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A Twisted Tangled Yarn

by ACarlGeek
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Author's note: I suspect this isn't what Ozy had in mind when she requested stories about Daniel's sweater, but it's the bunny that bit me. Thanks to Aimless for reinforcement and the beta.

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A Twisted Tangled Yarn
By: ACarlGeek

You know, I've never been an ambitious article of clothing. No, my goals in existence were always quite straightforward from the moment I came off the knitting machine and passed the keen eyes and probing hands of Inspector #12. All I wanted was to keep my wearer warm and to avoid stains and pets with dark hair for as long as possible. I'm not one of those snooty sweaters that demands hand washing and constant grooming to keep pills from forming, but any self-respecting white (OK, CREAM) sweater knows that dirty jobs and off-white yarn just don't work well together.

I wasn't surprised when I ended up in a shipment that went to a department store in Colorado. After all, I'm a warm sweater. Warm sweaters belong in places that get cold. Better to be shipped to Colorado than to end up in Texas or Florida, where warm clothing spends about eleven months of the year in storage. Mothballs are REALLY boring company, and they STINK. Anyway, in Colorado, I would be likely to see occasional daylight for a good six months of the year, possibly more.

I admit I had my qualms when they finally put me out on the display table. I'd heard horror stories from some of the sweaters that preceded me. A couple came back with snags and stains without ever having been purchased! What a tragic end! Of course, one of those guys had a defect which would NEVER have gotten past Inspector #12, so what sort of handling did it expect? Every day on the table, we were rifled through by customers and sorted out again by the store clerks. Saturdays were the worst, but I only had to survive two of those before I was purchased.

I knew she was going to buy me. I could tell by the way she dug me out of the stack and shook me out. There was something in her eyes. She fingered my cabling, nodded, and then generally inspected me, nearly as carefully as #12 had. I was relieved when she not only refolded ME neatly, but also refolded the other sweaters she'd disturbed while looking at us. That was a good sign. You could say it gave me a warm feeling (ha ha, sorry, a bit of sweater humor there).

I was a bit disappointed when she asked for a gift box as she was purchasing me, but she'd already purchased other items, so maybe the box was for one of them. Just because she was apparently a careful owner didn't mean her friends or relatives would be. I hoped the box was for something else, but didn't get my stitches in a twist with worry. One of the secrets to being a comfortable sweater is to stay relaxed even in tense situations. You've gotta go with the flow, conform to your wearer, and manage to remain soft and warm under all circumstances. As they kept telling us back at the factory: "Don't bind in a bind!" Good sweaters practice equanimity at ALL times, not just when we're being worn. I remained calm and unruffled.

Sure enough, when she got us home and pulled everything out of the various bags, I was promptly divested of my price tag, #12's little slip of paper, and folded to fit neatly into that gift box. My hope that she was one of those women who wear men's sweaters was dashed.

I could feel the box being wrapped, and then we were placed on a shelf or something for quite some time. Over the next few weeks, additional wrapped packages were placed beside and on my box. Then came a day when we were all removed from the shelf and scattered on an uneven surface, possibly a blanket or something on a floor. There was something over us, and it didn't take too long to realize we were piled with decorative haphazardness under a tree. Oh goody, we were apparently all Christmas presents!

We collectively hoped that was a GOOD sign. Since there had been no sign of children in the house, and the only packages containing items for small children had been removed earlier and apparently shipped away, it was likely that we were all going to be treated with at least passing respect for more than twenty minutes after we were unwrapped. Well, except for Billy Big-Mouth, the singing bass, but who could respect him? We prayed he was a gag gift.

We sat under that tree for days and days and days. Every few days another box or gift bag would be added until one day several people arrived and a whole lot of additional packages joined us under that tree. It was rather exciting. We presents could at least exchange some information about the people who had purchased us, but couldn't do more than speculate as to which of us would end up in the possession of which person.

Although not all of the other people seemed to be as careful and considerate as MY purchaser, it sounded as if they were all thoughtful and at least reasonably sensible. We presents were all pretty certain that Winking Wilbur, the dancing walleye, was destined for the same recipient as Billy Big-Mouth. Despite the fact that some people refer to cable-knit sweaters as 'fisherman's sweaters', I hoped I wouldn't end up going to that person; he'd probably wear me while fishing and get fish jibbies all over me. Ick! I might have to consort with mothballs to cover the smell of dead fish!

After the people finished a protracted meal, they finally got around to the main event of their get-together: us presents! Unfortunately, my companions from the closet and I were at the bottom of the heap, so we had to wait until most of the other packages had been distributed and unwrapped before our turns came.

My box was jostled aside several times, and once even examined but put back because it wasn't "Daniel's" turn. Talk about anticipation, and relief! From what I'd heard through the box, it sounded as though Billy and Wilbur had gone with much laughter to someone called "Jack", so it looked as though I wasn't necessarily doomed to die an ignominious and slow death covered with fish innards. On the other sleeve, this Daniel for whom I was intended had apparently been responsible for giving Winking Wilbur to Jack, so I might be doomed to a worse fate at the hands of a prankster. I just hoped that since my purchaser, "Sam", had been responsible for Big-Mouth Billy, despite her otherwise being such a careful and nice person, the same might hold true for this Daniel. PLEASE let it hold true!

