~This story was previously published in lip magazine (2009)
Every summer we decorate the orchard with dresses. On Friday we mix the dye in huge sheep-dip vats, as tall as me but wider. One blue, one purple, one pink, one red, one yellow. When leaves fall in we fish them out, their veins dripping colour. When insects fly in, we leave them be: once they’ve breathed in the chemicals, it’s too late. The dye smells sharp like fresh pepper, earthy like sprouting potatoes. Once I dipped in a finger, expecting it to taste like roasted vegetables. It was more like nail varnish; I didn’t try it again.
On Saturday the vans arrive at the farm, spilling over with fabric. The drivers stack the boxes by our door, their talk and laughter making their cigarettes wiggle furiously. Their bellies hang over their belts, pushing out their t-shirts like balloons about to pop. They peer in the windows before roaring away. We pour out of the house and tear open the boxes. Piles of dresses, all the same beige-white like the underneath of a tabby cat. We sort them into piles: dresses to be reddened, pinked, purpled, yellowed, and blued.
On Sunday we get up with the sun. We pile the dresses into the dye vats, swirling them around with broom handles. The dogs run infinity symbols between our legs, trailing leaves. The horse watches us intently, the colours reflected in her eyes. At midday we sit on the doorstep, eating chunks of bread and cheese dipped in soup. Our fingers dye the bread rainbow colours, so it looks like we’re eating iced cakes.
On Sunday night the dresses hang in the trees, dripping multicoloured tears on the grass. My finger pads are dented from the beading, my knuckles ingrained with colour. The cat lurks in the doorstep; earlier she ventured out, then had to spend an hour licking her paws clean. The dogs sprint manically among the coloured drops, tongues lolling, tails swishing the hanging fabric.
The sun slides behind the hill, lighting up the dresses in a blaze like fire. It sets, and the dresses fade to black.
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Many years ago, I was staying at my rich uncle's house in London. I spent the time between sightseeing sitting on my uncle's posh couch and reading all his posh magazines. One story really stuck with me: a family on a farm who dyed dresses for haute couture designers. The family made their living from fashion, but they seemed so distant from it, and didn't seem to care what happened to the dresses after they'd finished with them. In my mind, the farm took shape: always summer, always sunset, always quiet and calm and beautiful. I had to write about it.
ABOUT KIRSTY LOGAN
Kirsty Logan won her first writing contest at the age of 8, and has been going mostly downhill ever since. She is currently a fiction writer, literary magazine editor and book reviewer, while also working on a novel, Rust and Stardust, and a short story collection, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales. Her work has been published in places both prestigious and preposterous. She has a semicolon tattooed on her toe. Say hello at www.kirstylogan.com.