She hung the cardigan on the plastic hanger, being sure to fasten the top button, so the shoulders didn’t slip off, pooling the sweater on the floor. She had yet to wear the sweater. They had only just arrived and unzipped their bags, placing their belongings in empty nooks. She stared at the sweater with surprise, the hint of frustration curdling the edges of her delight. The sweater was already pocked with tightly-wound pills. This was a new sweater, the one she bought herself for Christmas, after much consternation. The one she had really wanted, the one she stared at for three weeks in the lead-up to the holidays, wistfully clicking past it every time, came with a price tag of four-hundred dollars.
She had packed the sweater carefully, slipping the folded cashmere—cashmere-blend to be exact—into a garbage bag, keeping the straw-colored hairs rounded-up, and away from the rest of her belongings. In the few weeks of owning the sweater, the woman noticed its propensity to mark whatever it touched. When she stood from her couch, the cushions were left mottled, as if a large poodle had been seated there instead. Shirts worn beneath went straight to the washing machine, or remained paired with the sweater, until they did.
The woman bought the sweater a comb. It reminded her of an old-fashioned harmonica plated with cherry wood. Everyday she combed the sweater, angling the screen at the edges, stiff like the dorsal fin of a Veiled chameleon, swiping the sweater with short strokes, starting at the top and continuing all the way to the bottom, catching the hairballs in the screen. She watched the loosed fibers accumulate, threatening to spill to the ground.
The woman thought back, to the image of her own skin clippings, piling-up in the hollowed-out mandible of cuticle cutters, at the hands of the salon professional. She had watched the manicurist work, back when she paid that kind of attention to her nails, the same way drivers eyeballed cars heaped, dented and smoldering, on the other side of a highway. Her stomach would knot, for no apparent reason, awaiting the crash of her DNA onto the dirty tiles, right there at her feet. But it never happened. Like a consummate smoker, those professionals knew when to flick the cutters against the side of the trash can, dislodging the ball of skin before continuing onward, as surely as the lifelong smoker knew when to press their burning cigarette into the ashtray, breaking off the cremated end from the tobacco still fresh in the paper, before it melted a small hole in the Oriental rug.
Since acquiring the sweater, the woman surmised she had spent almost as much time grooming its coat, as she had wearing it. I might as well own a dog, she thought ruefully. In fact, the sweater proved more work than any ‘fancy’ dog requiring such attention, such as a miniature Poodle named Pierre, the curls of his cuffs braiding daily into knots, like passerby tucked chewing gum into them like recyclable wrappers; or even a speckled Australian Shepard named Pepper, his undercoat pushing past the surface for two weeks straight, like a down jacket ripped apart with a switchblade. He trailed fur-balls everywhere he went, like Pig-Pen trailed dust in Peanuts. The sweater required much more attention, because not only did the woman have to groom the outside of the sweater, she had to comb the pills from the inside of it, too.
The woman sighed, standing in the trailer without wheels, parked in the middle of a plain facing the Sangre De Cristo mountains, 4.2 light years from the nearest stellar neighbour, Alpha Centauri. This must be the ‘blend’ part of the cashmere, she thought wryly, picking the wad from the edge of the screened comb like she was picking cotton from a stalk, unsticking the strands from one finger after another, until it floated into the can, like the ghost of a dandelion.
Yes, having a dog would have been much easier.