Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Spinning Out of Nothingness"

This poem came out of the January 5, 2021 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] mama_kestrel, [personal profile] alatefeline, and Anonymous. It also fills the "Launching a New Group" square in my 1-3-21 card for the Fresh Starts Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by a pool with [personal profile] fuzzyred, [personal profile] ng_moonmoth, [personal profile] janetmiles, and [personal profile] mama_kestrel. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem is fun and upbeat, but I lost three days roaming around the Nebraska Collective Fiber Fair. You have been warned.

"Spinning Out of Nothingness"

[Sunday, April 10, 2016]

Shiv and Luci scampered off
the bus with backpacks and
collapsed wagons in tow.

They expected to need all of
the carrying capacity they could get.

The Nebraska Collective Fiber Fair
spanned a main building for vendors
and classrooms, a show barn,
and a fiber animal barn.

"Activities or shopping first?"
Luci said, looking around.

"Shopping, so we can get
the best stuff," Shiv said.
"I want to see some of
the sheepdog trials since
it sounds cool, but they're
doing those most of the day."

"I want lots of the classes,"
Luci said. "I could never
catch them all anyway, so
I might as well shop first."

So Shiv and Luci started
in the vending room, which
was a riot of yarn, looms,
books about fibercrafts,
and excited crafters all
milling around like sheep.

Shiv kept an eye on her,
just in case she zoned on
all the soft things. Luci was
probably watching him too,
in case Shiv zoned on
any of the sharp things.

He had talked with Dymin
and made a budget for the fair,
divided into sections on a page in
his daybook for easy recordkeeping.

He wanted to get some yarn for sure,
and maybe some other stuff, so he
needed to keep those targets clear.

Shiv also had a $100 Greenbucks card
that he planned on filling with stuff for
the Recycle Bin because he loved it,
and another $500 one from the Finns
with instructions to pick out whatever
seemed promising as doll supplies for
the crafters who kept them stocked.

As Shiv was scanning the room,
Luci locked onto her first target:
"Oh! A bookstore!" she said.

The banner over the booth read,
Just One More Bookstore.

It had little tables, each with
books on a single subject
such as spinning or weaving.

Shiv hung back, waiting for
Luci to make her selections.

"Not your type of booth?"
the shopkeeper said.

"I'm not much of a reader,"
Shiv muttered, looking away.

"Oh, a visual thinker?"
she said brightly. "If you
tell me your crafts, I could
make some suggestions --
unless you're just the driver."

"I came to shop," Shiv admitted.
"I uh, do some knitting and crochet."

"One minute please," she said,
then picked up a handful of books.
"These are my most popular titles
for visual thinkers in those crafts."

Shiv leafed through them, surprised
to see that he could actually read
the pictures clearly in some.

He looked at their covers,
did a little mental sorting, then
picked two of them. The first book,
Teach Yourself Visually Knitting Design,
explained how to make your own patterns.

The second, Crochet Stitch Dictionary,
advertised 200 stitches and included
step-by-step photos on how to do them.

Shiv paid for them, then sat down
on a chair in the corner and waited.

Luci took longer to decide, but the booth
wasn't that big, so soon she bounded over
with her arms full of books. "I'm done,
Shiv-ya, you pick the next booth."

Shiv looked around and spotted
a booth selling Waldorf dolls and
supplies to make them. "Let's try
that one," he said. "I'm supposed
to pick up doll things for the Finns."

"I like dolls," Luci said. "I won't
get bored while you shop there."

There were dolls, doll clothes --
including real knitted sweaters --
hair bows and silk flowers,
doll skins, wool for hair, books
about dolls and dollmaking.

The owner was a cheerful man
in a patterned spruce sweater.
"Hi, I'm Emmett Wilson. Are you
looking for anything in particular?"

"Dollmaking supplies for a group
that does therapy dolls," Shiv said.
"I like these decorative doodads."

"Here, let me get my backstock,"
Emmett offered. "You can rummage
through that without worrying about
the displays." He brought out a box
of zipper pulls and buttons, then
another of bows and flowers.

Shiv filled half a bag with those,
then turned to the doll sweaters,
picking out all the ones that
most reminded him of Dr. G.

