You find the place without getting lost, even though it was just off the edge of the map. It is discrete enough, tucked away from the bustle of the high street. You look around to check that no one is following you and enter the building with the button and scissors on the signage.
A bell alerts the owner to your presence—they shortly emerge from a door in the wall, a fabric measuring tape and a stick of chalk in their hands. You present them with the package you have brought with you, laying it reverently upon the counter.
“Is this what we discussed on the phone?” the sewist says, draping the measuring tape around their shoulders and securing the chalk in a pocket.
“Yes, this is it,” you answer.
The owner unwraps the items you brought here: a tiny green woollen Cub Scout sweater, which you can barely remember wearing, and a clear plastic bag containing five loose Scouting proficiency badges: red triangles with a golden-yellow trim.
Your hands shake as you lay each badge upon the blank sleeve in the order they were earned, indicating where you would like each one to stay. Each denotes an achievement: Navigator; Local Historian; Athlete Stage 1; Map Reader; Home Help. You pause for a second or so before placing the last badge down, knowing that five will lack symmetry on the sleeve, but that you never earned any more after it.
It reminds you of how you earned it, offering to do the housework without realising even then that your Mother was lacking the strength to do it anyway. You did not know that it was vital practice, which would prepare you for what came next. You sense the sewist’s eyes upon you.
“I can have it back to you by Wednesday, a fortnight from now?” they say.
You nod and leave the premises, knowing you have left a significant part of yourself behind. It is in good hands though—you have done your research and this sewist comes with a great reputation, like their ancestors before them.
You return, nervous to see the finished article. The sewist again emerges from the door, a carbon-copy of their previous entrance. They hand you the sweater.
There they are—the badges which your Mother forgot that she had promised to sew for you; then she forgot to show you how to sew them yourself; then she forgot them altogether. Her mind forgot you too before it forgot to tell her body to live.
There is another badge stitched on there, one which you have never seen before; it matches the style and colour of the other five but exists nowhere else but upon this sleeve. It is of a mother embracing her child, and the child has a small heart upon their back. The lack of symmetry you feared, is now gone.
“But this one...” you start to say, as tears fill your eyes.
“You earned it, more than the others,” says the sewist, a hint of sadness in their unblinking eyes. You want to thank them, for the poignancy and high quality of this custom work, but no words will suffice.
You promised that you would do your best, for her—this badge certifies that you did just that.
You stumble around inside your wallet to retrieve the agreed-upon fee. You pass it to the sewist, but they immediately place it upon the sweater and gently nudge it back to you across the counter, shaking their head.
You mouth a silent ‘thank you’ to show your gratitude and exit. You decide, before you navigate your way home, to go for a jog past the Scout hall—for old-times’ sake.
It will be the first time you have travelled there alone.
Andrew Anderson (he/him) is a writer of fiction from Bathgate, Scotland. His work has previously been published by National Flash Fiction Day Press, Sampson Low Ltd., The Drabble, Black Hare Press, Eerie River Publishing, Paragraph Planet, Steering 23 Publications and Blood Song Books.