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March 2, 2011 / whirlingneedles

The Farm


“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to escort this top-secret merino to The Farm.”

Agent K looked up from the sock she was decoding. Surely not… She went to the back door, and sure enough, tied to the railing on her veranda, was a fluffy little lamb. This was going to be Prague all over again. It had taken her weeks to get the smell of the angora goat out of her angora sweater. The lamb was a bit cute, sure, but how was she going to smuggle him all the way to The Farm?

“All right, Lamb Chop,” Agent K said, untying the lamb and looking him straight in the eye. “I know you’re scared, but I am a professional. I will get you to The Farm if it’s the last thing I do.” The lamb bleated in response and nudged her hand. She patted the lamb, the led him inside the house.

Once inside, she inspected him more closely. Ah, just as she expected! A beautiful crocheted collar was hidden in the fleece. Inspecting the collar closely, she discovered that it encased a microfilm strip. She carefully slid the strip out of the collar, being careful not to damage it. She started to head towards the spare bedroom (where a trapdoor led down to the super-high-tech bunker under the house), but hesitated as the lamb began to munch on a set of handmade cotton towels. She couldn’t leave the lamb alone in the house. The message had said he was a top-secret merino (whatever that was), and the neighbors were Greek. As barbarous as it sounded, they frequently roasted lamb in the backyard. She couldn’t leave THIS lamb alone for a second!

“Come along!” Agent K reattached the collar (sans microfilm) and led the lamb to the spare room. The Agent made sure that the blinds were in place to prevent the neighboring Greeks from peeking at her and slide her size 8 needle rapidly three times into the needle gauge checker. The lamb tried to jump to the side, BAAAing loudly in alarm, as the floor slide back to reveal a hidden stair case. Agent K patted the lamb until he was calm, then led him down the stairs.

At the base of the stairs, Agent K lifted and lowered a skein of purple Super Saver twice, and the floor above slid back. As it hissed into place, the lights in the high-tech bunker clicked on, and Agent K glanced around. The place was lined in top-quality wool to deter the aliens from invading the space. The aliens were known to search suspected Agent houses. If they managed to find and open the trap door, they would be too busy scratching their itchy hands and faces to stop Agent K’s escape. The only problem was that Agent K had a tough time not knitting all this wool up. Her handler, code named Lyso, had gotten onto her case just last week about not using the defensive yarn to knit her own projects.

Agent K sighed and ran her hands along the wool as she walked down the corridor. She’d have to pen up the lamb in the small bathroom while she worked on the microfilm. She pushed the lamb gently into the bathroom and placed a chair across the opening. She started to walk away, but on second thought went back and removed the pile of knitting magazines from the counter. It would be a disaster if the lamb ate all her reading material!

Just down the hall was the microfilm reader. Agent K slide the film into place, and gasped. It was an archive of knitting magazines from the 1970s! What a find! Agent K giggled as she scrolled past ponchos, pants suits, and wide-belted jackets. What a relief that the Agency had gotten better at camouflaging itself. Agent K felt a pang of sympathy with the poor souls who had had to knit and wear these atrocities. What one did for one’s country!

Ah, finally! The map to The Farm! Agent K studied it carefully. To the average person, it looked like a charted lace pattern, but to Agent K’s trained eye, it was clear directions from her house to The Farm. There was a special warning at the bottom. Agent K read it with trepidation: JOIN, BEING CAREFUL NOT TO TWIST. Her heart sank. This was going to be a dangerous mission, and there would be no backup. The dreaded directions meant she was on her own.

Well! She had been on her own before, and she had no doubt she would be again! She didn’t know why this lamb was so important, but it was her duty to get him to The Farm, and by golly, she was going to succeed. So there!

Agent K printed out a copy of the lace chart and grabbed her magnetic board with a doohickey that could be moved up the pattern as needed. She placed the lace chart on the board and lined up the doohickey to a row of the chart. She placed the chart, the board, and a half-finished lace sweater (purely for cover) into her knitting bag, got the lamb out of the bathroom (and was relieved to note that the lamb had only eaten half the toilet paper roll), and headed up the stairs. (Unfortunately, she’d forgotten to slide back the piece of floor, and had to do so while rubbing the sore bump on her head.)

Agent K cautiously looked out the door. The last thing she wanted was to get caught in conversation with the Greek neighbors. The coast was clear, however, so she slipped a leash on the lamb and hurried him into her car. Agent K pushed the lamb down onto the floor and covered him over with a wool blanket. It would fool casual observers, but not anyone looking hard.

The first light was red. Agent K glanced at the lace chart to confirm the next leg. Then she glanced in the rearview mirror and groaned. It was a cop. The cop flashed his lights, and told her to stay where she was over the loudspeaker. Agent K pasted a fake smile on her face and dug in the glove compartment for her registration. A shadow fell across her lap as the cop came to her window.

“What seems to be the trouble…” Agent K began, then looked more closely. The “cop” had one purple eye dangling hideously from a slimy green stalk, and was reaching into the window with a tentacle. Agent K’s training kicked in immediately. She slammed the car into gear as she rolled up the window. A sucker was ripped from the end of the tentacle as she stomped on the gas. She shuddered, but did not stop to throw it out the window as she headed at high speed for the highway. Agent K risked a glance at the rearview mirror and smiled with satisfaction as the alien hopped up and down on it clawed feet and clutched at the amputated tentacle. (K would probably feel worse if she didn’t know that the tentacle would grow back in 10 minutes.)

Agent K cruised down the highway, occasionally glancing at the chart to be sure she was on the right path. The directions were complex, with several deviations to confuse and bemuse the aliens. Sometimes these coded knitting patterns found their way into the hands of an unsuspecting non-agency knitter. Poor knitters never had a chance. Some gave up quickly, some struggled for a while. A few went mad, determined to finish the pattern if it killed them. One knitter had actually died, clutching his needles and the pattern and moaning about long floats. That had been a true tragedy, and the Agency had founded a scholarship in his name.

Finally, Agent K arrived at The Farm. She sat in her car for a moment. From the outside, it looked like an old farm that had seen more prosperous days. A broken tractor was half disassembled, as if someone had just been working on it and was returning at any moment. (It looked exactly the same every time Agent K came to The Farm.) A few bales of hay were stacked haphazardly by the barn, whose door hung drunkenly on a broken hinge.

Agent K picked up the lamb out of the car and placed him on the ground. She led him to the barn and used a crochet hook to snag a piece of yarn between two boards of the barn. A door creaked open. Agent K led the lamb through the door, and into a bright, sunlit field. Agent K stood for a second, looking around and blinking in the sun, expecting to be met by someone. Then she heard a cough from about the level of her knee.

“Thank you!” said the lamb. “You have saved me from those evil aliens! I had despaired of ever feeling the grass beneath my hooves again!”

“You can talk,” Agent K gasped.

“Yes, I can. I am the crown prince of the merinos. My people will be eternally grateful to you for your service today.”

“You can talk,” gasped Agent K.

“Um, yes.” The lamb gave her a funny look. “Well, goodbye for now!”

“You can talk,” Agent K said, gasping.

“No one told me humans were this slow,” grumbled the lamb. “Good. Bye. For. Now!” The lamb spoke loudly and slowly to Agent K, then waggled his tail, and frolicked off.

Agent K stood stunned for another four minutes, then shrugged and went back to her car. It was a weird day, but things usually got weird when working for the Agency. At least the mission had been a success. Time to go home, put up her feet, and knit some of that protection wool.

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