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May 4, 2011 / whirlingneedles

At the Academy

Agent K sat at the desk, watching the new recruits file in. They were raw, but every new class at the Academy for Agents was raw. She’d soon have them licked into shape. When they left here, they would be equipped to fight the aliens with the best and brightest. All would be trained for field work, but some would definitely go to the Science branch to develop new tools for field Agents, some would go to guard the Strategic Wool Reserve, and some would work behind the scenes to organize the Agency. All would be vital to the task of saving the world!

“Attention!” shouted Agent K. The cadets dropped whatever they were doing and snapped to attention. “I am Agent K, and I will be training you for the Agency. Listen carefully, learn well, and you will be successful. If you don’t pay attention, the aliens will get you, destroy your hard knitting work, and rid the earth of wool! We start now! Get out your needles and yarn, and start your garter stitch scarf.”

The cadets took out their wool and needles and cast on. Agent K paced back and forth between them, giving advice and help as needed.

“Oh, Agent K, Agent K! I dropped a stitch,” cried one of the cadets.

“Deep breath, take it easy, cadet,” Agent K said soothingly. “Remember, always keep your head, and a crochet hook hidden in your boot. Class, repeat after me: Always keep a crochet hook in your boot.”


Later, in the barracks…

Each cadet sat on his or her cot in the barracks, with the pieces of a spinning wheel laid out on a sheet in front of him or her. Agent K checked that everyone was ready, then blew a whistle and clicked a stopwatch. A dozen cadets immediately started putting the wheels together with military precision.

The cadet at the far end of the barracks slid the last piece in place and called “Finished!” Agent K blew the whistle, clicked the stopwatch, and all the other cadets paused. Agent K went to take a look at the wheel, but then noticed that one of the treadles wasn’t fully attached.

“What’s that?” she asked accusingly, pointing to a bolt that had rolled under the cot.

“Oh! Oops, sorry, I guess I’m not quite done,” replied the cadet, red-faced.

“There’s no room for sloppiness here! A poorly put-together wheel is a danger to any Agent or civilian who might use it!” Agent K blew the whistle again, and restarted the stopwatch.

A few seconds later, another cadet shouted “Finished!” and this times he really was finished. Agent K handed her a bit of fiber, and he spun it up in no time.

“Good! Now take it apart and do it again!”

Later, on a jog through the Academy compound…

The block of cadets ran along, their garter stitch scarves trailing behind them. Their sneakers slapped the pavement and their needles clicked in sync, while Agent K lead them in a running chant.

“We are the Agency!” Agent K called.

“We are the Agency!” the cadets repeated.

“Our yarn is thick and thin!”

(“Our yarn is thick and thin!”)

“We’ll knit day and night!”

(“We’ll knit day and night!”)

“The aliens won’t know what hit them!”


“Sound off!”

“Knit two, purl two! KNIT TWO PURL TWO!!!!”

Later, on the firing range…

Agent K loaded her yarn gun and pointed it downrange at the target, a green piece of paper cut into the shape of an alien. She steadied her hand, closed one eye, took a deep breath, and fired. The yarn scattered in the wind, but enough reached the target to be declared a bull’s eye. The cadets cheered, then sobered when they realized it would be their turn next.

Each cadet stepped forward in turn, adjusted his or her safety glasses and face mask (to protect against stray bits of yarn fluff, which floated about the firing range like snow), and took a turn aiming at the target.

“Remember to breathe!” shouted Agent K. “Take your time! Don’t fire if civilians are in the way! And what else should you remember?”


“Yes! Good job!” Agent K patted the cadet who had just fired a bull’s eye. “Next we’ll do rapid reloading!” She spent the next hour giggling as the cadets struggled to get the small bits of wool into the gun’s firing chamber. After an hour, she finally revealed the invention that Agents Q and Fix-it had created that loaded the yarn with just a snap of one’s fingers. (Literally. Agent K snapped her fingers, and the yarn loaded itself. It was brilliant.)

Still later, on a conditioning hike…

Agent K knelt next to a knitter, who sat in the trail sobbing. His pack (weighted with the complete works of Barbara Walker) lay in the dust beside him.

“What’s the matter, cadet?”

“I messed up my lace!” He held up a mangled bit of knitting, showing a tangle of laceweight alpaca.

“Well, did you use a life line?” asked Agent K.

The cadet looked down and brightened up. “I did!”

“Well then, rip back and pick up where you left off!” Agent K helped the cadet pick up his stitches, then placed the pack back on his shoulders and saw him off. At the finish line, his completed shawl streamed in the air above his head in triumph.

Later, at the graduation ceremony…

Agent K wiped away tears of pride as each cadet ascended the stage steps, received a pair of golden needles and a skein of quivit, and descended the stage steps as a full-fledged Agent. She shook the hand of each and everyone of her cadets as they came off the stage. Later they would be issued their badges and yarn guns, but for now it was time to celebrate a new cohort of Agents!


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