Little One and the Loom
by J.G. Formato
singing was off-key, and it bounced. The other
children’s voices were orange, springy coils,
cascading down the walls like perpetual motion
Slinkies. When the song was over, its notes collected
in rippling puddles that melted into the carpet.
girl with the knobby knees and the buttoned-up lips,
read the cake eagerly. Happy birthday, Little One!
it greeted her from beneath a frosted layer of roses
and butterflies. She swallowed a sigh. She had hoped
they would write her name on it, the way they did for
the other children. It’d been so long since anyone had
used it, she’d forgotten what it was.
had, too. Maybe that’s why they didn’t put it on the
cake. Or in the song. Maybe they never knew.
waiting for her to blow out the candles, so she did.
It was hard without making a whooshing sound, but it
could be done. She dropped her jaw and let the breath
pour out until the six dancing flames were
there wasn’t one to grow on.
ate, smooshing the cake against the roof of her mouth
with her tongue before swallowing. The chomping of the
others was small, grey sharks that nibbled on floating
dust particles. She laid her fork down and closed her
eyes until the chewing stopped.
present for you, Little One,” Miss Tammy said
affectionately. She loved this odd, itty-bitty thing.
A textbook waif with eyes the color of unfurled leaves
and bones that might break beneath the weight of a
smile. One day, she would make the girl laugh. Or at
the very least find her a good family. This wasn’t
the place for her – it was like keeping a butterfly in
crinkling of the wrapping paper surrounded the gift
with beetle’s wings, but Little One persevered.
It was a
red plastic square, rimmed with mounds of jagged
teeth. With it came a metal hook and colorful mess of
fabric loops. Little One smiled with closed lips, but
her eyes blinked confusion.
loom, sweetie,” Ms. Tammy explained. “You weave
potholders with it. You’re so crafty, I just knew
you’d love it.”
didn’t know what potholders were, but she did like
weaving paper at craft time. She nodded and let the
nice lady hug her. Ms. Tammy’s voice was sunshine, so
she was alright.
sunlight gives you a headache, though. Little One got
up and went to the shared bedroom. She tented herself
beneath her comforter and stretched rows of loops
across the loom.
made five potholders and gave four to Ms. Tammy.
you, pumpkin! I’ll never burn my hands again,” she
said. Little One allowed herself to be squeezed until
her elbows stabbed her ribs. Then she slipped away to
the front yard.
behind the box hedges and peeked through a bend in the
branches. She was waiting for the Quiet Lady to walk
by. Little One loved the Quiet Lady. She wasn’t like
all the other ladies – her shoes didn’t click and
shower the sidewalk with sparks, and she never did
angry huffs that sent green smoke swirling through the
air. The Quiet Lady looked soft and comfy, surrounded
by an iridescent cloud that glinted with snippets of
rainbow. Sometimes she hummed, but Little One didn’t
mind. The humming left a thin, silky thread, the color
of clear June skies, in her wake. Little One always
followed it with her eyes until the Quiet Lady was out
of sight. Then she stared at it until it faded away or
someone’s clomping feet burned it up.
time, the Quiet Lady approached. Little One tossed
the fifth potholder, made of all the blue loops, over
the bush and onto the sidewalk. She held her breath
Lady never saw it. A skateboard teenager flew past,
with rumbling wheels that covered the concrete with
cracked teeth and broken plates. The Quiet Lady
sidestepped him gracefully, exhaled a quiet, icy
breath, and continued on her path.
old lady passed by next. She saw the potholder, picked
it up, and put it in her enormous wicker purse. Little
One wanted to shout at her, to tell her to give it
back. Instead she sucked her lips between her teeth
and bit down, determined to keep the sound from
never wanted to see her sounds again. She hadn’t seen
them since last year, when Mommy dropped her off. She
cried about it and slimy balls of mud dropped from her
mouth. It splattered the sidewalk, her shoes, and Ms.
Tammy’s pants with grime. Nobody noticed, though, and
Mommy only opened the driver’s side door.
came faster, and her body shook. The sobs were bloody
hearts that exploded when they hit the ground. Real
hearts, like from a medical show – not Valentine
hearts. And they drowned her world with red.
said, “You’ll be better off at the orphanage.” Ms.