Finally, my box was lifted and handed across the room. My wrapping paper was removed carefully (a good sign!) and the lid of the gift box was lifted to reveal my new owner. I tried not to let the glasses raise my hopes too much. Even a sweater fresh from the factory knows glasses don't mean that a person is necessarily sedentary and sensible. Many geniuses wear glasses, and they are notorious for having brilliant tunnel vision in certain areas and being really stupid about everything else, including clothing. This Daniel seemed sensibly dressed, and he examined me carefully as he lifted me from the box with a smile.

"Oh, thank you, Sam!" Daniel beamed a broader version of the smile to my purchaser.

Sam smiled apprehensively back, "I have a gift receipt, Daniel, if it doesn't fit or you want a different color. I almost got a really pretty blue one, but I thought the more neutral color of this one would go with more of your other clothes."

"Oh, the color is fine Sam, and I'm certain it'll fit." Daniel held me up by the shoulders and draped me across his chest. Oh, yeah, even through his heavy flannel shirt and underlying turtleneck, I could feel the curves of his shoulder and pectoral muscles. I knew I'd fit comfortably over them, even with a shirt or two under me. OK, actually I was big enough that Daniel could have fit three or four shirts or the partner of his choice inside me and I'd still have been roomy, but let my shoulder seams dangle fashionably and roll up my sleeves, and I'd be a very comfortable fit. He didn't need to exchange me, REALLY.

"Just don't stand in front of any ice cream trucks in that thing, Daniel. You'll be mistaken for a giant scoop of vanilla." This nonsensical statement came from the voice I recognized as Jack, who turned out to be a graying man seated across the room with Billy Big-Mouth and Winking Wilbur stacked amongst other items on the floor by his feet.

Both Daniel and Sam glared at Jack, but only Daniel spoke, as he gently folded me up, "I think it's a fine color, Jack. I'm glad Sam was thoughtful enough to remember that I often feel chilly around here and in the Mountain." As he reached to place me on a stack of unwrapped gifts beside his end of the sofa, Daniel nodded decisively at Sam who grinned back at him.

I lost track of the conversation as my sleeves unfurled and tumbled down the stack formed by the rest of Daniel's gifts. My fears began to subside as I tallied the haul and saw no fishing lures or other fishing gear, no socket wrenches or power tools, and no pet-related items either. In fact, the puzzle box, assorted books and bookstore gift certificates, bag of gourmet coffee beans, and an obscure brain-teasing game had my hopes soaring that perhaps I had just become the property of a sensible and fairly sedentary person. The preponderance of brainy things hiked up the probability of a forgetful genius, but that worry was overwhelmed by the relief of not becoming prematurely encrusted with fish guts, axle grease, or pet detritus.

My attention was drawn back to the conversations around me by a loud outburst from Jack, "Teal'c, what have you done to my fish? It looks like it's having a seizure!"

"I merely pressed the button to initiate the next dance sequence, O'Neill. What is a 'Macarena'?" The large and quiet man holding Winking Wilbur was unperturbed by Jack's ire and seemed genuinely puzzled by the particular dance which Wilbur was supposedly performing.

Jack heaved a great sigh and muttered not quite to himself, "Daniel, why did you have to put a battery in that thing before you wrapped it?"

Sam watched Wilbur's performance and started giggling, "Oh, God, that's funnier than the Lambada was!"

Daniel leaned forward, his brows knit in concentration, "Actually, I think it IS the Lambada, only with some fin action added."

Sam's gaze became more intent, and she paused in her laughing, "Yeah, you're right. The basic motion is pretty much that twisty-wavy one used at different speeds in its Hula and Lambada, but instead of the gentle fin action of the Hula, they've got those sharp frantic-looking fin motions now...and that jump added into the basic motion." She started laughing again, "It does look as though it's having a seizure."

Daniel's laughter joined Sam's, "Or being electrocuted."

"Will you two quit analyzing my fish!?! And stop pressing that damned button, Teal'c!" Jack scowled at all three miscreants and unsuccessfully attempted to snatch Wilbur back from Teal'c.

"Belay that order, please, Teal'c, I'd like to see what else that fish can do." The calmly authoritative voice of George cut through Jack's irate sputtering. As Wilbur pranced through a solo Tango, George glanced briefly at Daniel, "Where did you find this thing, son? I have a friend who, uh, deserves such a gift. I know his family would certainly have fun with it. They gave him Billy Big-Mouth for his birthday a couple months ago." George chuckled at Wilbur's now dramatic gyrations.

"Family? I was just thinking that maybe I shouldn't let Cassie see much more of that thing's antics. Winking Willie, indeed!" Janet piped up from her comfortably curled position in an overstuffed chair.

"That's WILBUR, not Willie!" Jack exploded, sending a scathing glare in Janet's direction as Wilbur started some sort of tap dance.

As the rest of the group dissolved into uproarious laughter, I thought that maybe my first impression was incorrect and they weren't safe, sane people after all. Of course, their behavior could be the result of combining copious amounts of eggnog with some successfully silly gag gifts. I hoped so; Sam had seemed so nice and considerate.

I was glad when the evening drew to a close. I was carefully folded and returned to my gift box, with an elaborately engraved bookmark, a small book, and the gift certificates safely nestled under me. Daniel's other presents were collected in a large gift bag, which was stacked on my box for carrying out to a vehicle. We had a brief wait while containers of foodstuffs were brought out and placed in another bag beside us; then we all progressed to our new home.