When he reached for the hair,
though, Emmett said, "If you're
not assembling one whole doll here,
frankly you'd be better off buying
doll hair at the booth next door."

"Whatever you say," Shiv agreed,
finishing out the bag with a set
of Pan-African doll skins.

"Thank you very much for
your support," Emmett said
as he rang up the large order.

The next booth over had
wheels of braided roving,
skeins of handspun yarn,
bags of curly fibers, and
smaller packets of tinsel
to make the hair shinier.

Mrs. Nice was there, and
Shiv smiled to see her. She
had taught him to sew, a little,
and had run a dollmaking day.

"Oh, hello, Shiv," she said.
"I hope you're enjoying the fair."

"It's pretty cool," he replied.

Shiv picked out a few skeins
that he particularly liked,
including an almost perfect
match for Persia's hair.

Then he handed the vendor
a bag and said, "Give me $100
worth of your most popular items
that aren't in regular craft stores."

"That would be our hand-dyed roving,
barber pole yarn, and the new tinsel
called Aurora Waves," she said.

"That'll do," Shiv said, nodding,
and she packed a bag for him.
"One last thing -- the black lady
who left right before us is a friend
of mine. What did she look at
that was out of her budget?"

"The barber pole yarns,"
the vendor said, pointing.

Shiv picked out one in
black-and-brown and
another in shades of
purple, pink, and blue.

Luci threw in a packet of
Aurora Waves for herself.

"Ring us up," Shiv said,
and the vendor did.

He turned around,
and then his sister
squealed in his ear.

"What?" Shiv said as
he wiggled a finger
in his ear to stop
the ringing sound.

Luci pointed at a sign:
All the Silk You Will
Ever Need Collective

"That's ambitious, but
sure, go for it," Shiv said.

"We have an advantage
in that, as a collective, we
pool purchases for discounts,"
a woman said as she popped up
from under a table. "Also we
have the widest range of goods --
there are only five other silk dealers."

There were six in the collective,
each selling something different.

"I see your point," Shiv said.

Then he saw that the first booth,
Caterpillar Dance, was filled
with recycled sari yarn.

Shiv picked a skein of
turquoise with red threads,
green with gold, purple with
blue, and multicolor jewel tones.

Then he saw that Luci had
picked all the red ones.

"No," he said firmly, taking
the warm cerise away from
the cool crimsons and adding
a jewel-toned skein with red.

Luci couldn't match colors
to save her life. Her room had
been a disaster before she
asked him to help fix it.

"How's your budget?"
Shiv asked, showing her
the app on his phone.

"It's fine, and thank you
for the color help," she said,
and showed him her app.

The next booth in the set
belonged to the woman who
had spoken to them. It read,
Sari Charlie Scarves and Scraps.

"I'm Charlie Luttrel," she said. "Do
you need a hand finding anything?"

The whole outside of her booth
was draped in hand-painted scarves,
making it hard to see inside until you
actually stepped through the doorway.

"I'm looking for loose silk, scraps,"
Luci said, trying to see it all at once.

"In here," Charlie said, sweeping
the scarves out of the way. "I
sell scraps by the pound, so
grab a bag to mix and match."

There were two big tables
covered in the silk scraps,
one plain and one with
embellishments of beads,
embroidery, or mirrors.

"Ohh, wow," Luci breathed.

"Yeah, I can use this," said Shiv.
"I love all the little fillips in it."

He took a bag and began
filling it with embellished silk
in cool blues and purples.

Charlie watched him for
a minute, then said, "We have
a discount for stuffing bags
with colors that match well, 5%
per bag up to a total of 50%."

"I'd love to, but I'm really not
the best at matching colors,"
Luci said, eyeing the variety.

"You shop, I'll stuff," Shiv said,
pushing Luci firmly toward
the tables of silk scraps.
"Get some for me to send
to the Recycle Bin."

He combined purple
with a deep yellow that
was almost orange, united
by the gold leaf on each.

He put soft browns and
beige with a startling saffron.
In the embellishments, he put
hot pink with jade green
and periwinkle blue.

After that, there came
Wicked Stepsisters Salvage,
which featured long strips
of silk like flat yarn.

