Click-a-de-click, click-a-de-clack, Olga’s knitting needles danced to the bumpety-bump rhythm of the train. She sat as if hypnotised by the intricate cable stitch pattern of her work. Only vaguely aware of people alighting at different stations, it took a while before she noticed the overall silence that filled the compartment.
Suddenly, an uncomfortable prickle crawled across the back of her neck. Someone was watching her. She threw a furtive glance behind her and saw the eyes of a lone male passenger firmly glued to her. His brooding expression and thin-lipped mouth scared her a little.
As her discomfort grew, she furiously worked at her knitting to keep her nerves and trembling hands in check. When she suddenly glimpsed a movement from the corner of her eye, a mild sense of panic took hold of her. The man had left his seat and was coming towards her.
Olga’s heart began to race. One read so much about all sorts of dreadful things happening these days. Just a few weeks ago, she recalled, some unfortunate woman had been assaulted along this very stretch. Had they caught the culprit? She couldn’t remember hearing about it.
‘If only I hadn’t worked overtime tonight’, she chided herself. ‘If only I had accepted the lift Millie had offered. If only I wasn’t so bloomin’ independent all the time. If only …..’ the thoughts raced through her mind. Much to her increasing discomfort, the man suddenly took up the seat opposite her. When she noticed his long fingers fidget with his scarf in an agitated fashion, her knitting needles moved all the faster.
She felt his piercing glare on her and her stomach began to churn. How would she be able to defend herself against this big man? A quick movement with her hip assured her that her umbrella lay next to her within close reach. She would use it if she had to.
But what if he…. ? ‘No good assuming things’, she thought. She had to keep a clear head. That’s what it said in one of those self-defence booklets she’d read. Every second, every movement was of utter importance in a situation like this. If only she had taken that course. But her stupid pride got in the way. At her age she would have made a fool of herself, prancing around like a young thing, kicking holes in the air.
Click-a-de-click, click-a-de-clack, the needles flew frantically as her knotted insides tightened into unbearable cramps. Close to hysterics now, she expected to be attacked at any moment.
‘The knitting needles,’ she suddenly thought, ‘that’s what I’ll do. I’ll stab at his face with my knitting needles. Probably loose a few stitches in the process, but what the heck when my life is at stake.’ Just as well that she always used steel needles instead of those plastic things that had no ‘oomph’, no substance, always bending this way and that, and always snapping in the middle of a fancy pattern much to one’s annoyance.
“Fascinating,” the man suddenly said in a gravelly Scottish-accent.
Olga’s breath caught in her throat.
“The way you knit,” he went on. “Absolutely fascinating. Aye. I have neverrr seen anyone knit like that. And I come frrrom a long line of knitters.”
‘Now he pretends to want to make conversation,’ Olga thought, ‘but I won’t fall for it. No way. That’s how these fiends operate. They start up with a bit of small talk to throw you off-guard. Long line of knitters. What rot! Best to ignore his remarks.’
“I think I’ve seen some Middle Eurrropean women knit the way you do,” the man said, then asked where she was from.
“None of your business,” Olga mouthed silently with trembling lips and decided to pretend she was deaf. That way he wouldn’t expect any replies.
“Herrre, let me show you how me mother taught me.” He suddenly reached towards her just as the train hissed to a halt.
Olga jumped to her feet, snatched up her bag and, while running to the nearest exit, shoved her knitting inside it.
“Hey!” her would-be attacker yelled after her, “hang on a minute.” But no way was she going to stop. Not even for a split second. As fast as her arthritic legs would let her, she ran down the length of the dark, deserted platform, the staccato of her heels echoing against the emptiness. A two-meter long loop of lime-green 12 ply was trailing behind her and danced merrily in the breeze.
“Wait a minute, lady!” The man, now in hot pursuit and much too close for comfort, called out again. But Olga ran on.
As she fled through the station gate and down the footpath, the wind suddenly changed direction and the length of wool that trailed behind her wrapped itself around her legs throwing her off balance and sending her sprawling to the ground. Instantly, the man was upon her.
“You silly woman,” he gasped, threatening her with a short, thick stick. “What did you have to run for?” With his free hand he pulled her to her feet.
Olga’s legs turned to jelly and her head began to spin. She hung in the man’s grip like a wet rag. “Here,” he bellowed, thrusting the weapon against her chest just as she was about to faint. “You forrrgot your bleedin’ brrrollie!”
For a second Olga tried to comprehend, and then, under the light of the street lamp, she recognised the floral pattern of her umbrella. With her last ounce of strength she snatched it from him, turned and staggered down the road.
“That woman must be daft,” the man muttered shaking his head. “Anyone holding a pair of knitting needles like that would have to be daft. Aye.” And with a sense of pride he fingered his own, most recent creation - the hand-knitted scarf around his neck.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Ingrid Armstrong-Boehk.
Published on e-Stories.org on 21.01.2008.