It didn't take long for something of a routine to be established. I was assigned space in a drawer with several other warm sweatshirts and turtlenecks. Within a couple days, I'd been pulled out and worn as an outer layer over a T-shirt and turtleneck. Daniel promptly folded my sleeves back to form cuffs several inches deep at his wrists, but didn't even threaten to exchange me for a smaller size. He could really bundle multiple layers of clothing under me, and since he seemed a bit cool-blooded, I suited his needs perfectly.

I had known Sam was a smart lady the moment she'd picked me up in the store, and the frequency with which I was worn certainly confirmed she'd known what she was doing when she chose me! I spent many more nights draped over the back of a chair, ready to be reworn the next day, than I spent freshly laundered and waiting in my official drawer space. It was good to know I was comfortable and doing my job well.

For the first couple of weeks, I was only worn in the evenings, when Daniel worked at his desk or curled up on the sofa to read. One chilly morning, when Daniel had been awakened by a phone call hours before the thermostat was programmed to increase the room temperature for his morning activities, Daniel grabbed me as an extra layer of warmth before dashing out the door.

I clung to him and warmed him as best I could under his down jacket during a rapid drive out of town and up a winding mountain road. He stopped at a couple of checkpoints while still in the car, parked, and eventually went inside a weird building through an impressively thick door and yet another checkpoint. In addition to a couple of long elevator rides, there were additional security checks inside the building, which certainly seemed bigger than it had looked from the outside in the dark.

As Daniel finally departed the second elevator, we encountered Jack on the way to what turned out to be a locker room. Both Daniel and Jack proceeded to change out of their comfortable and sensible clothing and into some of the ugliest olive drab outfits I'd ever seen. No wonder Daniel hadn't minded that I was a bit bigger than he really needed to wear: the ugly olive clothing Daniel was donning fit him even more loosely than I did!

The poor fit and utterly unfashionable appearance of Daniel's outfit helped explain why he never brought that clothing home for witnesses to see. I suspected that the olive ensemble was actually some sort of uniform when I saw the patches on the sleeves of the outer jacket, but I didn't get a good look at them before Daniel had closed the locker door and abandoned me to the boredom of hanging in a foot-square metal prison.

I hung in that locker all day, and was worrying about picking up the smell of sweaty socks from the neighboring locker when I heard the voices of Daniel, Jack, Teal'c, and several other men enter the locker room. There was much banging of locker doors as the group changed from their ugly olive-drabs back into more appealing street clothes. Daniel seemed tired but satisfied as he pulled me on over his T-shirt. He continued to chat with Jack and someone named Lou as they all left the locker room and headed for the elevators and the way home.

It didn't happen often, but any time I was donned in the morning on a work day, the routine was essentially the same. Daniel would wear me to work only to change into an ill-fitting and incredibly unflattering uniform. I KNEW Daniel wasn't military, unlike Jack and Lou and most of the others, so at first it made absolutely NO sense to me that he should abandon warm, comfortable, and good-looking clothes each morning to wear a fashion disaster that varied only by color or camouflage pattern from day to day. Why put me on only to change? Sure, when Daniel returned to the locker room he was often sweaty and dirty enough that he showered before changing, but our wearers sometimes exert themselves. Sensible clothing such as myself expects to encounter a little dirt or body soils; it's part of our job.

I amended my attitude three or four weeks after my first trip to that locker room. I'd been hanging in my little metal cell for days when I finally heard the familiar voices of Daniel, Jack, and Teal'c. Jack and Daniel sounded especially tired, and when I saw the state those ugly clothes were in when Daniel opened the door to my locker, I was VERY glad I hadn't been through whatever had left them so torn and filthy. Daniel himself had some bruises and scrapes visible, and I was glad I was intact and would be able to provide him with the warm comfort he would so obviously need after his undoubtedly long hot shower.

I realized those ugly but functional clothes were intended to take a beating. I determined that I would respectfully let them do their job, so long as they brought my wearer back to me for rest and comfort afterward.

On the other sleeve, I still detested that locker room, particularly that boring little locker. I never learned the name of the airman with the especially odiferous dirty clothing who occupied the locker immediately adjacent to Daniel's, but I was VERY glad when Jack, Daniel, Teal'c, and Sam were provided with a private gear-up area where I actually had drawer space to occupy instead of having a hook deform my neckline. Losing the unpleasantly smelly neighbor was embroidery on the garment.

Fortunately, I didn't get worn to work very often, so I didn't have TOO many stays in either the locker or the drawer. Most of my wearing time occurred during the evenings or on weekends or other days away from work. Of course, just because I didn't do hazardous duty like those ugly uniforms didn't mean that I didn't encounter my share of perils.

For one thing, it turned out Daniel WAS a genius and did display the stereotypical tunnel vision from time to time. I wasn't particularly happy to confirm that his priorities ranked dusty old artifacts above comfortable and comparatively new sweaters, but that was the unfortunate truth. Luckily for me, the snag on my sleeve from the duplicitous funny paperweight that Daniel nearly sprained himself catching before it hit the floor was fairly minor and did pretty much ease out during the next couple of washes. It was just disappointing to watch Daniel carefully inspect the guilty artifact (it caught on MY sleeve, not the other way around!) while never even looking to see the loop that had been pulled out of place in my stitching.

Even when he was on distracted autopilot, Daniel was fairly consistent and careful during mundane household tasks. He followed routines when doing everyday things and the reliability of those routines helped protect all of Daniel's possessions, not just us garments. Of course, routine didn't ALWAYS protect us, or keep us from worrying, but it helped.