It had the same deal
as before, stuffing bags
to get a discount, so Shiv
went right to work while Luci
plunged her hands in the pile.

She found more crimson
and a deep golden yellow.
Shiv grabbed the blues
and a smoky purple.

The next name made him
laugh: Mermaid Haircut.

This one was smaller,
nothing but tables with
fluffs of colored silk, bagged
or mix-and-match by weight.

Here there were more shades
of each color, and Shiv gathered
some for Colette to enjoy later.

He combined cobalt, teal,
turquoise, emerald, and violet
with pops of bright saffron.

He filled another bag with
red, pink, purple and bits
of cobalt for contrast.

Shiv was really starting
to look forward to getting
the yarn spun from this.
His colors would give hints,
but Colette would make
the final decisions in it.

Then he heard Luci
flirting with someone
and turned to stare.

The handsome proprietor
of Follow the Gypsy Rover
was almost wearing Luci,
both of them laughing as
cloud-trails of silk wound
around their bodies.

The colors, oh, the colors
were sunset and wildflower,
morning glory turquoise and
that elusive ultramarine
found in a geyser's throat.

Shiv picked up a big package of
four different rovers: turquoise wool
with multicolor silk, one that had
silk threads of all colors, scarlet wool
wrapping yellow and green silk, and
ultramarine with muted shades of
pinks, purples, and a bit of yellow.

He'd ask Colette to spin that up
for him later as partial barter for
today's personal shopper gig.

The last booth was Fingerquest
Recycled Silk Garments for
Sensory Seekers, which had
vests and scarves and stuff.

The vendor wore a scarf
of red-violet sari yarn and
had a lapful of knitting.

"My name is Luellie Luftig,"
she said. "Please let me know
if you need any help shopping."

"Okay," Shiv said. He reached
for the nearest vest, drawn to
the colorful yarn, but then
pulled his hand back.

A paper-tapping sound
made him look up.

Luellie was tapping
a knitting needle against
a sign that read in green,
underneath that in orange,
Bagged items are fragile.
Ask if you want to pet them

Grinning, Shiv fondled
one thing after another,
until he found a bolero of
dusky blues and purples
that he couldn't let go of.

Well, he needed more
"artist clothes" anyway.

Luci had a bag with
dark red handles and
a pouch of multicolor silk.

"Ready to ring out?
I can handle everything
from our collective,"
Luellie said, and when
they nodded, she put
her knitting aside.

Shiv handed over
the coupons he had
earned from bagging
things at other booths,
along with their loot,
and Luellie rang it up.

"Wowloot," Luci said,
bouncing on her toes.

"That's what we like
to hear," Luellie said.

After that, Shiv and Luci
wandered for a while,
idly browsing booths for
stuff neither of them needed.

They explored the food carts
and bought some cotton candy
from Standing People Treats.
Shiv got Maple-Acorn and
Luci had Honey-Almond.

Then they both needed
a bathroom break and
a chance to wash off
the sugar on their hands.

"Look! Flowers!" Luci said,
skipping ahead of Shiv.

He looked. There were
flowers in pots. He
wondered why.

As he got closer,
he saw the sign:
Bloomin' Hues.

Apparently those
were dye plants
for coloring wool or
other natural fibers.

You could buy packets
of dye to try at home.

Finished garments
hung on racks, and
more piled on tables.

There were also skeins
of yarn, mostly soft colors,
but some a lot brighter.

The booth even had
a few books on one table.

"Aidan would love this,"
Shiv murmured, looking
at the soft, old colors.

He turned to the vendor,
a young woman wearing
a long floppy dress. "Hey,
do you have books about
modern dye gardens?"

"I sure do," she said as
she collected several titles.
"I'm Betony Lea. Let me know
if you need anything else."

"Uh huh," Shiv said,
looking at the books.

He picked A Dyer's Garden,
which talked a lot about how
to grow and use the plants, plus
Dyes from American Native Plants
in case Aidan knew European ones
but hadn't learned the locals yet.

Shiv was pretty sure that Aidan
would know how to dye things,
because Aidan knew pretty much
all of the old crafts and skills --
except cooking, that was ghastly.

Then Shiv spotted Intertwined:
The Art of Handspun Yarn.

