The Tale of #310

It all started when one RCTN member discovered she was having trouble finding a skein of DMC #310 (black) to purchase. --KMD

From: catfanceee@spamhaters.aol.com
Newsgroups: rec.crafts.textiles.needlework
Subject: Re: okay, who's got all the 310?
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 12:24:15 GMT

On Mon, 27 Apr 1998 18:40:42 -0500, "Marcia Hecker" <mmhecker@email.msn.com> wrote:

>Is there something going on that I don't know about? Is my current supply
>of 310 now a collector's item? Will we see cases of DMC Skeins in local
>antique shops tomorrow, the way we see those benighted Beanie Babies today?

"That'll be $7 for admission, please," said the nice lady at the front desk. It was my first visit to The Floss Museum and I was happy to fork over a sawbuck and two singles for a peek at the elusive #310. It had been years since I'd seen the sleek black skeins.

I took the museum program booklet she offered; it was really nothing more than a Stitcher's Color Guide, but it had a tiny thread of #310 in it. A cherished prize, to be sure! As several of us shuffled forward into the first display area, I craned my neck to get a look at the dark beauty that was DMC #310.

There, in a display case of UV-resistant, non-glare glass, mounted with painstaking care on an acid-free display panel, flanked by no less than two burly security guards, it sat in all its cotton splendor. The sight of it almost took my breath away! An entire skein of #310, without so much as a quarter of an inch missing from its perfect threads! Discreetly, I dabbed a tissue at my tearing eyes, temporarily overwhelmed.

After gazing appreciatively at the #310 for a full ten minutes, it was time to move along. Eventually, our group wended through the rest of the exhibits and at last I found my way outside. Blinking in the bright afternoon sunlight, a tall fellow in a trench coat nodded toward a secluded courtyard beside the museum. Compelled by an unseen force, I followed.

He opened his coat. A glimmer of dark, smooth cotton made my eyes grow wide -- skein after skein of #310 hung from his coat lining, like heavy tassels. "Wanna buy some floss?" he whispered.

I would have answered, but at that point my voice had taken the last train to Clarksville. I stood there dumbfounded, staring at more #310 than I'd ever laid eyes on before.

>^..^<
-- Cat
(who really *should* get out more often! LOL!)
CatFanceee@aol.com


From: catfanceee@spamhaters.aol.com
Newsgroups: rec.crafts.textiles.needlework
Subject: OT: (Fiction) The Tale of #310/Chapter 2 (LONG)
Date: Sat, 02 May 1998 08:06:49 GMT
Organization: AT&T WorldNet Services

A Tale of #310
by CatFanceee

Chapter Two

He motioned me to a small table and we sat down; his now closed coat smoothly belied the miles of ebony floss beneath its camel colored surface. "I saw you in there," he said. He chucked his chin slightly toward the museum's back door, a wry grin favored his strong features.

"Who are you?" A quick glace at my Swatch watch was more than prophetic. It was 3:10 in the afternoon. "Why me? There must have been hundreds of people file through today." Sure, I was irritated...but also intrigued. He shifted slightly in his chair and like a revelation I could feel the sway of all that #310. It was almost more alluring than stranded silk pulled evenly through the finest linen. "Don't tell me...I looked especially desperate, didn't I?" It was meant to be sarcastic. Before he could answer, I vowed to leave. I tried to stand up, pushed my hands against the tabletop but my legs would not move. The spell of all that #310 was just too much.

He steepled his hands and grinned. "Why you? That's an easy one, lady. You're working on the cross-stitch of a geometric pattern. Bright colors, lots of floss. Big project due for your daughter's wedding, but there's only one problem: You're out of #310. Just like every other stitcher from here to Belfast." He leaned back in his chair, buoyed by my thinly veiled surprise. "You're over half finished with it, and there's no turning back, froggin' or pulling that trick of finding a close color. What I got, you want."

The urge to braid (or perhaps macrame) him a noose with all that floss was strong. Above us was the perfect branch for a hanging. How dare he know so much about me! However, he was right. I needed that #310 more than the Titanic needed extra lifeboats. "I don't deal with anyone I don't know, and I certainly don't know you." My ploy to keep at least some sense of control was laughable. My voice sounded like I'd been on a helium high for at least a week.

He reached into an inside pocket of his coat. A gun! The thought of danger flashed through my floss-fuddled mind, but nothing was farther from the truth unless I was about to die from a paper cut. He flipped a business card on the table. It read:

Duncan MacClanahan
The Stash Meister

A post box address and a phone number, all in the world's most ornate script. My comment about his curious initials was heard only by the wind. When I looked up, he was gone...along with all that #310, three skeins of which I desperately needed.

