A play written for the photographs The Glovemaker and The Seamstress
The story takes place inside their picture frames.
By Karen Ostrom September 1, 2003
The scene opens with the Glovemaker seated quietly on his stool in his shop with a selection of hand-gloves in varying stages of completeness, hanging on lines behind him. His attention is directed to someone out of the picture frame.
GM: The hand-gloves? They not be done yet.
Eh? I can’t hear you. You must step into my picture.
The Seamstress makes her appearance and her appeal only half entering the picture frame, grasping one arm, concealing it entirely.
S: I’m in need of a hand-glove.
The Glovemaker looks at her and raises one eyebrow. He continues to blow into the half made hand-glove he is holding. A moment passes and the Seamstress remains, silent and watching.
GM: Which kind do you be wanting?
The Seamstress edges a little closer into the picture frame.
S: I’d be wanting one with a little polish on the nails, I think.
GM: The polish is extra – extra time.
The Glovemaker turns to hang the 1/2 produced hand-glove onto the line, then checks the weight and feel of the other gloves. He slowly caresses the tips – feeling for the weight they are expected to produce. He pinches one that is seemingly ready and makes a slightly disgusted sound with his tongue.
GM: It’s humid today and that’s good for big hand-gloves. It makes the skin stretch and elastic. But that’s not good for you. For you, too much humidity and the skin swells over the hand-glove, leaving a slight bloom over the surface. You must come back when the air is dry and free of the salt breezes. The right fit is critical.
He waves her away and sits back down to his work.
S: I, I can’t. I need a new hand-glove today. I cannot continue my work with m y hand the way it is. (The Seamstress pulls out her concealed hand to reveal the damage to the Glovemaker). Maybe you can just repair it quickly and I’ll be on my way. Forget the polish.
The Glovemaker jumps slightly, partly from her abruptness and partly from the horror of her hand.
S: (verging on tears of frustration) It was an accident. I only looked away for a moment and it was all over. I have never done anything like this….
When the Glovemaker takes a closer look his resignation to her needs turns to morbid fascination. He slowly gets up to examine the damaged hand. He’s completely engrossed and lifts her arm ever so carefully as if he were examining a delicate piece of china. The Seamstress is both anxious and pleased by the attention, hoping this will produce the results she will need.
GM: You must be using a very large needle to make these kinds of punctures?
S: I’ve been working mostly with heads this past while. I’ve been busy; everyone seems to be losing them. The needle has such a long way to drop and you have to be very exact. You must have concentration. I looked away because I saw someone…uh, something, at the window. Before I looked back to my work the needle had dropped into my hand four times. (Pause, and then softly, more to herself) I’m still not sure what…. (her voice trails off)
The Glovemaker gives her a moment to come back to the present.
GM: This I cannot repair easily. Not this kind of damage. It’s very extensive. The holes are so very pronounced. A new hand-glove is best. But a complete replacement is very unusual. A complete replacement is not like a partial replacement; a mere slip of the hand. Oh no, it is…(The Glovemaker pauses a moment until he can catch her stare)…dangerous.
The Seamstress slumps with disappointment. She starts to shake. All the fears and frustrations begin to culminate with shock. She sits down and once again hides her hand. The Glovemaker looks down, embarrassed by her emotional display. He’s curious about the strangeness at her window. The more he reflects on it the more it does not make sense. The more he wants this entity to be revealed. Slowly and awkwardly he tries to ask her about the accident.
GM: This work, it requires such great concentration. How is it that you could look away? This is not something you do. What must have been there to distract you? (Pause) Who was this?
But she is clearly avoiding his queries – fearful of saying what she thinks it was. She responds by changing the subject back to her needs.
S: When can I expect a new hand-glove? (She asks aggressively not looking in his eyes)
The Glovemaker softens a little. He’s still curious about the unnamed visitor at her window, but he turns his attention to her hand.
GM: Let’s take a look here.
The Glovemaker reaches out for her to show him her hand. She pulls her hand out of hiding. Disappointment is clear on her face. She expects the worst while the Glovemaker ponders her predicament a moment.
GM: You must know of course, a hand-glove replacement in unsuitable weather conditions can reap unpredictable results. Ones you cannot imagine. It’s best you come back like a said, when the weather is more suitable.
The Seamstress grows more agitated.
S: I really have no choice. If I were to wait until the weather were suitable, it’s hard to say how many heads would be rotting in my picture.
The Glovemaker grimaces as he imagines her situation. He begins to understand her impatience.
GM: It seems you have two issues at hand. (Cough) Or perhaps three. One is that you are in dire need of a new hand-glove in order for you to resume your work and avoid…uh, things. The second, is that, how do I say this?…If I were to just give you a hand-glove, and that is the third problem - I may not be able to perform this transition before your arm looses it’s ability to take on a new hand-glove – but back to the second problem. If I were to just give you this new hand-glove, how am I to know for certain you wont’ be in here in a few hours lamenting the same predicament that brought you in here in the first place?
The Seamstress looks down unable to respond.
GM: Is this a fair question?
She nods, still unable to speak. The Glovemaker gets a little excited now, thinking she will reveal the nature of her distraction.
GM: Who, and I am assuming someone was there now, would come to your window and then not help you when it was clearly their presence that caused the accident in the first place? I don’t understand.
Simultaneously with his last words, she blurts out
S: I didn’t know them
The Glovemaker’s mouth drops open in mock horror. He begins to stammer.
GM: I, what, I, I don’t understand. That’s not possible.
The Seamstress begins to shake her head as if in a trance.
S: I don’t know them, I don’t know them….