Well, he loved art yarn,
so that went in his stack.

Betony spotted the book on
native plants and said, "If you're
getting that, please take this too,"
adding a free pamphlet on top.

Dye, Invaders, Dye! it read,
with logos for Lay Down and Dye,
a branch of the Kill 'Em with Crafts
program, related to Eat 'Em to Beat 'Em.

"I recognize this," Shiv said. He gave
Betony a Blues Moon coupon. "We
support Eat 'Em to Beat 'Em at work."

"This looks fun," Luci said, showing
him a flyer for a workshop on dyeing.

"Yeah?" Shiv said. It focused on
bindweed, garlic mustard, and
bedstraw for shades of yellow
and red. "It'd be new, anyway."

Then he spotted another flyer
and gave a happy yip. "Look,
the Feral Colors Workshop
makes watercolors with weeds!"

"I'll go to that with you if you come
to the dye one with me," Luci said.
"Classes are more fun with a friend."

"Yeah, maybe," Shiv said, nodding.

"We have some things here dyed
with invasives or other weeds,
not just dye garden plants,"
Betony said, pointing to them.

Many of the yarns had been
bundled into colorway sets,
some based on colors alone.

Shiv got a Faded Rainbow and
a Misty Morning in grays. Seaglass
really was glas, all shades of gray,
green, blue, and almost white.
Wild Flowers was slubby yarn
in greens, pinks, and teals.

He picked out Watermelon
for Mrs. Dr. G, which had
soft pinks and greens, and
Purple Haze for Colette.

Other sets had been based
on what kind of dye had
gone into creating them.

French Onion had shades of
yellow to brown. Forage Forest
was soft yellows, tans, and greens
while Fantasy Forest added pinks.

"I like that one," Luci said as
she pointed to Fantasy Forest,
so Shiv picked up a package.

Then he saw Bucking the System,
which had an amazing range of
blues, greens, and grays plus
warmer pinkish-tans and yellows.

"All this is from one plant?"
Shiv said, staring at the bag.

"Different parts of buckthorn
give different colors," said Betony.

"Like what?" Shiv wondered.

"Yellow from green leaves,
green from ripe black berries,
blue or gray from berry skins
alone, and pink to warm tan
from the bark," said Betony.

"Wow, that's a lot," Shiv said.
He couldn't resist buying a bag.

He also bought a striped sweater,
a Faire Isle hat, and a scarf for
Halley that showed all the colors
that came from the buckthorn.

"Some of these are overdyed
on different base yarns, though,"
Betony said, showing off Cool Beans,
which had blues and grays along with
hanks of plain white and dark ivory.

"I want that too," Luci said,
adding it to the growing stack.

"If you like the effects, then look for
naturally colored fleeces or yarns
made from them," said Betony.
"A few people sell overdyed yarn,
but most of those are dye-on-dye
rather than dye-on-color."

"We'll keep an eye out,
thanks," Shiv said as
he dumped their stuff
on the checkout counter.

"Where to next?" Luci said.

"We should head toward
the raw wool sale," said Shiv.
"Colette wants me to find
a raw fleece or two."

"I've never seen it raw,"
Luci said, bouncing along
beside him. "Only cleaned."

"Raw fleece is grungy and
reeks of sheep," Shiv warned.
"I've been dragged to fairs before."
Then he grinned at her. "Only
this one is actually fun because
I can buy cool things and eat
cotton candy if I want to."

Then a whir of spinning metal
suddenly snagged his attention.

Shiv trotted over to find it,
Luci tagging at his heels.

A chunky woman held
a rod with a wheel on it, and
as it sank slowly toward the floor,
a fine green thread spun from it
to the wool she held in her hand.

Shiv could feel tiny bits of metal
whizzing around the rim of the wheel.
The effect was mesmerizing.

As the woman spun, she talked
about what she was doing --
the thing was a drop spindle,
and it twisted wool into yarn.

It touched the floor, and she
picked it up to wind the yarn
around the long shaft.

"Hi there," she said.
"I'm Jenniver Twist.
Would you like to try?"

"Uh, yeah," Shiv said,
still fascinated by it.

"Me too," Luci said.
"I can wait my turn."