One place where Daniel's routine definitely contributed to worry was laundry. By its very nature, laundry is an event that always makes a garment nervous, especially one with a significant amount of natural fiber in its yarn. I may be 15% acrylic, but the majority of my being was grown by sheep. Wool is wonderfully warm, and remarkably durable, but it does NOT mix well with anything other than cold wash water. Put me in a sweater bag (NOT a lingerie bag, thank you!) and I can safely go into the gentle cycle along with the best. All Daniel had to do was remember to switch the temperature setting to "cold", or maybe "warm" during the winter when "cold" equates to "barely above freezing" (water THAT cold can be enough to knit your purls).

Unfortunately for my fibrous nerves, Daniel's usual order of laundry had him doing the bath linen, in a hot cycle, immediately before the gentle cycle with those of us garments that needed to air dry. It had something to do with getting an extra wash cycle done while the towels took forever in the dryer. Although that evidently made sense to Daniel, it still contributed to graying of the fibers of everything in the gentle/cold load when we didn't see Daniel adjust the temperature setting before he tossed us into the washing machine. I just wish the machine made more noise when it was switched between temperatures. Cringing in a dark washer waiting for hot water to start pouring in is just NOT a pleasant activity. Despite our worries, the water was always blessedly cool (so far!), but everything in our wash load dreaded the day that hot water might hit us.

I'd also worried about cooking at first. I mean, with a heat source, often in the form of an open flame, sometimes within millimeters of my yarn, it was a legitimate worry. Add sharp or pointy implements, oils, condiments, dead fish or other smelly and drippy ingredients (and Daniel cooked some WEIRD meals, at least relative to what I saw served by others) and there was potential disaster for hapless garments written all over this situation. Happily for me and the kitchen linen, Daniel was always careful with knives and fairly fastidious about not leaving messes to attract insects or microbial invasions during his protracted absences. Even if we DID get something spilled on us, we were usually thrown into the wash immediately, so nothing from Daniel's kitchen ever left a permanent stain or odor on me.

No, cooking in particular and food preparation in general turned out not to be something about which I needed to worry. My most harrowing food-related experience was not due to food preparation but rather food acquisition.

It was all Jack's fault.

Jack got a bee in his bonnet about having a 'proper' vacation, and, not surprisingly for a recipient of Billy Big-Mouth and Winking Wilbur, that meant fishing. Daniel tried to tell Jack, "No." Apparently EVERYONE told Jack, "No." Unfortunately for me and Daniel, Jack refused to listen when Daniel said it.

Daniel didn't want to go fishing any more than I did, but something rather traumatic had happened at work and they all needed a break and Janet and George really didn't think Jack should be alone. Since Jack seemed to want Daniel's company, Daniel was elected by the others to provide it. I was a bit suspicious of the vehemence with which Sam and even the usually quiet Teal'c insisted that they couldn't provide the steady support that Daniel could during a fishing trip. At least it was a PAID vacation for Daniel.

Of course, Daniel should have left me safely behind for the trip. Bait and fish jibbies just don't coordinate well with clothes one intends to wear anywhere other than out in the wilderness. I'm a civilized comfort sweater, with a bit of style. Daniel had some old sweatshirts better suited to grungy duties, but I think he needed the comfort which only I could provide. I'm not even certain he was consciously aware that he'd packed a 'nice' sweater along with his old beaters.

It was early evening when we arrived at some godforsaken little cabin out in the middle of nowhere. Jack effused over the place. Daniel immediately dug me AND one of the old beater sweatshirts out for warmth, since the place had no heat source aside from the empty fireplace. The little generator only supplied electricity for the water pump, a few lights, and the kitchen appliances.

While Jack unloaded their supplies and futzed with getting the generator going, Daniel saw to the immediate need for warmth and worked on preparing a fire. Since I was under the old sweatshirt, Daniel got firewood and kindling in from the woodpile, laid the fire with practiced ease, and coaxed a blaze without getting a speck of dirt on me. The fire didn't manage to ward off the accumulated chill in the cabin until well after dinner, so I was able to provide warmth from under the protection of that old sweatshirt until bedtime.

As Daniel took me off in preparation for bed, my contented lassitude was shattered. There was no dresser in this primitive hovel! What passed for a closet was inhabited by a horde of spiders, who had left a veritable mound of dead insect parts discarded on the floor of said closet. There was NO WAY I was staying in THERE, especially since the lack of hangers or even a hanger rail meant the only available spots were a couple of very rusty nails, already used by the spiders for anchoring their webs.

Although I had been worn and was now officially 'not clean', I hoped that Daniel would go against Laundry Code and would return me to his overnight bag with the clean clothes. No such luck. The sweatshirt was draped over a splintering rail on the wall and I was carefully balanced on top of it. Instead of spending the night wondering why there was apparently an ancient towel rack in the bedroom, but no shelves or drawers or proper hangers, I spent the night hoping no insects or spiders big enough to shift my center of gravity would decide to explore me or my protective sweatshirt.

The birds had barely started their pre-dawn chorus when Jack bounced out of bed and roused Daniel. I couldn't believe that Jack actually had the temerity to drag Daniel out to attempt to fish at this ungodly hour. Yes, the fish would be biting, but so would the mosquitoes, midges, deerflies, blackflies, and any other blood-sucking arthropods currently in season at this location. Couldn't Jack wait until the nighttime insects had gone to bed? Couldn't Jack wait until the sun came up and provided Daniel with enough warmth that he wouldn't need me and every sweatshirt he had packed to keep warm out near that heat-sucking water? I hoped Daniel was getting overtime pay for this trip.