(to be continued?...)

>^..^<
CatFanceee@aol.com


From: catfanceee@spamhaters.aol.com
Newsgroups: rec.crafts.textiles.needlework
Subject: Fiction (LONG) Tale of #310/Chapter 3
Date: 20 Oct 1998 08:09:10 GMT
Organization: AT&T WorldNet Services

The Tale of #310 Chapter Three

Well, I could take the Martha Stewart approach, I reasoned.

Time to buy some sheep, graze them in the backyard, try to keep their bleating a secret from my husband who sleeps like a caffeinated gnat, shear the wool, comb it and spin it - but what about the dye? What would ol' Martha do? Squid ink? I can't even get DH to partake of tuna salad, let alone force feed him a calamari casserole.

Then I remembered....it's cotton, not wool! Okay, so sheep are out. No room for a plantation on the roof of the apartment complex. So that approach wouldn't work, either.

"The Stash Meister," I whispered, my words lost in a sudden breeze. Was Mister MacClanahan the Brigadoon of the fiber arts? He had certainly vanished without so much as a speck of cotton lint, leaving me with more questions than answers. Unfortunately, he had left with every last skein of the #310 he'd concealed in his trench coat. At least I'd gotten my seven bucks' worth at the Floss Museum, having seen more of those beautiful black threads in fifteen minutes than I'd seen in the past two years.

Heart heavier than a bolt of 10-count Heatherfield, I shuffled toward the car. I threaded my way through the patchwork of traffic, too late to make much more for dinner than reservations. DH -- my husband, Dave Hoyle -- was waiting for me, his smile more welcome than a fifty percent off sale at the local needlework shop. "Hi, sweetheart."

He beat me home by about five minutes. "How was your day?"

"It was okay..." The look on his face reminded me my acting was stiffer than Aida Plus. "Went to the museum, just to remind myself that there really was such a thing as #310, once upon a time. I'll find more of it someday...no worries." I forced a smile, picked up the phone and started to dial out for pizza. Before I could make a grab for it, MacClanahan's calling card fluttered from my pocket and landed on the floor with an audible thud. Realizing the thud was the beating of my heart, I kicked the card beneath the kitchen table before DH saw it. Like buttered toast, it landed with the ornate script wildly visible.

DH called out his pizza preference from the bedroom, where he had trotted off to change clothes. I made a mental note to recycle his handsome black suit into floss, just as soon as I could get away with it. Maybe that was a bit more extreme than using his tattered underwear for dust cloths, but frugal is as frugal does. Not to mention I was desperate and that suit was a perfect match for #310. Too bad he bought the suit two weeks ago.

After dinner, he watched reruns of "The Gong Show" until he dozed off. No accounting for taste, but at least its mind-numbing properties worked. Once the windows started to rattle with the sonic booms of his snoring, I snagged the business card for The Stash Meister and slipped away to my needlework room. My hands shook ever so slightly as I dialed. Would I have enough nerve to bargain? My mind reeled as thoughts of Stephen King novels fired my imagination. What if this was the devil and he wanted my soul for a few precious skeins? Would I be able to bargain? What if MacClanahan was Death and we had to play chess for the precious floss? I could barely manage a decent game of checkers.

One by one, I popped M&Ms into my mouth and they melted, their magic more tranquilizing than anything a doctor could prescribe. So distracted by the taste of the chocolate, I didn't even hear his phone ring.

"I knew you'd call." His voice was smooth as moire and had a hand-finished edge. "What can I do for you, as if I didn't know?" There was a touch of mirth to this man; one could visualize the crinkle of humor at the corners of his eyes. Dangerous. He was most definitely dangerous in a very James Bond sort of way. "I've been saving some #310 for you, you know."

Wishing for water or perhaps another few M&Ms, I found the courage to speak. "Yes, well...that's very kind of you. Of course, I'm ready to pay for anything you could part with, and I -- " Blather. My nerves had led me down the merry path of utter incoherence yet again. It happened anytime I wasn't online. Face to face, it was hard to admit, I was often a blithering idiot. "I mean, if you could sell me, oh, maybe a few, er, about --"

"Six skeins?"

"Yes. That would do nicely. Six skeins." My hands were like ice.

"For that much floss, we'll have do negotiate."

I wasn't sure what to say. Before my mind could react, I'd agreed to meet with him. The situation had spun out of control and felt like I'd just clipped all the wrong threads in my favorite hardanger piece. Woodenly, I confirmed my doom. "Yes. Tomorrow evening at six. I'll be there."

Or would I?

# # #

The fourth and final chapter should follow in about three weeks or so. Stay tuned!