"No need." Jenniver
pointed to a large box
that read, Practice Gear.

So they each chose
a drop spindle and wool,
then listened as Jenniver
explained how to start.

Shiv maybe cheated a bit,
because he could hold up
the spindle with his power
so it wouldn't break the yarn.

Beside him, he could feel
Luci cheating by holding
the wool fibers instead.

Without a word, they
leaned together so that
their sides touched, making
their superpowers stronger
as they supported each other.

When they finished the wool
that they had, Jenniver gave
each of them a cardboard square
so they could wind off the yarn.

Shiv reached into his card wallet
and handed something to Jenniver.

The card had a little self-portrait of himself
standing in front of a giant gumball machine
mostly full of black marbles and a few white ones.
He held a handful black marbles on one side and
a white marble in his fingertips on the other.

It read, In the infinitude of the universe,
there exist educational experiences
that I do not despise. Thank you
for being one of the white balls

He had another set of cards with
the same image whose caption read,
Alas, you are one of the black balls.

It was less risky than yelling at folks
and easier than trying to make words
when his brain was already full.

Jenniver grinned at him. "I'm glad
you had fun. If you want something
to take home, I have spindles here
and my brother sells loose wool."

Luci immediately ran over and
buried her hands in the wool.

Shiv took his time looking through
the assortment of plastic wheels
that had scrap metal weights.

He picked out a set of three
in the trillium pattern and a set
of shafts in different lengths.

After buying those, he went
to check out the loose wool.

The table was covered with
soft clouds of the stuff, sold
by weight. Shiv figured that
he could get some for himself,
some for Colette, and some
for the Recycle Bin too.

Much of it was dyed,
but some of the browns
and the grays seemed
to be sheep-colored,
which was ... interesting.

Shiv filled one bag with
lemon, tangerine, and fox.
He added some tangerine
to the green-and-brown wool.

He lightened the stormy blue
with a little pink-and-purple
and a few tufts of lemon.

Luci had filled a big bag with
all shades of pink and purple,
then one with brown and peach.

They took their selections to
the shopkeeper to check out.

"I'm not sure all this will fit,"
Luci said, looking at her bags
and the mostly-full wagons.

Shiv looked at his three bags.
He had packed them by color,
figuring he could divide them
into smaller bags at home.

"It's wool, it'll squish down,"
he said, piling his on top.
"Just shove it harder."

They shoved it harder,
but they would have
to think carefully about
their further purchases.

The fleece show and sale
filled a large area where
tables held bags of wool.

A booth along one wall
had a banner that read,
Squeaky Clean Fleece and
under it, All Autistic Employees --
Meticulous Skirting a Specialty

They had a skirting table set up
with someone doing a demonstration
of how to pick all the crap out of wool.

It was going a lot slower than the one
taught by one of the sheep farmers
about pre-sale skirting techniques.

Most of the fleeces for sale were
whole, raw, lightly skirted ones but
there were a few unskirted bargains.

There were also partial fleeces
and one-pound sample bags
so people could try out
new varieties of wool.

"Ignore the white fleeces
with standard wool," Shiv said.
"Help me look for colored wool
and more interesting textures."

They worked their way along
the tables. Most of the fleeces
came from commercial breeds
with boring white wool, but there
were a few rare breeds too.

They found some black fleeces
and a few shades of brown
in more diverse textures.

Then they found the wool
from Icelandic sheep that
came from Hagar farm.

There were black ones
and white ones and
sort of brindled grays.

"I like this bright cinnamon,"
Lucy said. "But they have
some really nice white fleeces
with long wavy wool, too. What
do you think Colette would like?"

"I dunno," Shiv said. "These
all look good to me. I'm not
even sure how to narrow it
down enough I could call her
and ask which she prefers."

"Could I help?" a woman said.
"I'm Katrin Samper, and these
are fleeces from our flock."

"Yes, please," Luci said. "We're
buying for a friend who spins.
Colette has very poor vision
and doesn't travel much, so
she asked us to shop for her."

"Do you know what she wants
to do with the fleece?" Katrin said.

"Play with it," Shiv said. "I don't
think she has an end project in mind,
she just wanted me to find a fleece
or two with interesting colors and
textures. She mentioned, uh,
something about grease but
that didn't make much sense."