Her confession is freeing and she relaxes into a quiet sobbing. The Glovemaker bends down and gently places his hand on her good arm and peers up into her face.
GM: You know this is not possible? You know everyone. We all know everyone. There is no other.
The Seamstress sighs and shakes her head. Holding out her damaged hand to him she questions him for truth with her eyes. The Glovemaker looks at her hand again. He feels the swelling around the needle holes, the thread still in place. The weight of her truth bears down on him and he turns away to ponder the predicament. Moments pass and the Glovemaker has unknowingly walked out of his own picture frame. The Seamstress quietly reminds him that she is still there.
S: Can you help me?
The Glovemaker is brought back to the present and quickly returns to his own picture. A little discombobulated by the information she has revealed, he looks about his shop with agitation. He clearly doesn’t know what to do. He now looks to her for help. She continues her plea.
S: Help me….please! I need a hand-glove. You must help me now, before I lose everything.
The Glovemaker looks around again and picks up a piece of purloin from the floor and approaches her.
GM: I will try to repair it first. I cannot guarantee that this will work. I have never tried to repair such damage. I can however, guarantee that this will be more painful than your worst nightmare. You will need to know this before I begin.
The Seamstress looks at him with fear and then nods for him to commence. The Glovemaker cuts the long line of purloin into two pieces. One piece is wrapped once around the damaged hand’s wrist. The other is wrapped the same way a few inches higher. Each wrap has two ends. These ends are tied to spools that when the Glovemaker begins to turn, they slowly wind around, tightening their grip on the Seamstress’s wrist and arm. The Glovemaker looks at her to gage her pain. She reveals a little discomfort. He continues quickly, knowing that moving slowly will only cause the pain to last longer. The sudden speed causes her to jump and the pain increases. She has to look away, her face pale. The critical moment has come; the point of no return; the point where the pain crescendos. He quickens his pace and she screams. This frightens him and he feels a cold sweat develop across his face. He pulls harder on the spools, knowing this will hurt even more. She screams again and this time louder and deeper, from a place he is not familiar. He’s almost done and the screams are deafening. In a flurry he makes one last tug and ties off the spools. The hand gently falls off into his lap. Her arm at her wrist safely tied. The screams diminish into uncontrollable sobbing. The Glovemaker is emotionally and physically spent. He’s astounded at what he has just done and slowly lifts the damaged hand to examine his work. He carries the hand over to his stool and sits down taking in long deep breaths. After several long and relaxed inhales, he lifts the hand to his lips and slowly loosens the purloin. He then gently blows into the hand. The fingers pop up taught, but then almost immediately, as he pauses to inhale again, slowly droops down, limp. The needle’s holes have leaks and are preventing his healing breath from remaining inside the hand. He wants to cry but won’t. She is silent now and is watching him intently, massaging her stump. She wants to speak, to ask questions but is afraid. She knows he did not want to do this. Realizing that the repair is not working, she suggests the alternative replacement.
S: I don’t mind a little bloom on my hand if it means I can get back to work.
GM: If only it were just a little bloom to worry about. But I’m afraid that that same little bloom may cause you a great deal of hardship. I can’t control what the bloom will do. You may find yourself with a hand-glove with abilities all it’s own, or with skills you never dreamed of or none you may ever wish to use.
The Seamstress tries to imagine this a moment and replies thoughtfully.
S: If you were to come into my shop and ask for a new shirt, I would be obliged to ask you if you’d also like a new head. It would be your decision whether this change in dress would also require a change of mind. You may find yourself much the same, or you could find yourself quite different. The point being of course, that the choice is ultimately yours.
GM: You may never get back to the work you know.
S: I can’t work now. I will invent new work if I have to.
GM: Did you really not know who was at your window?
S: My hand! I believe we were discussing my hand. (Then softly) No, I really didn’t know.
The Glovemaker stands up and carries the limp and defunct hand over to the line and pins it up with the hand-gloves.
GM: If the wind would shift I could blow you a new hand-glove with more power and skill than you could ever imagine; one that would not let you become distracted.
S: You are teasing me with ‘ifs’. The air is humid, the breeze is salty; I will take the risk.
GM: Everything is different now isn’t it?
The Seamstress is shocked by the Glovemaker’s frankness. She wishes now that she had lied and said it was the Fisherman, or even the Journalist at her window. Everyone will know what has happened. She struggles with this understanding.
S: Yes, I would think so. (She holds out her stump to remind him of the work he is supposed to be performing.) I am different now too. (She motions to her handless arm)
The Glovemaker nods and carefully selects a hand-glove that he thinks will provide the least bloom. Gently he fills the hand-glove with his breath and fastens it to her tender wrist.
GM: The best you can do is to keep it dry – cover it and stay away from the shore – for today at least. It will take a season to fully heal, but you will be able to use it in a few hours. (Then as an after thought) I suggest you get curtains for your window.
The Seamstress smiles without humour, realizing that curtains in her window will almost certainly draw attention. As if reading her thoughts, he tries to console her worries.
GM: You are surely not the only one to have been visited – word will spread and you may find yourself making curtains for the entire village.
She thinks on this a moment and suggests
S: Perhaps my new hand will have the skills to make curtains with eyes; ever watchful eyes; eyes that could warn of unknown visitors.
The Glovemaker feels another cold sweat come over him and his stomach takes a turn. Her greatest hope for the skill of her new hand-glove is in the unknown and uncertain changes afoot in the village.
GM: Yes, I would like some curtains with eyes to see.
The Seamstress looks down at her new hand-glove, already showing signs of movement. She bows to the Glovemaker, looks down, and departs from the picture frame.