>^..^<
-- Cat

* * *
Too Sisters Designs
http://www.dnai.com/~sisters2
Counted Cross Stitch & More
* * *


From: catfanceee@spamhaters.aol.com
Newsgroups: rec.crafts.textiles.needlework
Subject: Fiction (LONG)/The Tale of #310 (Part Four)
Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 07:46:39 GMT

"The Tale of #310"
Chapter Four

"Don't forget now, baby, we're meeting at six o'clock." Dave Hoyle was smooth, especially when his lips were against mine. The rush always left me thrilled and breathless, despite the fact DH and I were no longer newlyweds after twenty-eight years. "I know how much you love Le Threads que Twiste and their chicken linguine. See you there at six." He grabbed his briefcase, shot out the front door and left a hint of Paco Rabanne in his wake.

Le Threads que Twiste had two Michelin stars and the world's most delicious handmade pasta. Thirty-six inch strands of linguine, dancing in a delicate sauce with chicken, asparagus, mushrooms and who knew what else. A bottle of champagne, soft music and a husband who always encouraged my stitching habit, even if he couldn't tell a beading needle from a laying tool. Life couldn't get any better.

Okay, so that was a bit of a fib. Maybe life could be six skeins and a completed blackwork project better, but I was trying not to think about that. I was having enough trouble trying to transcend all those strands of silver in my copper hair, or wondering why cucumber slices no longer rid my eyes of bags the size of Gucci carry-ons. And would my little black dress fit my not quite as little figure? Such superficial thoughts couldn't crowd out the problem du jour: How on earth could I be two places at the same time?

I sat down at the kitchen table, the dregs of this morning's Mocha Java in my mug. Moe, having heard the door close after DH, jumped up on the table. A most regal marmalade tabby, His Highness sat and looked doleful at me, knowing all too well the table was forbidden territory. "Jump down. And be glad you don't stitch," I groused. "It can get you into big trouble."

His demanding meow reminded me that even bigger trouble lay ahead, if I didn't get the Science Diet into the food bowl fast enough. I knew I'd been stitching too long when, as I watched him eat, he looked more and more like an exquisite combination of DMC #783 and #976.

With the cat's wishes granted momentarily, I set to the delicate dilemma of how to clone myself in less than 10 hours. Unfortunately, the sum total of my interest in Biology 101 had walked out the door a few minutes ago. Cloning was out. Smoke and mirrors would have to suffice, but I was no Copperfield either. The phone rang, breaking me out of my trance -- almost to the point of levitation.

"You forgot, didn't you? Slipped your mind."

My blood ran cold. I stammered an excuse, almost before I fully recognized the voice.

"I'll bet you don't even remember where we're meeting, do you?"

I could see the caller's face clearly in my mind. "Don't be ridiculous."

"I know how absent minded you can be, so I thought I'd better jog your memory," she insisted. "Remember where we're eating?"

"Collette, of course I do." It all came back to me... After Dear Daughter's bridal gown fitting at ten, it would be time to make my way downtown. The sampler circle was taking me to lunch, then we were set to descend on a new needlework shop in the Valley. "I'll see you at Metallyx at twelve thirty-five." The cat reappeared on the table, casually flipped his tail into my coffee cup and scattered Mrs. Olsen's brew all over the morning paper. Collette Picot heard my shriek and hastily ended the conversation, as I grabbed for paper towels. I had just enough time for a shower and some peace of mind, before my day began in earnest.

* * *

At Metallyx, the Asian pear, bleu cheese and poached salmon salad was delightful, along with their icy mint tea. The conversation, evolving into the usual game of "My Boss is Worse than Your Boss," was interesting enough to keep my mind occupied...even if I didn't have a Medusa or Satan as my supervisor.

Even the last notes of "Happy Birthday," sung in a cacophony of keys by my friends and the restaurant staff, just marked time before the real purpose of the get-together: a trip to By the Skein of My Teeth, a new needlework shop. Hidden away in Dentist's Plaza, it was already becoming an overnight hit; like its medical counterparts, it was a "by appointment only" kind of place. We were on the books for two thirty. Sharp.

The new shop was everything we hoped it would be...and so much more! At least, until I scouted out the DMC drawers. Here, too, the #310 was long gone. I set to consoling myself with threads from all over the world, kits of every kind, canvases by artists across the country, every single gadget or gee-gaw you could get, floss boxes, accessories, needles, ribbons, hoops, snaps, charts, beads, samplers, Aidas, linens, evenweaves, afghan cloths, bibs, bobbins, you name it -- you could find it here. Except for six skeins of #310, for which I gladly would have gone to Jupiter. They do stitch in outer space, don't they?