"Spinning in the grease means
with the lanolin still in the wool --
it's nice on the hands," Katrin said.
"Icelandic wool is great for that, since
it doesn't have a lot of lanolin, and it
doesn't lose much weight in washing."

"Can you maybe help us sort out
a few of the best fleeces so I can
call Colette about them?" Shiv asked.

"I'd be happy to help," said Katrin.

"I'm willing to pitch in." Another woman
came over. "I'm Marcy Marnier of
Saltwater Farm. I don't have anything
in the show, so I'm free to help sort."

"They ditched you again?" Katrin said,
pushing bags around on the table.

"They keep saying it wouldn't be fair,
which okay, they've got a point, but
the way some people are acting I think
it's in the wrong direction," Marcy said.

"What's the problem?" Luci said.
"I though this was a nice show."

"It is, but they don't know what the hell
to do with crayon sheep," Marcy said.

Shiv pulled out a Soup to Nuts card.
"Call here," he said. "They handle
all kinds of weird soup issues."

"This is a California number?"
Marcy said, raising her eyebrows.

"Yeah, but they get people from
all over," Shiv said. "Give it a whirl."

"I'll do that, thanks," said Marcy.
"Do you want to see our herd
later? We're trying to stabilize
Saltwater Taffy sheep as a breed."

"Sounds fun," Shiv said, nodding.

They sorted the bagged fleeces,
pulling out a few colored ones
and some lighter ones as well.

"If you're thinking about two,
I suggest one lighter and
one darker or bicolor, for
maximum variety of what you
can do with them," said Katrin.

"Works for me," Shiv said.

They whittled it down to four:
a white and a silvery gray
with beautiful wavy locks,
Luci's cinnamon one and
a black-and-white fleece that
Shiv called 'Dalmatian' and
Katrin called 'badger-faced."

Shiv took pictures and sent
them to Colette, who could
at least see the colors if she
put her nose to the screen.

Colette asked him to touch
the fleeces and describe them.

"The first one is silver gray, the color
that fog feels on a cool morning. It's
coarse, shaggy, like an expensive rug,"
Shiv said. "The white one is the color
that fresh creams smells, pure and
rich. It's wavy, but soft as can be;
it feels like I'm petting a cloud."

Colette talked him through
testing the wool and describing
how it responded, while Shiv
got more and more creative
trying to phrase the differences.

"I'll take the white one and
think about how I want it dyed,"
Colette said. "Move on to colors."

"This fleece is black and white.
It has some black patches and
other places where the wool is
white tipped with black, as if
the sheep squeezed through
an inked gate," Shiv said.
"It feels lighter, almost silky."

"Interesting," said Colette.
"Compare the textures."

"The second fleece is
all different shades of
cinnamon, and it feels
springy, almost sticky,
with fewer long hairs,"
Shiv said. "It reminds
me of stuffing, almost."

"Get the black and white,"
Colette said. "I'm thinking
maybe a cloak from that,
leaving the long hairs out
to help shed water."

Katrin must've heard,
because she said,
"Yes, Icelandic wool
is very weather-resistant.
That breed developed in
a place with dreadful weather."

"How are the fleeces skirted?"
Colette asked. "How clean?"

"It says lightly skirted. They
don't look dirty, we picked out
the nicest ones," Shiv said.
"There's a booth for skirting,
but it sure ain't cheap."

"Could you cover the cost
for now?" Colette said. "I'll
be happy to reimburse you."

Shiv looked at the wool tags,
looked at the sign for skirting,
and laboriously figured it out.

When he gave her the numbers,
Colette said, "Maximum skirting
on the Dalmatian fleece, but leave
the other raw and I'll handle it here."

"I can do that," Shiv said, and let her go.

"Would you be willing to describe
our fleeces for other customers
like you did for her?" Katrin said.
"You're really good at that."

Several other farmers
chimed in, but Shiv balked.
"I'm kinda busy," he said.
"Could we maybe do it later?"

"Today we're all in one place,"
Katrin pointed out. "How about
swapping a one-pound sample
in exchange for descriptions?"

"I guess I can fit it in," Shiv said.

