The Wedding Quilt – Episode 10

“Don’t tell me you’ve lost everything in a poker game!” Mamie teased, but her little joke fell flat.

“It couldn’t be worse if I had. The merchants in Ararat have cooked up a scheme to run shopping excursions to town. For five cents, shoppers can ride there on the train, taking their money with them. Why should they bother to come to us after that? We can’t afford to offer town prices. We’re finished, Mamie.”

Grim-faced, he looked at his daughter.

“As for you, young lady, maybe you’d better go after that job. Your ma and I will need your help to put food on the table.”

Mamie forced a laugh.

“We’ll not starve, Matt. Not with those vegetables you grow! As for Beasie, what’s the point of sending her out to work to help us? Her wages won’t go far when she has to pay for board and lodging in town.”

Beasie forgot about her bid for freedom in the light of what Matt had told them.

“What are we going to do, Mum?”

Mamie smiled.

“We’ll think of something; make no mistake! First we’ll go to bed and get a good night’s rest. Things will look better in the morning. Then you and I will take the early train into Ararat, but not to find a job for you! I’m going to need you here at home.

“We’re going to buy the materials we need to make that wedding quilt. And before you say a word, Matt Burke, I’m not going ahead with my plan to stock sewing supplies in the store, although you needn’t think I’m giving up on that idea!”

“Then what did you have in mind?”

“Working on the quilt will give us some peace of mind while we try to solve the problem of the store, and when it’s finished I’ll sell it.

“People in Toronto will fork out a tidy sum for a hand-made quilt, especially a fancy one in the double wedding ring pattern. What do you think, child? Are you ready for this?”

“Yes, Mum, of course. I know I’ll enjoy it.”

Privately, Beasie didn’t think much of the idea. Quilting was a joy, but no handicraft brought in what it was really worth when you considered the hours it took to complete it.

Still, she could see that the lines of worry on Dad’s face had eased somewhat, and Mum’s optimism was contagious.

The outlook was grim, but somehow the Burkes would pull through.

*  *  *  *

Far away in Glasgow the Clark family also faced hard times. Robbie had been wounded in the war and, although he was a skilled carpenter by trade, nobody seemed to want a man with a gammy leg who couldn’t stand for long periods.

He had been reduced to standing in line with other unemployed ex-soldiers hoping for badly paid labouring jobs. Even those were few and far between.

Today there was a raw easterly wind which cut to the bone. If he tried to go out in that weather he’d end up crippled for a week, but what was he to do? He had a family to support.

His wife, Jessie, had been laid off from the jam factory where she’d worked during the war, and that left them in a precarious situation.

“No porridge today for the bairns,” she announced, peering into the crock.

“Give them bread and jam, then. They’ll like that.”

“Don’t mention jam to me, Robbie! It’s that lot at the factory that’s left us in this mess. They can talk all they like about giving jobs back to the men coming home from the war, but what’s that got to do with us in the typing pool?

“Everybody knows they want to replace us with school leavers that come cheaper. And old Fraser will be here soon, looking for the rent, and that will leave us with tuppence farthing unless I can find work scrubbing floors.”

“I’ll never let it come to that,” Robbie assured her. “You, who went to business school, down on your knees with your hands chapped and bleeding? Never! I’ll pawn my fiddle.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.