Lost in the thrill of a Stash Enhancement Experience, I absently glanced at my watch. Aislette Layce jumped as a shout escaped my lips. "Aislette, how could this happen? It's five thirty already!" She must have seen my face go pale; she called for someone to get me a glass of cold water. With shaking hands, I wrote out a check and asked her to take care of my purchases. "Thanks for everything -- it was lovely and I had a wonderful time. I'll catch up with you all next week!"

If anyone chose that moment to look up, they saw a ghostly image sprinting toward the parking lot as fast as two-inch heels would allow. I had exactly thirty minutes to meet Duncan, or the deal would be off and any chances of finishing that wedding gift would vanish quicker than my afternoon.

Unfortunately, thirty minutes wasn't going to cut it. The meeting place was at least forty-five minutes away.

# # #

-- by CatFanceee, who will post the conclusion to this tale *soon*.
(It's done, it's done! Hooooooray!)

>^..^<

* * *
Too Sisters Designs
http://www.dnai.com/~sisters2
Counted Cross Stitch & More
* * *


From: catfanceee@spamhaters.aol.com
Newsgroups: rec.crafts.textiles.needlework
Subject: Fiction/Tale of #310 (LONG)
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 22:26:20 GMT
Organization: AT&T WorldNet Services

* * *

The Tale of #310
(The Conclusion)

Thirty short minutes.

I didn't want to break that down into seconds, because the thought was too depressing. Tick, tick, tick...stitch, stitch, stitch. My foot went leaden on the accelerator, my little red Saturn coupe smoothly moving me faster toward Duncan MacClanahan as I changed lanes on the freeway. Somehow, the usual bottleneck wasn't too bad. It had to be a sign of good things yet to come.

DH would forgive me for being a little late, not only because he knew the effect S.E.X. had on me, but because chances were one in five he'd be tardy too. Hopeful, ever hopeful, down the freeway off-ramp and into the Valley...I had ten minutes to make it at this point, but things were swinging in my favor.

Ventura Boulevard was packed with the usual crowd of cruisers and commuters, everyone wanting to get somewhere -- anywhere -- all at once. In the conga line across the Valley, it felt like we were standing still. Duncan, Duncan, you're The Man; if you won't help me, no one can. It was like a mantra as I meditated on those lovely ebony skeins.

Six o'clock on the nose! I whispered a prayer and almost cried with relief as a parking space opened before me. Providence! It was close to a red zone, but my coupe would just fit. Well, okay, maybe I needed an automotive shoe horn to squeeze into the space completely. What's an inch or two at this time of night? I cut the engine and jetted out of the car. All the Parking Control people should be headed for home by now, anyway.

Except the one who pulled to a stop in front of me, yellow light flashing.

"Look, I'm really sorry... I'll be right back. This will only take a minute." My explanation sounded weak to my own ears; it didn't take much to imagine how it went over with the Parking Police. "I'll gladly pay the ticket if you -- "

"You need to move this car, ma'am. It's in a red zone." She stood next to the car impassively, writing up what was undoubtedly a hefty fine. "If you don't move your car, I'll have to have it booted and towed." She shoved her pen behind her ear and folded her arms. This had "long night" written all over it.

I glanced at my watch. Ten minutes late, thanks to my own assumptions and this woman's over-active sense of duty. Something snapped in me as I stomped over to the curb, bent down and measured the distance my bumper encroached upon the red zone with my thumb and finger. "See that? Look down there! An inch. One stupid inch!" People walked by, staring at both of us, wondering if the insane woman was going to mop the curb with the Parking Lady.

"Give me the stupid ticket, tow my car or whatever you want!" I stormed off, not caring in my anger that she could in fact take away my wheels. As I rounded the corner heading for the alley, she was still standing by my car, open-mouthed with her ticket book still in hand.

The alley was darker than expected. Goosebumps formed on my arms, even though it was a balmy summer evening. The tingle of fear was less exciting and more unnerving.

"Over here, m'dear." The command was hardly louder than a whisper, and almost lost against the pounding of my heart. Are you out of your mind? I wondered. Why are you meeting this man? My gaze darted from one doorway to the next, not knowing from which the deep voice had originated. Suddenly, someone grabbed my wrist and pulled me into the shadows; a hand, distinctly smelling of soap, clamped firmly over my mouth. "No one, I repeat, no one, is to know you're here. Do I make myself clear?"