He activated a dictation app
on his phone that Dymin had
given him, so he could just talk
and not have to take notes.

But that got the farmers
all excited. "Hey, could we
videotape you?" Katrin said.
"You're really convincing."

Shiv shook his head
and just kept going.

"He doesn't like pictures,"
Luci explained quietly.

"I could pay you double,"
Katrin said, and another
added, "Triple," but that
farmer had boring sheep.

Shiv backed away and
looked at the next fleece,
a sort of warm taffy color.

"Leave him the fuck alone,
Jonesy!" someone bellowed
from the skirting booth. "Don't
make me come over there!"

"Sorry, I got carried away,"
Jonesy said, blushing. "I will
be grateful for your descriptions
in whatever form you prefer."

"Yeah, we really didn't mean
to push too hard," Katrin said.

Shiv went back to using
his dictation app, finished
the batch, and sent the file.

After that, he picked out
his samples, which were
clean wool so you could
see how it would turn out.

He got one of cinnamon
for Lucy, a pure black,
and a sleek steely gray.

The colors were beautiful, and
he'd enjoy working with them,
whether he managed to spin
them himself or just asked
Colette to do it for him.

Shiv stuffed the bags
into his overflowing wagon,
lashing them to the growing pile
of loot to keep everything stable.

He picked up the fleece that he
wanted to keep raw and slung it
over his back so that it wouldn't
stink up the rest of his purchases.

Then he wrote on the other tag,
This fleece will be used by
a vision-impaired lady who
loves luxurious textures,

in case that was relevant.

Shiv had learned enough
about people on the spectrum
from being friends with Persia that
he figured the skirters wouldn't
want extra interaction today.

So he looked at their prices,
put the fleece on the table,
pointed to Maximum Skirting,
and handed over a credit card.

The man whose nametag read,
Laban Moulton took the card,
printed a receipt, and then
gave both of those to Shiv.

The receipt said to come back
for the fleece in an hour, so
Shiv turned to Luci. "Do you
want to see the crayon sheep?"

"I would love to," she said.
"Marcy, where are they?"

"Outside with my husband Nic,"
she said. "There's a barn, but
it's got little stalls. The herds
are in bigger pens outdoors.
We hoped to raise interest
if people saw the sheep."

"They don't like crayon wool?"
Luci said as they followed
Marcy outside. "I'd like it."

"Me too, probably," said Shiv.
"But we're used to seeing
things out of the ordinary."

"Point," Luci said. "Nebraska
is way more conservative
than California. I'm not
really used to that yet."

They came to a man who
sat on a fence, working
a drop spindle with skill.

The wool on the spindle
was hot pink, and Shiv
would bet it wasn't dyed.

The sheep in the pen were,
in fact, saltwater taffy colors --
hot pink, orange, lemon yellow,
lime green, turquoise, purple.

Some of them were woolly
all over, while others had
bare heads and legs, but
they were all crayon sheep.

"Nic, these are Shiv and Luci.
They would like to look at
the sheep," Marcy said.

"Sure," Nic said. "Anything
in particular that interests you?"

"A friend sent me shopping for
unusual wool," Shiv said. "This
sure qualifies as that, though I
already bought Icelandic for her."

Nic chuckled. "It is that," he said.

"You like spinning?" Shiv said.
"I tried it today and liked it."

"It's a favorite activity," Nic said.
"The yarn spins so I don't have to."

"How did you come to have a herd
of candy-colored sheep?" Luci said.

"We started collecting crayon sheep
several years ago, hoping to establish
a breed," Nic said. "We figured out a bit
of the genetics -- the warm colors and
cool colors seem to be different groups."

"Oh, that's neat," said Luci. "Does it
work like black and orange in cats?
Can there be calico sheep?"

"Well, come over here and
meet Iris," Nic said, waving.

He led them to a small pen
within the larger pen.

The sheep inside it
was rainbow-colored.

Her head was white, but
from there she was pink,
lavender, turquoise, lime,
lemon, and flame orange
with just a hint of red.

"Iris and her wool aren't
for sale, but we're hoping
to get rainbow lambs from
her later," Nic explained.

"Good luck with it," Luci said.
"I think that she's beautiful."

