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July 3, 2011 / whirlingneedles

Lemonade and Yarn Grenades


It was a hot, humid day. Of course, most July the Fourths were hot and humid, but this was something out of the ordinary. Agent K mopped her brow with a handknit cotton washcloth dipped in cool water, but it was a temporary relief only. Why the Founding Fathers in their infinite wisdom had chosen a day so inconveniently placed in the calendar she would never know. It was too hot even to knit, which was saying something all right.

Agents and Agency brass were strewn about the pavilion and grassy field like so many corpses, too hot to move. Some of the more enthusiastic and younger Agents were doggedly playing a slow-motion game of softball, but the heat was claiming more victims in every inning. The Director of the Agency was handing out ice-cold drinks left and right, but it was clear that the Agency Fourth picnic was going to break up soon, and everyone would head for their air conditioned cars and then homes.

Thus Agent K was more pleased than not to get a red alert on her Agency-issued genius phone. She moved as quickly as possible (“ran” would be too strong a word for this heat) to the Director’s side, waved the pulsating red phone at him, and beat a hasty retreat to her car. She cranked up the air conditioning to full blast, sighing blissfully as the cool air played over her skin. She leaned forward, directing the jets of air down her sticky back. Refreshed, she recalled that she was supposed to be answering a distress call, and gunned the car out of the parking lot.

Following the directions on her genius phone, she quickly zeroed in on the source of the trouble. A local yarn shop had had a Fourth of July sale, and got more than they had bargained for. They had gotten a full-scale alien attack, in fact. The LYS owner had managed to fend them off for the time being by throwing the complementary lemonade into their eyestalks, but it was likely only a matter of time before the aliens had regrouped and begun the attack anew.

This was the fourth LYS to be hit in a week. The aliens had been getting bolder in recent days and direct attack on yarn shops was the latest tactic of the war. It used to be that a LYS was a safe haven, but no longer. The Agency had issued a pamphlet to all local yarn shop owners, detailing precautions that they could take to ward off an alien attack. The problem was, few shop owners were Agency-trained and most had no idea how to effectively implement the recommendations that the Agency outlined. Agent K had earned a tidy sum doing some consulting work on the side, helping shop owners shore up their defenses, and she knew that several other Agents were doing the same, but they couldn’t help everyone.

Agent K pulled around to the back of the LYS, and rapped on the delivery door that gave out onto the alleyway, in an approved Agency code. She heard several bolts being drawn back, and the door slide open cautiously. A young woman peeped out the door at Agent K, then opened the door wide.

“Oh, Agent K, am I glad to see you!” she exclaimed. “Come in, come in. I was hoping the Agency would send you!”

“I hear you’re having some trouble, Jane,” said Agent K. “Don’t worry, we’ll get the aliens sorted out!”

Jane led Agent K to the front of the shop, where two windows were broken and a pile of smoking yarn remains lay.

“As soon as I saw the aliens in the street, I piled yarn up by the windows, just like the Agency pamphlet said to do,” explained Jane.

“I can see that that worked for the first wave,” replied Agent K. “Unless you want to use up your entire stock, though, that won’t do for the next attack. I have an idea that just might work. I’ve been developing this with the tech department at the Agency, and this is a great chance to test it out. I’ll need a skein of superwash 100% wool, twenty rubber bands, a pack of gum, a packing crate, and a package of Oreo cookies.”

Cue the MacGyver theme music while Agent K and Jane prepare.

Ten minutes later, all was in readiness to repel the next attack. Agent K and Jane were prepared to take their parts in the looming battle, armed with a strange contraption and a stack of Oreo cookies to munch on.

Ten minutes after than, when Agent K had nearly run out of Oreos and begun to think that the aliens had reconsidered their attack on this particular yarn shop, a piercing yodeling split the hot afternoon air, and a fierce group of five aliens converged on the yarn shop’s store front.

“Right, give it to them!” yelled Agent K. She slapped a yarn grenade into the basket of the catapult she’d built from the packing crate, gum, and rubber bands, and let fly. The yarn grenade, made of bits of wool stuck around a chewed gum core, flew through the air and landed on the chest of the lead alien with a satisfying SMACK. The gum was still tacky and stuck to the alien’s jelly-like skin, resisting the alien’s efforts to dislodge it. Hives began to bubble up on his chest and tentacles from contact with the wool, and he ran off, crying and scraping at the grenade.

Jane had also got a direct hit with her first grenade from her own catapult, but after that their luck seemed to run out. Either that, or the aliens were getting better at ducking. There were three left, and Agent K and Jane both reloaded and fired in rapid succession.

Jane and Agent K both aimed and hit one of the aliens at the same time. He ducked away from Jane’s grenade, only to stumble directly into Agent K’s line of fire. The impact from Agent K’s grenade sent him reeling back the other direction, and he stepped on Jane’s spent grenade. Hopping and with his eyes streaming, he made off out the door after the first two aliens.

The last two aliens were made of sterner stuff, though. One of them had grabbed a trashcan lid from somewhere and was using this as a shield. Three yarn grenades were stuck to it, and a fourth shot from Agent K glanced off it. The other one had thrown on a yellow rain slicker (who knew where THAT had come from), which was effectively protecting the alien’s body.

Agent K spied a large mailing tube, the kind posters were mailed in, and abandoning her catapult, made a dive for it. The alien with the shield made a swipe for her with his tentacles, but just grazed her back as she dove past. Picking up the mailing tube, she swung it two-handed like a claymore, knocking the trashcan lid out of his hands.

“NOW, JANE!” yelled Agent K, and ducked just as Jane fired her catapult at close range. The alien staggered backward, squealing, as the grenade hit him squarely in the eyestalk. Agent K shoved him out the front door, where he stumbled off, still squealing in pain.

Jane and Agent K circled the remaining alien in the yellow slicker.

“You may have beaten my comrades, but your measly weapons are no match for me!” sneered the alien.

“We’ll see about that!” said Agent K. She had worked her way over to the notions wall, where a number of needles, hooks, and other tools were hanging. She and Jane were on opposite sides of the alien, whose eyestalk swiveled back and forth in an effort to keep both of them under its eye.

Agent K signaled to Jane to distract the alien, and, as soon as it eye was trained on Jane, grabbed the biggest crochet hook she could find, and snagged the collar of the alien’s yellow slicker with it. She grabbed her last yarn grenade and shoved it down the back of the slicker, in the manner of an ice cube down the back of someone’s shirt.

The alien froze, then waved his tentacles wildly at the collar of his slicker, trying to dislodge the grenade. This is a very difficult thing to do, as anyone who has ever had an ice cube down the back of their shirt can attest. Agent K kicked the alien in his backside, sending him sprawling out the shop door.

“And stay out!” she called after him.

“Agent K, thank you so much for your help!” said Jane, sagging with relief. “Please, take this cashmere as thanks.”

“It’s all in a day’s work,” said Agent K, taking the cashmere nonetheless. (The Agency only pays so much, after all.) “I’m going to go home and take a long, cool shower.”

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