I nodded, unable to make a sound. As quickly as I'd been summoned to the darkness, things went totally black. A silk scarf had been tied around my head, blindfolding me. "No need to worry, I'll make sure you're safe." He carefully guided me into a building, the air growing uncomfortably warm and thick. "Once we've made our little transaction, you'll be free to go. Until then, you'll have to wear that nice silk number and stay quiet."

Admittedly, there was nothing about his grasp that was threatening, even when he put his hand around my waist to guide me up a flight of stairs. "Almost there." The air changed to a cool breeze, then transformed again to a caressing warmth. We were outside, it was obvious, but where?

"Have a sit, while I get the goods." I tried to figure out if anything about this place was familiar, but nothing added up.

I could hear him return, then sit down heavily in the chair across from me. "I'll take this now." Whatever he had to do, I wished he would hurry... DH was waiting and I couldn't be too much later, or he'd start calling the Cavalry. Duncan took off my blindfold, but it was still too dark to see. What little I could make out was vines, greenery and a jumble of...what? On the table before me sat a blocky-looking something-or-other, beneath a thick shroud. "Feeling game, lovely lady?"

Hesitantly, I reached for the rough fabric. Hands shaking, I jerked the fabric upward and it flew into the air. Suddenly, there was a burst of light and sound! My eyes dazzled, it was almost too much -- let alone the popping, music and cries that rose up from throughout the room.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

Slowly, quickly, all at once and little by little the sensory overload gave way to singing, the sound of champagne corks popping, wait-staff passing trays of delicious hors d'oeuvres, and more laughter than I'd heard in my entire life. Dave got me to my feet, hugged me, kissed me and introduced me to my would-be captor -- all the while finding it hard not to laugh.

"Happy birthday, baby!" He high-fived Duncan and I was utterly confused. "Meet one of my co-workers, Duncan MacClanahan. He works for F.L.O.S.S., too...I couldn't have given you this surprise party without him!" Fiber Loss Omission Security Services provided loss protection services to needlework shops and exhibitions. My DH was a company executive; that's how we met.

Duncan had lead me around so much, I didn't realize he'd eventually taken me to the Balcony Room of Le Threads que Twiste. Sneaky!

"And here's Barb, too..." The laughter began anew as the Parking Dragon walked in, took off her hat and let down her hair. "Duncan and I were running a little late, so I had Barb stall you."

I stammered an apology, as my face turned either #666 or perhaps #321. "No need to feel bad. I was supposed to act like a real witch, or you would have been early!" She shook my hand and wished me many happy returns of the day. I made a mental note to take her to lunch in the very near future.

"Hey, your gift!"

In all the excitement, I'd almost forgotten. I looked down and saw I'd unveiled the most beautiful maple floss box I'd ever seen in my life. "Oh, Dave... It's...it's gorgeous." Tentatively, I lifted the lid. A shimmer of something dark caught my gaze and I opened the box completely.

Inside lay 100 skeins of #310. Every single one of them neatly wound on bobbins.

"My co-workers and your friends wound every single one of 'em, too," DH crowed. "They wiped out every needlework shop between here and San Francisco!"

I looked around at all my friends -- old and new -- assembled there. I glanced down into the floss box again, then looked deep into my husband's eyes. Another cry of "Happy birthday!" rang out, as crystal glasses were raised in my honor. "Speech!" someone said, but I couldn't make a sound.

Inexplicably, I burst into tears. Not the tears of someone whose life was half over, but the joyous tears of someone truly loved. I was fifty, all right, but I was the happiest fifty year old who ever walked the face of this earth!

And the night was just beginning.

* * *

A few weeks later, I pulled into the parking lot of The Floss Museum. Oddly enough, the antiquated sign had vanished; in its place was a sleek new storefront, beckoning everyone to Le Gallerie Textile. Once inside, the dark mysteries of the old museum had been thoroughly expunged. Everything was bright and airy, awash in exciting palettes of color and texture.

Turning from a bank of monitors displaying online classes, I caught sight of a familiar face. "Weren't you stationed at the display of #310, when The Floss Museum was here?" I asked, confident the muscular young security guard was the fellow I'd seen before.

"No, ma'am," he replied. "I'm afraid you may have mistaken me for someone else. I just started working here yesterday." He dazzled me with a perfect smile, then moved off toward another exhibit. Yet, somehow, I was sure he was no stranger to me...

As he walked away, something fell from his jacket pocket. Once he was out of sight, I picked it up. It was a small black and gold band. I could just about make out the print, without my bifocals. It was a label. My mouth fell open in surprise.

DMC #310.

-- The End --


"The Tale of #310," Copyright 1998, 1999 by Cardinal Robbins. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Copyright © 1994-2005 Kathleen Dyer
All Rights Reserved.
Last modified: Sun, Mar 20, 2005