The Family of Mr and Mrs Calico

August 27, 2007

Been doing a bit more on this, reckon I’m about 1/2-2/3rds through now…

The Family of Mr and Mrs Calico

The family of Mr and Mrs Calico, were not like other families. Mr and Mrs Calico (which was not their family given name, but just the name by which they were known) lived in a small, 2 bed-ed, semi detached cottage, discreetly positioned off a main road in Leicestershire. They moved there shortly after getting married.

Theirs was a marriage made in Calico, from the Calico dress and double breasted suit, made by Mr Calico, to the Calico bunting, cake frill and ceremonial marqee, made by Mrs Calico. When Mr and Mrs Calico each exchanged their vows, they gave thanks for Calico, and as Mr Calico lifted his wife’s, Calico trimmed veil, their well primed guests released a flock of Calico scarved, Calico white, doves. Such was the significance of Calico.

The Significance of Calico
When Mr Calico (whose real name was actually Bob) was a small child, he went with his family (whose real name no longer matters) on a holiday to Aberystwyth. It was strange kind of holiday, what with it being November and what with the family of Mr Calico, electing to camp in a rather bleak and frozen field, where even the largest mallet could not crack the solid, iced up earth. Still, the young Mr Calico enjoyed the break, and spent many hours of it roaming the hills and vallies of the surrounding region.

It was on one such rambling excursion that young Bob found himself far a field of his parents, divided by frozen mists and dark weather and fully lost, half way up a coastal mud track.

The boy must have sat on that mountain for hours. He watched the light fade from the kind of preternatural yellow (common in such places, at such times of the year) to a disturbingly viscous grey. There was no light and there was no sound, save for a booming crash of foaming tide.

So hopeless and resigned to the prospect of tragedy – in particular death by mountain lions (for Mr Calico was young and did not yet know that Mountain lions did not live in Wales) – so lost to all hope and reason was the young Mr Calico, that he was quite overwhelmed when the young Mrs Calico (whose real name was actually Elsie) appeared like an angel, to thrust her small and frozen hand into his.

***

Mrs Calico had come to live in Aberystwyth, shortly after her 10th birthday. She’d moved there with her mother and step-father. Married to her mother, not long after the tragic death of her real father, Elsie’s step-father hardly ever talked to Elsie. When he did, it was usually to suggest that she go elsewhere.

Faced with such circumstances it should as no surprise to discover that as a child, Mrs Calico became quite an accomplished explorer. She would often take herself off, away from the disapproving glare and brooding atmosphere of home, and into the craggy outcrops of coastal cliffs, lining the sea like so many rows of monstrous teeth.

What Elsie liked to do, more than anything else, was run away from home, climb into these cliffs and sit on their mossy pinnacles, even frozen – as they were in Winter. Perfectly happy with her own company, she would seldom take friends on such missions. In fact, as her step father didn’t believe in education (at least not for Elsie) she rarely saw other children. So, what else could Elsie do, when one day, climbing up to her favourite lookout, she found the strange boy; about her own age, curled against a rock and sniveling into his sleeve.

Taking the freezing bundle, by its damp and curled up hand, she led the boy down the mountain and to a place of safety. The exact and chosen place of safety was an industrious lean to, built by Elsie’s own fair arms and hidden inside a secluded alcove. The shelter was made of Calico.


The Family of Mr and Mrs Calico
After the wedding, redolent in Calico as it was, Mr and Mrs Calico honeymooned in Wales. They did not of course stay long. Leisure was all very well, said Mr Calico, but back home in the Midlands there was work to be done. And Mrs Calico agreed.

Back home in the midlands, there was the small, two bedded, cottage to consider. There was removing into the new born home of a house, the many possessions that each Calico had individually amassed. There was the picking out of carpets, and curtains, and fixtures and fittings. Mr Calico, who was (as you’ll know from his sumptuous wedding creations) a fabulous tailor, had plans for calico blinds, envelopes for cushions and even smooth, magnolia, calico wall coverings.

Often, in the weeks in which it took the Calico’s to settle, Mrs Calico would find things. She would find notebooks and pages and the corners of random printed papers, spilling over with architects drawings. The drawings would be for Christo like wrapages.
“Dear” said Mrs Calico, on one particular occasion, “I love Calico as much as you do, but really, we probably shouldn’t cover the house.” Mr Calico had sighed at this and patted his wife’s gentle slope of a stomach.


