The loud crack against the window startled me, my mouth gaped as I looked up from the mannequin, and the straight pins that I held in my lips dropped to the floor. The sounds from the falling pins were drowned out by the sound of me pushing back the metal stool in order to stand. I looked toward the front of the shop and looked at the window. All I saw was the reverse writing of my shop’s family name, Taylor’s Tailoring. Not a very original name; nevertheless, it was from family history, and that was good enough for me. Putting the chalk down on the small oak desk, I moved toward the window. I passed the front desk covered in unopened envelopes, and took the remaining steps to inspect the window. Running my fingers across the glass, I couldn’t detect any cracks. A month ago, a red clay brick shattered the glass and landed in the foyer. Unfortunately, I still had an outstanding bill to pay for that.
Life in the Third Avenue neighborhood had gotten rougher over the past few years, but Taylor’s Tailoring was established seventy-five years prior when my grandfather opened it after the Great Depression. He helped make clothes for the Irish families that had settled here in their immigration. He went on to train my father to make shirts, slacks, and suits for others. He, in turn, trained me, and I started working in the shop at a young age. Taylor’s Tailoring was very popular until my father’s death five years ago. His death was a tremendous blow to our family. My brothers and sister moved to other parts of the country escaping the depressive environment of our neighborhood after the fall of the towers.
My Catholic mother, though, stayed as she had nowhere else to go with no surviving family. As I continued to work on the charcoal jacket, I glanced to the shelf immediately below the large picture frame with the last photograph of my father. He stood there with a thin line of a smile peeking through the bushy red beard, wearing a navy blue suit that he had tailored. The red rose in his lapel matched the artificial flowers next to the urn that contained my mother’s ashes.
I knelt to pick up the fallen pins, collected them and placed the tips back onto my lips to complete the sleeve. I straightened the wool sections and found the line that I needed. I matched the two cut pieces of fabric along the chalk line, held them together with one hand, removed one of the straight pins from my lips and inserted it into the material. Following the line up, I was able to match the arm to the shoulder and made the final pin placements. I turned the mannequin around, examining the work until I had the opposite side showing me the empty shoulder slot. When I reached for the next set of fabric, the phone rang, startling me.
It had to be a bill collector, so I tried to ignore the phone as best I could. This particular sports coat was for a friend of my father whose wife had died from breast cancer. The only work that I had was for friends of father. However, they were either retired or in nursing homes and couldn’t afford to pay me.
The phone rang seven times before the answering machine clicked awake. I made a mental note that I needed to call the telephone company to shut off the service. The bank had threatened to take the shop away from me due to outstanding debt, and I needed to save money anyway I could. Rosa, my late wife, would have died a second time if she saw the house foreclosed upon. My shop was the only thing left and there wasn’t much work keeping me afloat. The answering machine tape whirled, clicked, and beeped as the caller left their message on the ancient cassette tape. The number 27 flashed red vying for my attention. Since the Towers fell, new customers never called the shop, so there was no need to check the messages.
I moved the second sleeve into place and pinned it to ensure that the length matched the first sleeve. The jacket was removed easily from the mannequin in order to sew it. While I laid the jacket on the table, another loud crack was heard at the front of the shop. Looking up, I watched the lines from the crack spread across the window. Angrily, I ran towards the front of the shop, dodging piles of fabric as I ran. I pushed the front door open, the dangling bells jingled behind me. The sidewalk was full of people and I looked around for the culprit. All I saw were people who walked with their faces in their phones. I couldn’t single out anyone that was guilty and turned around to head back inside, scared to inspect the damage.
A great force pushed me and laid me out on the ground. Glancing up, I saw a tall fair-skinned boy with blond hair and green eyes staring at me. Behind him, there was another boy tossing a small chunk of concrete up in the air and catching it. From their sizes, I guessed them to be around sixteen and they both wore a blue blazer from the local boys academy six blocks away. “Why don’t you go back to your own country?”
I tried to force myself to stand back up, but the blonde teen kicked my shoulder forcing me to sprawl out. “Excuse me?” I said.
“Take your sand-bagging ass, climb on your camel, and head to whatever desert you came from!” The boy behind him just snickered. My face became hotter as I sat there. I finally was able to stand up and locked eyes with the boy that kicked me.
“I am from this country. I was born a few streets down at Victory Memorial Hospital. There is a good chance that you were born there as well. Not sure what country you want me to go to.” I felt my hands shaking, stunned that people continued to walk by, not even bothering to look up from their phones.
“Just leave! We don’t want your kind here anymore!” The boys walked past me and I watched them until they merged with crowd where I no longer saw them. After a deep breath, I returned to the shop door. I knew that I’d have to file a police report, but I needed to finish my other project before contacting them.
As I locked the door behind me, I looked around and saw that no one paid any attention to the shop. I closed the blinds; dust floated in the air until the daylight was extinguished. I flipped the light switch which illuminating the foyer and headed towards the back of the shop. I passed the jacket I had previously been working on and continued to the rear of the shop. The keys clattered as they were pulled from my pocket, and I found the correct key. The door opened after a heavy click and I swung it open to reveal my masterwork. There was a slight hiss as the moisture escaped from the closet leaving only the sound of the humidifier pump in the background.
The light from the hallway showed the full sized mannequin covered with a light skin colored suit. Even without the head, the mannequin appeared to be a real body. I admired my handiwork and was confident that this was my best creation to date. However, the suit was not complete, the right sleeve was still missing. I had misjudged the condition of the previous hide and it cracked while I prepared it. I looked at the other shelf where a mannequin head rested with the red haired mask. The mask had eye and nose holes as well as a mouth opening. Next to the body mannequin was the tanning rack with a hide stretched tight over it. The hide felt smooth and still retained some moisture; perfect to cut the needed sections.
I removed the hide from the rack, and using the pattern, I cut out the required pieces and made the final stitches to the sleeve. When completed, I tried on the suit, being gentle to not rip the skin as my limbs entered to ensure a proper fit. I pulled the mask over my face and examined myself in the mirror. There was no more dark hair; my dark skin was completely covered with the body suit. I knew that I was the spitting image of my father. The only thing missing was the bushy beard.
The following morning, I placed a handwritten sign on the window that read “Under New Management” and sat down whistling as I went back to complete the jacket. The bells jingled as the door opened and my first new customer entered.