"Thank you," said Nic. "We want
to develop a bare-headed breed
and a woolly-headed breed with
a good range of colors, so this is
a promising start. Other people
are just ... slow to respond,
even though crayon wool
should be more valuable."

"It is, but not everyone knows
how to figure the difference
between ordinary and super,"
Shiv said. "Took me a while
to learn the math for it."

"Oh?" Nic said, curious.

Shiv took out his play-putty
and showed how he could
shape and reshape the metal.

"I make knives and stuff sometimes,"
he said. "They stay sharp, so they're
worth two to four times usual price."

"That's impressive," Marcy said.
"I've never met a soup before."

"Well, get used to it, because
those sheep will probably attract
more of us," Shiv said. "They
really are eye-catching."

One in particular snagged
his attention, a darker shade
than the other green sheep.

The color was olive, or maybe
khaki green, but it didn't look like
the flat colors that came from dye.
This was as warm and alive as
the softly shaded cinnamon was.

Shiv itched to get his fingers into it.

That was exactly the kind of
maybe-color that Halley loved.

"What kind of pricing are you
looking for?" Shiv asked.

Nic went into an explanation
of the breeds and usual pricing
for each, then the crayon colors.

"Orange is worth less because it's
closest to natural colors," Nic said.
"The others should be worth more."

"What about that muddy green?"
Shiv said, pointed. "I'm interested.
Could I buy a fleece on the hoof?"

"That's a Cheviot. Top range is $400
to $640 depending on weight," Nic said.

"Would anyone want an olive fleece?"
Shiv said. "The others are brighter."

"Probably not," Nic said. "If you
really want it, I can put olive
in with the orange category,
say around $200 to $320."

"Got anything you'd like
to have stay sharp forever?"
Shiv said. "I can do that."

"Oh, could you do clipper blades?"
Marcy said. "That would be great."

"I've done 'em for horses," Shiv said.
"How much do your blades cost?"

"About $35 a set," Nic said.

Shiv used the calculator
on his phone. "Two or three
of those sets should add up
to your price for the fleece."

"One set now, the rest after
we know the fleece weight?"
Marcy said. "We're not trying
to shear all the sheep here,
just a few for demonstrations."

"I have all I can carry today,"
Shiv said seriously. "Later
is better for me anyway."

So Marcy fetched the shearer
and took out the blades, which
Shiv carefully altered so they
would retain their sharp edges.

Luci watched Nic work with
his drop spindle. "You're
really good at that," she said.

"I try. It makes me feel calm,"
Nic said with a nod. "We come
spinning out of nothingness,
scattering stars like dust.
This is a way to get a grip
on a malleable reality."

Yeah, Shiv liked that too.

Then Luci spotted
a sheepdog trial, and
they went to watch that.

Shiv thought it was hilarious
how the little black-and-white dog
raced around the yard, trying
to herd five antsy sheep who
wanted no part of this nonsense.

The shepherd's whistles and
hand motions were interesting,
though. That could be useful
for coordinating at a distance
when you didn't want to talk
and didn't have a telepath.

Who would expect dog signals
to be anything suspicious?

Nobody, that's who.

They stayed and watched
the dogs until Shiv's vidwatch
chimed, telling him that it was
time to go get the fleece.

The Dalmatian wool had
come apart into beautiful curls,
as close to clean as it could get
without actually being washed.

"Colette will love that," Luci said.

"Yeah, it looks amazing," Shiv said.
"I can't wait to show this to her."

"Do you want the free fertilizer?"
Laban said. "You paid for it,
and we don't need it."

"What?" Shiv said.

Laban pointed at a bag
of grungy wool studded
with bits of hay. "You can
put that on a garden."

"I'll take it," Shiv said.
"Aidan will love that."

It went over his back
next to the white fleece.

"I'm running out of room,"
he muttered, frowning.

"I can carry the cleaned one,
but yeah, we need to think
about wrapping up soon,"
Luci said as she took it.

Shiv felt exhausted
but weirdly satisfied.

"Yeah," he said. "Let's
get lunch and then split."

It had been a successful day.

* * *


This poem is long, so its character, setting, and content notes will appear separately.
Tags: crafts, cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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