Muriel always told me not to pick at them.
I remember her telling me that, too. We would be sitting at one of her tea parties, and I’d notice a thread hanging out from the couch, or my jacket, or those ridiculous lace doilies that she insisted on always setting out. Drifting above the sea of mindless conversation, I would start tugging on that thread. They always seemed out of place, an unnecessary addition that really ought to be removed.
Without fail, Muriel’s sharp little eyes would spot me, and she’d cut off mid-sentence to order me to drop it, to leave it alone, to “stop picking at that thing.” Those eyes of hers were ever watchful, ever observant. Beady, too, although I don’t think I noticed that until long after we were married.
I remember one day, sitting in my car at a red light on the way home from work, looking down at my shirt. There was a string hanging out the bottom, just waiting for a tug. I’m ashamed to say that I looked around, as if Muriel would be in the car next to me. With a single tug, the string slid out easily, offering just the slightest resistance to my fingers.
I kept on tugging, not stopping until the angry honks of the cars behind me showed that the light was finally green. By the time I reached the house, there was almost nothing left of my shirt but a single sleeve and a wonderful, beautiful pile of thread.
Of course, I was admonished for that. I had to sleep on the couch as punishment for ruining a “perfectly good shirt.” But that feeling, that satisfaction as my shirt came apart into a single long, twisted thread, was worth the punishment.
Muriel says that she thinks I have a ‘compulsion’, that I should go see some sort of head doctor about it. I’ve managed to brush off these suggestions. It’s not doing any harm, is it? I just like to pull at the strings, to watch things unravel.
But this is all just background, I suppose. The main event, that really started that one morning at breakfast. I was sitting in our usual, comfortable silence, eating my toast. Muriel had managed not to burn it too badly today. Normally, I kept my eyes down, reading the paper or just gazing into middle space. Today, though, as Muriel turned to open the fridge, I spotted the string.
It was protruding from the back of her neck, just above the neckline of her dressing gown. My first thought was that it was a part of her gown, somehow sticking straight up towards her hair, but it was a lighter color, looking almost like skin. Just at seeing the string, I felt my fingers twitch, wanting to tighten around it and gently tease it out.
I didn’t do anything, of course. I got up and went to work. But throughout the entire day, that string was on my mind. I couldn’t seem to stop thinking about it, and I’m sad to say that my work definitely suffered as a result. By the time I was driving home, I had constructed a plan to examine her dressing gown while she was in the shower that night, to remove that string. Just to keep her gown tidy, of course.
That night, as Muriel was using up all of our hot water with her usual forty-minute shower, I retrieved her dressing gown from its usual hook. No matter how carefully I searched, though, there was no string protruding from the back of the neckline. Before I could conduct a third search, the sound of falling water ceased, and I hurried to replace her gown before she emerged to claim it.
Muriel emerged from her shower and settled into her side of the bed, putting on her reading glasses as she reached for her romance novel. I didn’t even bother bringing up the idea of actual romance; breaching the subject would merely bring on another one of Muriel’s lectures.
Story slow so far? That’s okay, it will pick up with the next update!