The Patchwork Doll

The Patchwork Doll by Steve Weaver
The Patchwork Doll by Steve Weaver

Frederick's Last Day

The Patchwork Doll

On a fine spring morning Frederick awoke with a start. As the early dawn light filtered through the faded cotton nets illuminating the edges of the heavy dishevelled drapes, Frederick realised with a start it was his final day. He drew back the crimson velvet drapes and looked out through the window unwashed and streaked with grime and oil.Frederick lived under the shadow of the gasworks. From his front bedroom window the enormous block and rusting gasometer dominated the view over the narrow terraced street. The gasworks had been his life. Daily clocking in no less than five minutes before his shift and never a second too late and clocking out no later than five minutes after his shift was complete and never a second early. In between these times, Frederick toiled and toiled hard with dedication, some would say even love. With never a day’s illness or a moment shirked, he assiduously studied the innumerable pressure gauges making a fine adjustment here and there as was necessary to maintain the optimum performance of the extensive system of cylinders, cisterns, pumps and pipes. A fraction turn of any one of a hundred dials would faithfully adjust the flow in some remote pipe ensuring the townspeople a constant and efficient supply of gas. The gasworks ran like clockwork; a perfect system of finely balanced and carefully adjusted cogs and springs. Inlet pressures, outlet pressures, differentials and a steady flow of fluid maintained with the precision of Frederick’s eagle eye and skilful hand. The gasworks had been his life. That is, until today. Today was his last day.

On this day, the day of his retirement, the venerable Board presented Frederick with a sumptuous brass clock, designed and constructed by his admiring colleagues with a dedication and care only true craftsmen know.Frederick received the clock, a tear welling in his eye, to the rapturous applause and admiration of employees and invited townsfolk alike grateful for the many faithful years of service Frederick had given. To the polite calls for a speech, Frederick fought back the tears and with diffidence both charming and modest shyly thanked the assembled dignitaries and public for their appreciation and gift. And that was the end of Frederick’s working life. A sad day.

Now, with many hours of leisure time, he spent much of his day generously assisting an assortment of elderly residents with odd jobs. Fixing, repairing, building, mending, painting and the like and he would often receive small gifts of freshly baked cakes, his one and only vice, in return for the generosity of his time and many skills. Yet, despite his popularity and apparent contentment, Frederick was alone. Not lonely. He had always simply preferred to keep his own company. He would spend many a delightful hour tending the small but neat patch that served as a garden to the rear of the modest terrace. Sitting in the warm summer evenings, an ice-cold beer in an earth-soiled hand, he would cast a loving eye over the splendid assortment of cottage garden flowers that provided a riot of colour and the sweetest of smells as no small reward for their loved existence.

Although never married, Frederick had been lucky in love many a time, unlucky too, but each time for all too brief a moment. Intense romances interspersed with passionate affairs. Always faithful, always steady Frederick had just never managed somehow to find that one true love. And now in his later years he began to feel the intense pangs of desire for a permanent and loving companion. Someone to care for and to whom he could profess his deepest love. Someone to hold tight in his strong yet gentle arms. Someone to share his twilight years until the shadow that must for each of us finally fall and then to spend eternity in love’s perfect bliss.

With energy anew, Frederick set his heart upon a quest to find his one true love, exploring avenues new and bold. He joined the local choral society and though, he was gently told, that although he sang with enthusiasm and zest he was almost always off key. Then he volunteered to distribute the programmes every Sunday afternoon when the local brass band would play at the riverside. Circling among the audience seated around the bandstandFrederickcheerfully handed out the sheets while carefully eyeing the pretty ladies dressed to the nines in their Sunday best. Alas, the single ladies were few and far between although on more than one occasion a sprightly elderly widow took a shine to Frederick’s cheerful grin and would offer to stroll along the promenade each with a hug pink and yellow ice-cream in hand.

At summer’s end the last blooms of summer fade and turn to autumn’s fall of burnished leaves and rain as warm as tears. And so too did Frederick’s hopes slowly fade. The shorter days and longer, gradually cooler nights served only to intensify his quest to find his heart’s desire, his true and perfect love.Frederick racked his fertile engineer’s brain and in every waking minute would conjure up one and another of an odd assortment of plans each so bizarre they were doomed to surely fail. Despondent and distraughtFrederickgave up all hope of ever fulfilling his quest. At last he resigned himself to a solitary life and lonely old age with nought but the bright memories of love’s summers past to keep warm his empty aching heart.

And then … And then … A bolt from the blue. Frederick awoke one morning startled at the thought. No, not a thought! A brainstorm of an idea. An idea so absurd yet absurdly perfect and practical though admittedly bizarre. Frederick would create his perfect mate. Yes, he would make her, beautiful in every way. A doll. A doll of patchwork and rags yet perfect in every detail. So he set to work. Though skilled in many things Frederickhad never sewn but he would learn and learn fast and well. He scoured every nook and cranny of the old terraced house to gather together an assortment of fabrics and rags even carefully tearing down the drapes from the spare bedroom at the rear. That should be enough. But stuffing. What about stuffing? A visit to several of the friendly haberdashers in the town resulted in sound advice and the solution. So armed with reels of cotton thread and shiny new needles Frederickset about creating a design. He traced the perfect form on the paper spread across his dining room table, now extended to its fullest for the first time in many a year. An event reserved for those occasional Christmas gatherings of lover and friends. He cut the many needed patches of rags and fabric and cut and sewed and sewed and cut until then the pattern to full size and scale he transferred to the patchwork of fabric. With tenderness and zest he stuffed the doll as before his eyes the love of his life began to take shape until, after toiling night and day, with barely an hour of sleep or food she was in his eyes complete. He set the doll upon a chair and took his customary seat, his favourite armchair and admired his work. Her long straw blonde hair fell and curled about face and her button eyes seemed to smile as her blood red lips were pursed as if to receive her first and tender kiss.

Exhausted from the days of endless toil Frederick thought he must now sleep. But tonight he will not be alone nor never again. Tenderly he lifted the patchwork doll in his arms and carefully ascended the stairs. Carefully he laid the doll upon his bed and rested for a while beside her. His tired eyes met hers and for a moment it seemed as if she breathed. Lightly so yet breathed. Her eyes bright with the love he always sought searched his. Weary and confused Frederick thought it cannot be … and yet … They lay looking deep into each others loving eyes. Frederick reached gently the fingers of right hand curling around her slender neck and ruffled her now silky soft hair. Breathing so shallow, barely audible, their lips almost touching they kissed. Their first sweet taste of love eternal entwined together eyes closed they softly breathed their last.


Frederick’s funeral, well attended by the townsfolk, was a sad affair, his mysterious passing mourned equally by all who knew him well and not. No trace of Frederick’s love was ever found but for a slender lock of silken hair entwined between his fingers. It is said by some that on long summer evenings Frederickcan be seen strolling along the happy path beside the river arm in arm with his one true love.


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