoes

This short story was inspired by a post on Jill Weatherholt‘s blog:  If you haven’t visited Jill’s blog yet, you should do so.  Like me, Jill is a writer who has to juggle a full-time job with her passion for writing.  Her posts are always entertaining, thoughtful, and generate a lot of comments.  And, apparently, they can also be the inspiration for a short story.


English: A small plate with a serving of mashe...
English: A small plate with a serving of mashed potatoes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another off-white, brown speckled clump fell beside Emily.  She had been dozing.  Well, really she had been sleeping.  Sleeping for six days as she did every week.  The soft thud of the odd clump was enough to rouse her, and she stirred in her rocking chair, her hands folded in her lap.  She stretched, raising her arms straight up and then out like wings.  Her back crackled as each vertebrate popped into life.  She gazed down at the unsightly lump beside her chair and smiled.  It was Sunday.  Sunday dinner to be exact, and she could knit.

First, she had to spin the clump of quickly drying fluff into yarn, but that didn’t take long anymore.  Over the years of living in this dark lonely place, Emily had taught herself how to spin rapidly, twirling her hand spindle so fast it became a blur and emitted a low hum.  Yarn materialized as quickly as the spindle twirled and within seconds, she would have enough yarn to knit.  Then another off-white, brown speckled clump would fall beside her and she would start over.

English: Someone spinning on a wooden drop spindle
English: Someone spinning on a wooden drop spindle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Sunday was special for apparently they were feeding the little girl the “good” stuff:  real potatoes cooked with their skin still on and then mashed up.  She was relieved that the little girl hadn’t yet developed a taste for potatoes and gravy, for that would make a mess of her work.  As it was, the clump of potatoes that came sliding down the little girl’s throat and into her stomach took a few minutes to dry.  Emily couldn’t very well spin wet fiber, and gravy would truly make the process stickier and longer.  She didn’t have much time.  She had to spin and knit all within this one slot of time:  Sunday dinner.  Once the little girl stopped eating, the clumps would stop falling, Emily would stop knitting.  She would then sleep for six days.

English: An example of faggoting. Faggoting is...
English: An example of faggoting. Faggoting is a variation of lace knitting, in which every stitch is a yarn over or a decrease. This example is the stitch pattern of the garment design “Blithe” by designer Marie Wallin, from Rowan Magazine number 47 (February, 2010). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes, when the little girl was particularly petulant about her potatoes, Emily had time to sit and reflect while she waited for the next clump.  She had been living in the girl’s belly for a few years now, and her life was pretty much like clockwork.  Every Sunday the girl and her family sat down to a dinner of mashed potatoes, gravy, a roast of some sort (or ham if it was Easter Sunday), and green beans.  The little girl hated mashed potatoes.  Emily didn’t know why.  She didn’t really care except that because the little girl hated mashed potatoes, Emily existed.

Emily still remembered when she first came to life.  The little girl was sitting alone at the round pedestal table.  Her mother was washing the dishes, telling the little girl that she couldn’t leave until she had finished her potatoes, which by now had grown cold.  The little girl would take a forkful and swallow, gagging slightly as she did so.  And she was bored sitting there at the table by herself.  And so she imagined someone living in her belly, someone who needed the potatoes.  But why, the little girl asked herself.  What would the person do with the potatoes?  Then she remembered a trip she and her family had made to Old Sturbridge Village.

A woman demonstrates spinning wool into yarn
A woman demonstrates spinning wool into yarn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She had been enraptured by a domestic scene in one of the houses:  A delicate woman with red-blond hair sitting in a rocking chair, knitting white lace that flowed over her lap; a young girl standing next to her spinning clouds of fluffy white stuff into yarn from a drop spindle.  The little girl had had to be dragged away from the scene.  She could have stood there forever and watched.

The little girl didn’t think she could fit two people in her belly so she just imagined the one, the woman.  She called her Emily because she thought it was a pretty name.  Imagining that there was an Emily living inside her and needing the potatoes so she could knit, the little girl cleaned her plate.  Eventually.

Many minutes had past since the last off-white, brown speckled clump had fallen beside Emily.  Her eyelids grew heavy and her knitting slowed.  She gazed down at the lacy fabric that flowed from her needles.  She had no idea what she was knitting, just that it needed to flow over her lap.  She closed her eyes, wondering if this would go on forever.  Would the little girl always need her?  Would every Sunday dinner be the same?  She had noticed that the time didn’t stretch out so long anymore.  The little girl had become more obedient since Emily formed in her imagination.  But what about when she got older, when no one could make her eat something she didn’t want to eat.  Would Emily just be asleep forever?  Would she cease to exist?

Emily leaned back in her chair and allowed herself one last stretch, her eyes still closed.  Really, it wasn’t much of a life, she thought.  It would be fine with her if the little girl never ate mashed potatoes again.


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34 thoughts on “The Knitter and Mashed Potatoes

  1. How wonderfully Kafka-eque in its conception. Not the writing — the writing’s all you — but how surreal and original — a woman living in a little girl’s belly, turning mashed potatoes into yarn for knitting. And a story about knitting? You? NO….. no way… you? Knitting?
    Oh, this was so wonderful, darling. Thank you for the smile.


    1. Thank you for the comment, Helena! It’s funny how the prodding of a childhood memory can lead to a strange story … or maybe it’s just normal 😉 And, yes, I do knit. Quite a bit actually 🙂


      1. Oh, I know, darling — I was being ironic — I told this story to the Countess this evening at dinner time (which featured mashed potatoes) and we both agree this would make an amazing storybook.


  2. Cute and amazing story. It reminds me of all the imaginary friends I had and how children have such vivid minds. We really don’t give them enough credit in making mental tools to handle unwanted tasks. Though, I did feel sorry for Emily by the end.


    1. Thanks, Charles! Sadly, in my family, storytelling is equated with lying so I had to keep my imagination to myself. I know your son won’t have that problem 🙂 As for Emily, well, it wasn’t much of life for her. But I have fond memories 😉


  3. You’re amazing and you have quite the imagination, Marie! This is a wonderful story. Thank you so much for your kind words and the link to my post. I’m so happy to have inspired such a great story.


  4. I love it Marie! I really think the best stories come out of those memories that we still hold on to closely. And I agree with Helena, this would make for a fantastic illustrated story.


    1. Thanks so much, Patti! I miss you too! I’m late to most parties these days. I feel like every day is another day to play catch-up 😉 I hope things are going well for you and your family.


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