The Significance of Calico.
Anyone would have thought the boy half dead. Used to lighting fires and making do, Elsie had set about doing just that, but the boy, balled up tight as a nut, rigamortised, almost, against a furry tree root, was silent as a thing without a tongue. Presently, however, the thing began to speak:
“Oww”
Thinking this some kind of signal for her to comment, but unused to comfort giving, Elsie just prodded more energetically at the firey embers, now glowing beneath her stick and looked furtively over to the source of the noise.
“Y’alright then?” she muttered between pokes.
Not much came back. She guessed he was though. Just what she needed, a whinger.
“Wriggle ‘em” she instructed, “Your toes, wriggle your toes” That should do it.
Elsie had of course known people her own age, before the move to Aberystwith, but this was different. This was a boy. She didn’t really mind them, just didn’t know what to make of them.
“You been here long? – in Wales, I mean” Elsie pushed out the words whilst priding herself on her sociability.
“No” said the boy.
The flames were starting to jump a little, throwing up a soft glow on the Calico lean to, arching gently out above them.
“My name’s Elsie, by the way.” Said Elsie.
“Bob.” Said Bob.

The family of Mr and Mrs Calico

What Mr Calico wanted, more than anything else, was a child. At night he would often lie awake and trace the shape of a baby, silently and using only his eyes. The baby would be suspended in the air before him. In these invisible moments, he would see the tiny curve of it’s head, the delicate round of it’s body, hooded and supported and swaddled, in Calico. Flying before him, it was much like a parcel, or a mysterious piece of delicate origami.

Mrs Calico would also lie awake at night. She would lie, quiet as snow, next to her husband and she would see it. Small and soft and perfect; projected on the ceiling, like a baby’s mobile. She would see it in the sink as she washed the dishes; on T.V, as she and Mr Calico sat down to watch the evening news. Sometimes, as she was bustling around their calico lined living room she would scoop up the sketches made by Mr Calico. She would look at the wrapped up chimney and roof of their cottage, turn it this way, then that, and suddenly see something different. She would see a child, wrapped up like a present.


The significance of calico

“So what’s with the Calico” Bob and Elsie were sat around the little fire, gazing at the awning and sipping tea out of two billy cans.
“S’just where I hang out” replied Elsie, half distracted and dreamy with comfort. She’d decided to give up on conversation, as of half an hour ago. The sudden coming to life of her companion was not entirely welcome.
“It’s cool.” The new found Bob was fidgeting with his fingers as he spoke. At least whilst warmed he seemed less inclined to huddled tears. He leant back against the billowing weave. “Where d’get the material from then?”
Elsie put down her cup and prodded at the fire some more. This was the first time she’d bought anyone back and she wasn’t sure that she liked all these questions.
“My dad.” she answered shortly. She stoked the fire some more. “He was a tailor. He made stuff. Used to teach me how”
“It’s nice.” said Bob.
“Yeah.” said Elsie.
breaking off from the fire, Elsie started to draw a series of circles in the earthy sand.
“You live round here then?”
Elsie waved one hand, motioning vaguely across the skiff whilst umming; yes, she did.
“I’m here for a few months. Till after Christmas; camping, with my parents.”
“Right” Elsie prodded at the fire some more, mentally setting aside the ridiculousness of wintering in Wales.
“You can come back; before you go. Y’know – if you want to.”
“Oh, O.K. Yeah, cheers.”
The two of them sat still a little longer, their shadows stiff against the off white background.

The Family of Mr and Mrs Calico
It was not that Mrs Calico was unable to have children. Neither was it that Mr Calico was infertile. It was not that either of them had been tested; they just knew. The unborn child that was theirs and theirs alone was floating in the ether. They could feel it out there. On windy nights it would throw itself at the bay windows. They would hear it, tap, tap, tapping on the leaded double glazing. They both heard it. Neither said anything of course. Some things didn’t need to be said.

Mrs Calico, thought it was a girl. A bright skinned and dark haired, fierce and sharp as a thistle. Mr Calico, thought it was a boy. Of course he did. Noble, and sincere, but quick and canny too. It was a boy; one he could teach to shave and impart to his wisdom; one he could stand in front of the mirror and comb hair with in unison. Mr Calico, had grown up with Gilette. He knew how these things were meant to go.

Somehow, it was waiting for them. It was almost as if, all they need do was open up the window and lift it inside.

The Significance of Calico
“Wanna see something?” Elsie looked over to see that Bob was fumbling with his pocket as he asked the question.
“What?” It always paid to ask. It wasn’t like she had huge experience with boys, but she’d enough to know that secret things, would often end up being green and slimy things, which if not alive, would probably be a good deal wriggling.
“It’s just something I made” his eyes flickered back to the Calico “my mum makes stuff too- she shows me how sometimes, so…”
Elsie had stopped poking the fire, her eyes were now locked on the cheap flannel pocket of the boy with his hand in it. She hesitated then spoke:
“Go on then, yeah. Show me”
Slowly, but very deliberately, the outline of Bobs fist eased its way up, until it was held out, in full view before her. Slow as the bud of a lotus, he opened up the fingers…


The Family of Mr and Mrs Calico

In progress

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