I first heard the boat knocking gently against the rocks as Daniel stumbled after Jack along the dark path leading to the water. This pitiful property didn't even have a dock or float from which to fish, just a convenient rock with a wooden pole nearby to which a rowboat was tied! Jack tossed a small cooler, a tackle box, a couple small tubs of bait, two fishing rods, and a daypack into the rowboat, then climbed into the stern.

My hopes rose when Daniel failed to follow Jack into the boat. He simply stood on the rock, nursing his thermal mug of coffee, an additional thermos of coffee tucked under his elbow, and stared at Jack and the contents of the boat. Jack was starting to get antsy when Daniel finally spoke, "I only see one flotation device, Jack. I guess you'll have to catch breakfast on your own. Here, take the thermos, I'm going back to bed."

It almost worked! Jack looked startled, checked around the boat, and actually had to return to the cabin to find a second life vest.

Unfortunately, Jack did find one. Daniel had to get into the boat.

Jack made quite a production out of rowing out to "the perfect" spot. Over an hour later, with precisely zero bites or even nibbles, at least from creatures living BELOW the water line, Jack conceded that perhaps another spot might work better. Daniel slapped at yet another hungry insect and requested that, since the sun was now up, Jack position the boat so that at least Daniel's end was in the sun, please. Jack glared at him, but complied, rationalizing that since the fish weren't biting anyway it wouldn't really matter where they dropped their lines.

The sun's angle was so low that its heat was token, but it was good to have a little help keeping my wearer warm. Daniel basked in the sun for nearly ten minutes before finally following Jack's lead and baiting a new line. Seconds after tossing it into the water, Daniel had the first nibble of the morning. Daniel studiously ignored Jack's jealous gaze and snide comments about Daniel's undoubted skill for snagging abandoned footwear.

While Jack vainly attempted to get a bite of his own, Daniel steadily worked what was either a fairly lively fish or an extremely active shoe. Although Daniel kept his body motion to a minimum, I could feel the tension in his arms from my position between his T-shirt and sweatshirts. In fact, all the muscles of his upper body were working pretty hard against whatever was pulling at the other end of the line. I suspected that Daniel was minimizing his motions not only to keep from snapping his rather light line while fighting a fish that might well be strong enough to do so, but also to disguise from Jack the potential size of Daniel's piscine adversary.

After several minutes of surreptitious glances from Jack, Daniel finally looked away from his line and over to Jack, "Uh, could you hand me the net, Jack?" I was proud of Daniel's offhand tone. I had managed to work the end of my sleeve out from under the sweatshirts at Daniel's right wrist and could see what Daniel had finally brought alongside the boat. It wasn't footwear.

Jack harrumphed to cover his curiosity about Daniel's catch, but found the net and handed it toward Daniel. Daniel glanced at the net, then back over the side of the boat. He frowned, "Oh! Hmmm."

"Daniel, do you want the net or not?" Jack's curiosity had eaten his patience.

Daniel looked at the net again, then over to Jack. "Ummm, well, it's not going to fit unless we start at one end or the other of the fish, Jack. I think I'm going to need help because I can't do that with one hand while keeping the line taut with the other. I can't reach that far."

"What?!?" Jack lurched from his seat toward Daniel's position. Much as I was enjoying Daniel's success in teasing Jack, I was more than a bit alarmed at the way the entire boat rocked.

The boat rocked even more when Jack actually saw Daniel's catch. The fish was enormous. Some kind of bass, I think. Jack was spluttering too much to be heard clearly. Despite the very real possibility of a dunking if Jack didn't calm down, I was proud of my wearer and gave him a nice warm wooly hug. I admit it, it was a smug hug.

There was a protracted argument about whether or not to release the fish. Daniel was hungry and the fish could provide both of them breakfast and a goodly portion of lunch. Jack was insistent that a fish that big deserved to be released. Jack didn't voice the addendum 'so that others can have a chance to catch it', but everyone in the boat knew Jack wanted that chance. Daniel countered that there were probably no other fish in the lake because that fish had eaten them all, so shouldn't other fish be given their chance, since this one had finally been caught? Jack contended that perhaps the fish was so big because it was the result of some scientific experiment gone awry, in which case they shouldn't eat it. Daniel didn't dignify that with a response.

Since it was Daniel's catch, he won the argument. Daniel managed to clean and fry the fish up for breakfast without getting any jibbies or grease spatter on me. (For that matter, he only got a little on the sweatshirt OVER me.) Jack grumbled about sacrilege and radiation poisoning, but ate a huge portion none-the-less. They had leftovers, and a couple minnows Jack eventually caught, for lunch. For the rest of the trip, Jack never dragged Daniel out in that boat again. In fact, Daniel got a lot of reading done. I guess fishing trips aren't necessarily ALL bad.

Much as I detest fishing and all the smell and mess involved with it, I must admit that I thoroughly approved of Daniel's choice of fish for his pets. The human penchant for pets is unfathomable. Who needs living creatures that need feeding, demand time, and make messes? I'm warm and fuzzy, and I don't bite or leave bodily wastes in inappropriate places. However, since humans seem to need the company of other moving creatures in their homes, I'm glad that Daniel had the sense to choose pets that were contained and quiet. Too bad not all of his friends had the same sense. I dreaded invitations to certain homes simply because I knew that Daniel and I would be at the mercy of four-legged residents that had no consideration for guests and their clothing.

