• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 09
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The sign in the window says Leather Repairs. She straightarms her way in.

The jingle of the bell over the door does nothing to lift his bald head. The sewing machine hums to him in a fairy ring of lamplight, and she feels her own shadow over her shoulder, a voyeur. Stands, hip cocked, one thin arm braced on the counter between them, the damp ochre light of the late Leith afternoon stitching a dubious halo behind her.

He slowly raises one soft finger to indicate patient waiting. His gaze never leaves the red silk running like blood under his hands. She hoists herself onto the counter and sits, one long leg swinging, sheepskin bag in her lap. Finally the thrum of the machine slows to a few quick arrhythmic beats, his hands drop to his sides. She waves the stiff round bag of skin at him, rustling the humid air.

— Old bagpipe sack. Needs stitched up.

He does not look up.

— Was my granddad’s. Came here after the war. Got into the local customs. Assimilation and all that. Anyway, can you—?

He runs a slow stiff finger along the spine of his gleaming machine. Heaves a soundless sigh and rises, revealing a pronounced limp as he approaches. He takes the bag gingerly from her outstretched hands, turns it over once, and shakes his head. Hands it back.

— But the sign in the window —

Shakes again, eyes on her ratty red sneakers.

— But it’s not actually —



He gestures vaguely at a midnight black leather jacket hanging against the wall, points to a pair of velvety over-the-knee boots resting on the table next to his sleek machine. Gives a wary glance at the mottled, frankenstein thing in her lap. She strokes the stiff, stippled hide deliberately. Watches the skin around his eyes tighten. Suddenly conscious of the warmth of the shop, the cool evening outside, the smooth lengths of her own bare brown skin. Naked, moving around inside her thin shorts and light cotton vest.

— Dijou know the German word for bagpipes is Dudelsack?

He fingers the yellow measuring tape he wears like a boa around his thick, crumpling neck.

She points to the hammer and sickle, Forward Future socialist realism posters condescending from the dingy walls of his shop, eyes his three-piece suit. Reaches across the counter to loosen his thick port-red tie.

— I like contradictions.

He retreats, fingers fluttering across his double Windsor knot, Adam’s apple bobbing. She pulls off one shoe, then the other. Flows down off the counter into the long leather boots. Pulls up one zip so quick it burns the inside of her thigh, the other so slow they can hear the bite of each tooth in the silence. Reaches up and shrugs into the warm pelt of the jacket.

She briefly palms his trembling chin, then spins and strides into the seeping dark. Leaves her old sneakers next to the dead sheep on his counter. Smiling.