Tammy said, “You’ll like it at the Group Home.” For a
while, Little One was confused. But then she figured
out that Ms. Tammy didn’t call things by their right
names, so Little One was pretty sure she was at the
orphanage. And she was absolutely sure that she was
done making noise.
was all out of loops, so the next day she just watched
as the Quiet Lady hummed her way past. The girl
watched until she’d rounded the hill and disappeared
from view. She didn’t completely disappear, though. A
soft thread, sky blue and silky, shimmered on the
sidewalk. Little One slid her hand beneath the bushes
and grabbed the end before it frayed. Hand over hand,
she pulled the thread towards her. It slithered
across the ground like a thin, glittering snake until
it was all wound up in a tight little ball. Nice old
ladies in books always had yarn balls in their
knitting baskets, so she knew just how it should look.
shoved the ball under her shirt and retreated to the
bedroom. She tented herself beneath her comforter and
began to weave. As her fingers flew across the loom, a
soft hum filled the fabric.
really kind of nice. She almost hummed along.
It was a
pretty thing – velvety and brimming with sparkles.
The Quiet Lady would love it. Little One waited until
she was directly in from of her before she threw it
over the bush. It caught the sun and exploded like a
mute firework, sending out a shower of sparks. The
Quiet Lady looked up and blinked at the falling
she called. Rainbows sprang from her mouth and wrapped
Little One up in a friendly cuddle. She thought about
answering, but she didn’t want to destroy the rainbow.
She froze behind her bush, and the Quiet Lady moved
hum as much today, so Little One only got a bit a
were having Pillow Fight Night. It was shrieks and
thumps and people falling down. It was glinting
knives and falling rocks and baby squirrels that
tumbled from their nests. Little One hated Pillow
under her comforter and started to weave. As she
wrapped the Quiet Lady’s thread around the loom, it
hummed with pleasant distraction. There wasn’t enough,
Thursday. Which meant tomorrow was Friday. And then
she would have to wait two whole days to see the Quiet
She had to
finish it tonight.
One’s heart was beating in her ears, and it looked
like moth wings brushing against her eyes, but she
tried anyway. She hummed a little hum, following the
Quiet Lady’s tune. A grass-green thread dropped from
her lips and wrapped around the silver hook. Her lips
vibrated, her fingers flew, and before she knew it her
weaving was complete – a small, glimmering square
woven from the colors of Earth and Sky and the voices
of the Quiet.
didn’t sit behind the bush on Friday. She stood behind
it, the delicate, dotted leaves brushing her chin.
When the Quiet Lady passed, the girl held out the
woven square with a stiff arm and white, pursed lips.
The Quiet Lady smiled at her. “That’s
lovely,” she said softly, dropping rainbows at their
feet. Little One leaned forward onto the bush,
ignoring the branches that tickled, and pressed it
into the woman’s hand.
Little One nodded. The Lady’s eyes
flickered from child’s wan and earnest face to the
sign at the door. She looked back with understanding
and tucked a stray hair behind Little One’s ear.
“I have to go to work now,” she said. “May
I come see you after?”
Little One nodded again.
The Quiet Lady hugged her present to her
chest. “This is the most beautiful gift I’ve ever
received. Thank you so much, you made my day. Who
should I ask for when I come back?”
Little One wasn’t sure. She shrugged and
blinked back swimmy tears.
“It’s okay. I’m sure
they’ll know who I mean.” Her voice was a caress. “See
Little One was sitting behind the couch,
enjoying the quiet, when Ms. Tammy and the Quiet Lady
“So, you’re considering adoption?” Ms.
Tammy’s sunburst of a voice filled the room. Little
“Well, I’d been toying with idea for a
while. I’d really love a little girl of my own.” A
soothing, rainbowed mist mellowed the glare. “And when
she just popped up like that today, with a present,
like she already knew me… I don’t know. It almost
seemed meant to be. I’d like to spend some time with
“I have to tell you, she is the sweetest
“I’m sure of that. But you said she
“Not since her mother left. There’s
nothing really wrong – she just seems determined not
to let herself.”
“I see. And what’s her name?”
“We all call her Little One.”
Little One stood up. Ms. Tammy jumped when
she saw her. The Quiet Lady smiled and said, “But what
is her name? I’d like to thank my new friend
properly. It was a lovely gift.”
The girl looked at Ms. Tammy with wide
eyes. She’d have to tell her now. The Quiet Lady said
“It’s Anastasia. Such a big name for such
a cute, tiny little thing.” Her chuckles were sticky
chunks of cotton candy.
“I like it. A big name for a big heart. Is
it alright if I call you Anastasia?” Her words colored
the air with sky flecked with rainbows.
“Yes. Anastasia,” the girl said. Blades of
grass dropped from her mouth, and golden flowers
bloomed against the lingering blue. She burst into
tears, and the Quiet Lady took her into her arms.
Their tears mingled and dripped to the ground as
hearts—Valentine hearts, not scary medical show