Homes with children were usually the worst. Not just because the children themselves often had the social graces of animals, but because they almost always had active pets that were aggressive enough to survive interacting with the children that lived there. Woe betide the garments of any houseguest liked by those aggressive pets. If I was lucky, Daniel would only be snuggled or pawed by those animals, and I'd get home with not much more than a coating of pet hair.

Parties to which children were invited were almost as bad, because pets that were present would get overexcited and forget their manners while playing with the children. I usually returned from those events with a few muddy paw prints decorating my waistline. Sometimes I'd get snags, but Daniel tried to take me off before anything got that physical.

The worst combination was parties at houses with young children and pets. Unfortunately, that was the situation with George and his grandchildren. George himself was a wonderful, considerate man. It was good to know that such a level-headed person was in charge of Daniel and the rest of his co-workers. When George threw a party, people attended because he was a good man (who knew how to entertain guests), not just because he was their boss. Unfortunately, big gatherings at George's house inevitably included his young granddaughters, who had pets. My worst nightmare concerning pets came true at one of George's big barbecues.

I probably don't need to mention that George's granddaughters liked Daniel. Everyone with ovaries likes Daniel, especially when he's wearing ME. Their ovaries may not have been active yet, but George's granddaughters had them none-the-less. As the younger girl first approached Daniel on the afternoon in question, I wondered why her hands were purple, and whether or not Daniel and I should be worried about this phenomenon. I didn't start to panic until I realized there was also purple smeared across her lower face. I was quite relieved when I heard George suggest that perhaps Kayla ought to wash the jelly off her face and hands before she hugged Dr. Jackson. It's obvious why George is such a fine commander, catching all the important details like that.

Kayla reappeared with a clean face and hands, but my relief vanished as soon as I realized she was excitedly carrying something small and furry. Cassie's eternally shedding dog, that seemed incapable of walking and needed carrying everywhere, was bad enough with the hairy little presents it left stuck all over me (not to mention the drool), but hamsters and gerbils and the like have a BAD habit of chewing clothing to reduce stress when they're being cuddled by strangers. Kayla was making a beeline straight for me and Daniel with that fur-bearing set of teeth. If she insisted on Daniel holding the creature, I hoped that Daniel's soothing personality would successfully charm even the smallest and most mindless of beasts.

"Daniel, this is Sonya! She's named after Sonya from 'Peter and the Wolf'!" Kayla held out her hands. Daniel instinctively reached out to cradle the hapless creature being shoved at him. He discovered himself holding a marmalade-colored kitten, perhaps nine weeks old.

Daniel looked questioningly at George over Kayla's head, "I thought Sonya was the duck?"

George chuckled and nodded back, but it was Kayla who actually answered Daniel's question, "Yes, but we used the cat's name for Sonya's brother. We needed a girl's name for Sonya!" Daniel knew better than to argue with juvenile logic and turned his attention wholly upon the bundle of purring fur he had mistakenly cuddled against his chest, and me.

A kitten! The only thing worse than a nervous gnawing rodent! The wee beastie was too young to have proper control over retracting her claws, so as she fell victim to Daniel's charms (she was also too small to have been spayed, so she still possessed the ovaries which would betray her to Daniel's influence) she contentedly kneaded her claws further and further into my stitching. It pricked. It hurt. She was slowly slicing her way through the very fabric of my being.

Daniel was entirely too gracious. Since the kitten had happily adhered herself to me, Daniel agreed with Kayla's command that he hold Sonya until the furry demon decided she'd had enough. Unfortunately, Sonya had apparently just finished a nap and eaten and was now ready for attention. LOTS of attention. I spent the next forty-five minutes with eighteen tiny rapiers digging into my yarn. Everyone present at the party had to come admire the fluffy monster, making her purr and knead even more. It was torture! It was cruel and inhumane treatment of an innocent garment.

When Sonya finally started wiggling for release, I was ready to smother the creature. She hadn't worked her claws free of my stitches and was tugging my yarn into multiple snags on Daniel's chest. Daniel may be gentle and compassionate, but he does have some sense of self-preservation. He carefully twisted Sonya's claws out of me and swiftly handed the kitten over to George, suggesting that the beast be put somewhere Kayla wouldn't find it for awhile. George looked a bit chagrinned as Daniel worked to reduce the snagged loops the kitten had left across my front.

Fortunately, none of the pulled stitches had been severed, so Daniel WAS able to reduce the snags without leaving obviously visible damage to me. Never-the-less, I was glad that Daniel never wore me to another party at George's house. I don't think I could have survived another round with that feline grappling hook.

Now that I think about it, Daniel never wore me to any party at any home that had pets after that. One would think that being worn only when one's owner intends to sit around reading, writing, talking, or watching movies would guarantee a garment a long and un-faded existence. Don't bet on it.

I shouldn't have let that self-effacing demeanor of Daniel's fool me, but I'm just a sweater and I have a soft spot for my wearer. What can I say? It was spring and Daniel had been granted a couple of days of "downtime" during the week. The first day, people kept calling him at home and generally interrupting as he worked through the backlog of chores and bills and other things that tended to accumulate during his periodic absences. On the second day, since the weather was unseasonably warm for early April, Daniel decided to escape by taking his laptop and notebooks to one of the many scenic picnic areas further up the mountain range.

