The Vegetable Department
“Sign here and here. Pick up your needles in the blue trays. Pick up your yarn in the green trays. You can talk to Tammy about the instructions, should any questions come up. Your example banana’s over there.”
The woman telling you these things has never once leaned forward. She's in a relaxed pose deep in her chair. Her hair bun looks painful the way it pulls the shiny, product-heavy hair up towards the top of her round head. The bun pulls her eyes to the sides of her pin cushion face.
“After the first,” a smaller, thinner, mousy woman with oversized glasses says to you, while walking two steps ahead, “it's pretty streamlined. You'll be expected to produce more each day. In other words, it's imperative that you improve, that you perform.” She says this last bit under her breath, her eyes looking left and right.
You can visualize the knitted banana from the commercial. You never expected to be here, never thought you'd be responsible for meeting the expectations of the makers of the knitted fruit products, never thought it would happen in this way.
“This yarn,” says a mole who you are positioned next to at a long table, atop a swivel stool, “is inedible.”
“Oh,” you think to yourself. You hadn’t thought of eating it, until now.
“It makes you hungry,” says the mole. “I’m Gladys.”
You shake Gladys's paw and look at her pile. She must be a top performer.
“Gladys,” commands a voice from over your shoulder, “you’re behind you’re quota.”
You look at Gladys, the moist end of her pink snout. Her nostrils flare as she breathes in, she quickens her pace.
You arrange your instruments: two needles, ball of yellow yarn, ball of green yarn, a grey tray of white cotton stuffing. You’ll start with green and transition to yellow. It’s a clean break in your mind.
You slip your knot and cast your first stitch. It feels like home, though this cement room isn’t very homely. You close your eyes, feel the sun hit your face from the skylights overhead. The windows are small, currently blocked by stacked pallets on tall shelving.. You make a meadow in your mind. You knit a row. You knit two stitches. You combine them. Several more rows, several more stitches. You look down and you’ve transitioned to yellow. You didn’t even open your eyes. You stuff the shell. You make the shape. You knit a seam.
It’s a squash. Gladys is staring. Your shoulders tense. This is the fruit department. Surely they’ll have mercy. But you’ve heard stories. Solitary rooms. No visual aides. You’re sweating. Gladys is offering you a banana of her own. She’s still knitting, her small paws in a fury, nudging the thing with her shoulder towards you, not looking your way, whispering, “Take it. Take it. And get rid of that squash. You’ll get us all killed.”
Then you hear her throat clear from behind you and the big paws of an animal you don’t want to see the face of slide under your arms and lift you from your seat. You kick your feet, struggle to get one last look out, past the pallets and the shelves, to the outstretched lawn beyond the gates for one last glimpse of daylight. You yelp, "There are no windows there! Please!"