I couldn't tell you exactly which picnic area Daniel went to, just that it wasn't at one of the overly popular sites off the Interstate. He drove up one of those twisty two-lane mountain roads and stopped at some State Park that had trail heads and a scattering of picnic tables located along a wide area in one of those steep mountain valleys. Daniel selected a nice table under a shelter near the edge of the trees and commenced a day-long relaxation event that alternated between reading, writing, watching birds and small wildlife, watching other picnickers or passing hikers, or just kinda staring off into space. Some people might find this boring, but it was evidently just what Daniel needed to unwind after his most recent work adventure.

Although the day started out sunny, as well as unseasonably warm, it had clouded up by midday and started raining about lunchtime. Since Daniel had sensibly picked a table under a roof, he kept reading and writing away, and didn't even need to pull a windbreaker on over me. I felt rather smug as groups that had been spread out in the sun scrambled to get all their gear either under the shelters or back in their vehicles.

As the afternoon progressed, the rain came down harder and harder, and wind gusts started threatening to drive wetness into our picnic shelter. Daniel packed the laptop and his notebooks back into the car, but continued to watch people and wildlife deal with the storm from the dry side of the shelter. Daniel and I both felt sorry rather than smug when we saw a large group of soggy school children being herded back to their yellow buses shortly after 2 PM. There was much chaos as chaperones and poncho-clad grade-schoolers were sorted into their appropriate groups and buses. I was relieved they only had two busloads; had there been more, they might never have sorted themselves out, let alone gotten the children to close ALL of their umbrellas before climbing into the buses.

By the time the two school buses pulled out of the parking area, the downpour had become something worthy of Biblical hyperbole. Pouring was an understatement. It wasn't merely raining cats and dogs; it was more like cougars and entire packs of wolves. The back spatter from the heavily pounding droplets created a mist that got into just about every corner of our shelter. Daniel decided it was time to join the exodus returning to civilization. He donned his own poncho, a heavy military affair that actually had some chance of keeping what was under it dry for more than thirty seconds in this deluge, tucked his remaining gear securely under the poncho, waited for a 'pause' during which it seemed to rain merely bobcats and coyotes, and made a dash for his car.

Daniel had the sense to peel the poncho off inside-out as he got into the car (a human maneuver which has always impressed me) so that he could sit on a dry seat while the poncho dripped happily all over the floor in front of the passenger seat. By the time Daniel had himself situated behind the wheel and ready to drive, the downpour had returned to the cougars-and-wolves level of inundation. Daniel wisely decided just to sit in the car and wait until he wouldn't need a boat pilot's license to drive.

It was over twenty minutes before the rain abated enough for the windshield wipers to be able to do their job. Daniel finally started the car and cautiously steered around the massive puddles and downed leaves and branches as he left the picnic area's parking lot. The road down the mountain wasn't in much better shape. Leaves and buds stripped from trees made the pavement slippery where it wasn't littered with branches ranging from small twigs to small logs. The large creek alongside the road, which had been a picturesque series of tumbling cascades occasionally visible through the trees during the drive up the mountain, was now a churning torrent of muddy water occasionally threatening to overrun the road as well as its banks.

The sheep-derived instinct of my natural fibers was to curl and tighten as Daniel crept down the road, approaching each curve with extreme caution. I couldn't fault him; I was doing my best not to bind in a bind. It took most of my concentration to keep my stitches loose and even. Despite the lessening of the storm, it was still raining hard and runoff was pouring across the pavement in many places and adding to the raging stream sharing the valley with the road. Since Daniel averaged MAYBE ten mph during that descent, I half expected an impatient driver to materialize on his tail, but none appeared during the nearly fifteen minutes it took us to go less than three miles.

As Daniel approached an outside curve which would normally have overlooked the picturesque creek, we saw other vehicles for the first time since departing the parking lot. My seams twisted despite my best efforts. The scenario was not a good one. One of the school buses we had watched depart just prior to the height of the storm was parked at an angle blocking the road. The nose of the bus extended off the pavement and into a small gravel turnout on the far side of the road. Despite the rain, black tire marks indicating an overly-rapid stop clearly indicated how the bus had fishtailed and slid across the opposing lane as part of an emergency stop.

An empty passenger car was parked where the downhill lane was blocked by the bus. Daniel pulled up behind that car and also parked, since there was no way around the obstacle. He dragged his poncho from its heap in front of the passenger seat, found and turned ON his cell phone, then climbed out of his car and back into the rain. I tried to loosen my stitches and just provide warmth as Daniel walked along the left side of the bus and rounded its front end.

The scene got worse. The bus blocking the road was the second of the pair. The first bus had evidently rounded the curve too quickly to stop before it encountered a place where the raging waters had undercut the pavement and washed out the road. Bedraggled, distraught, and frightened children, presumably from the first bus, were being speedily checked over and crowded into the shelter provided by the bus blocking the road.

The first bus had rolled onto its left side as it had tumbled into the creek. It appeared that most of the children had been evacuated through the emergency door at the rear of the bus, since the front end of the wrecked bus was hidden under the roiling muddy water of the stream. Several people were tightening a rope that stretched between the back of the bus and the hillside above the rising water, while others were assuring the terrified children clinging to the wrecked bus that everything was going to be OK, they'd get them too, before the bus moved any further away.

I couldn't help it. Both my seams AND stitches tightened and started to bind. Comfort sweaters were never intended to face situations like this. Daniel quickly learned that the children large enough to jump to safety, and the injured driver, had been removed from the first bus before the water had risen high enough to block safe access to the back of the bus. When the water had begun to slide the back of the bus further away, they'd added the rope in an attempt to secure it while the smaller children were handed out to other adults. Then the bus had suddenly shifted, and the water had nearly claimed some of the adult rescuers as well as the children they'd been in the process of handing out. They THOUGHT they had stabilized things for the present, but were trying to figure out how to get the last two children to safety across three meters of frothing water.

As soon I saw Daniel contemplating the bedraggled state of the other rescuers and the lightweight nylon cord which had been produced to use as a safety line for whomever volunteered to go out to the children, I KNEW he would be that volunteer. It probably had something to do with my having witnessed his generally compassionate nature, or the state his work clothes were often in when he returned to the locker room, but I KNEW Daniel would insist on replacing the already-exhausted chaperones and other volunteers.

I was correct: Daniel insisted.

I'm afraid to admit that as the frighteningly flimsy nylon cord was looped around Daniel's waist, with a second loop strung around the rope anchoring the rear of the wrecked bus, I lost it. My spotless record of unrivaled comfort and warmth suddenly meant nothing. I went rigid with fear and couldn't have warmed a toaster. My seams felt like unraveling on the spot. I would have dropped rows of stitches had it been physically possible.

I even tried to communicate my contrary opinion to my wearer: "You know Daniel, if you lose your grip and get washed away, you and the children will all end up dead. Although the rescue squad can't DRIVE up that road right now, they've probably already dispatched a helicopter, so you probably don't need to try this utterly foolhardy rescue attempt. Let the professionals do this. Just because I'm the sort of sweater mild-mannered people wear doesn't mean you need to act like Clark Kent while wearing me!"

Yes, I broke the first rule of a comfortable sweater: I lost my equanimity and was blatantly panicking. However, this wasn't just a little bind that Daniel had gotten into, it was a genuine disaster, and I wasn't simply going to bind up on him, I was going to get completely soaked, absorb thirty pounds or so of water, and might tip the balance between his being able to recover those poor kids and his being swept away because he and that wimpy nylon cord would be trying to pull too much weight back to safety. It wouldn't matter how many people were pulling the other end, too much force pushing downstream would snap the rope! I should be removed like Daniel's other useless articles and piled with the poncho and cell phone.

It was terror rather than the temperature of the water that froze every fiber of my being (both natural and synthetic) as Daniel grasped the anchor rope, stepped into the water, and was grabbed by the turbulent current. I clung to Daniel like a leech and tried to transmit clinging power through to his fingers. Although the distance to the nearest edge of the bus was barely three meters, it felt like ten miles as we fought our way across. I nearly unraveled with relief when Daniel scrambled to get his feet secure against the back end of the bus.

It took remarkably little coaxing to get those last two waifs to transfer their grips from the side of the bus to Daniel. Actually, each child entwined at least one little fist into my stretched and waterlogged fabric, but I was never so glad to provide comfort, as long as they also maintained their deathgrips on Daniel himself. Suddenly, we were back in the rushing water and the chaperones and more intact bus driver were hauling that wimpy nylon cord for all they were worth to help pull Daniel and the children back along the anchor rope to the creek bank. It seemed to take forever and yet was under ten minutes before Daniel was fighting through hidden underbrush along the edge of the torrent. Hands appeared from all directions to help pull us to safety.

As everyone moved back from the still-rising water, I couldn't believe Daniel had actually succeeded. The chaperones were peeling the children off of an exhausted Daniel when an ominous wooden groan signaled the surrender of the tree against which the wrecked bus had been lodged. With a horribly slow snap, the tree gave way and the bus tumbled completely into the current. I belatedly agreed that Daniel had been correct not to wait for a rescue helicopter.

The rest of that day was something of a smear. Daniel was bundled back into the relative warmth of his car and wrapped in his windbreaker and anything else offering any sort of warmth or dryness. The creek started to subside before rescue officials finally arrived and organized clearing the roadway and evacuating people past the washed out section of pavement. Daniel was taken to a hospital and treated for hypothermia and shock before being released and allowed home to clean up.

Needless to say, I was never the same afterward. Although the muddy filth from the water could pretty much be washed out, I was stained, pulled out of shape, and had acquired multiple snags and tears from God only knows what in the water. Daniel shook his head sadly after my third post-rescue washing and returned me to my official spot in the dresser drawer. For the remainder of that spring, he only wore me at home, when no visitors were expected to drop by.

I was glad to still be a comfort, but will admit that I was rather relieved when the time came for official storage for the summer. Many owners would have declared me a rag or tossed me directly in the trash, but Daniel folded me up with a couple of mothballs and put me in the trunk with the other winter garments.

As I mentioned before, I'm not an ambitious article of clothing. Quite frankly, I think I've earned my rest. I know that come fall, Daniel will pull me back out of summer retirement and I'll enjoy a semi-retirement of quiet evenings at home, being a private comfort to my wearer. No more outside-the-home adventures for this sweater, I hope.

* * * * *


Kapitel Abschlussbemerkung:
This story from 2003 finally has a companion piece, "A Cover's Story", told from the POV of Jack's long-suffering hat.
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