The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squadby Derrick Jensen, Stephanie McMillan
In this darkly comic novel, the six women of the Knitting Circle meet every week to talk, eat cake, and make fabulous sweaters. The easy-going circle undergoes a drastic change when the members realize they are all the survivors of rape—worse still, that none of their attackers suffered consequences—and the group becomes the vengeful Knitting Circle
In this darkly comic novel, the six women of the Knitting Circle meet every week to talk, eat cake, and make fabulous sweaters. The easy-going circle undergoes a drastic change when the members realize they are all the survivors of rape—worse still, that none of their attackers suffered consequences—and the group becomes the vengeful Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad, taking punishment into their own hands via their knitting needles. As the women take their revenge, groups of men issue statements against the vigilante ladies, from the Chamber of Commerce to the sinister Men Against Women Against Rape (MAWAR), plotting to stop and punish the Knitting Circle. Featuring strong female characters, this satirical piece explores love, revenge, feminism, violence, and knitting.
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The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad
By Derrick Jensen, Stephanie McMillan, Theresa Noll
PM PressCopyright © 2012 Derrick Jensen & Stephanie McMillan
All rights reserved.
Marilyn never ceases to feel happy when she talks with her students about rape. Most have never heard the word, and even when she spends hours talking about its history, her students have difficulty grasping the concept.
Sometime during the discussion a boy always says, "But if I did something like that, the girl wouldn't want to be my friend."
Marilyn smiles and nods, encouraging him to say more, but invariably he just shakes his head.
And later a girl always asks, "So how did people stop rape for good?"
Marilyn smiles and nods again: it's time to tell them about the great knitting needle revolution.
"It all began," she says, "with my mother's best friend, Brigitte. She didn't set out to be a revolutionary. She just wanted to make some fabulous sweaters."
* * *
An attractively plump, middle-aged woman greets the bus driver as she boards, shakes out her thick red hair, and settles on her seat. She wears a colorful flowered dress more suited to a cruise ship than to this city bus. The driver eyes her pretty pink shoes and finds them entirely too cheerful for these mean and gritty urban streets. He prays their owner takes care to protect them from sidewalk hazards, such as sticky wads of used gum, and the vile juices of discarded hamburger wrappers and gnawed chicken bones.
Oblivious to his concern, the woman pulls knitting needles, yarn, and a half-finished sweater from her tote bag and gets to work.
This is my godmother, and my dear friend, the soon-to-be- revolutionary Brigitte.
That afternoon Brigitte had received a phone call from her new dance instructor inviting her to a special midnight class for advanced students. She almost refused — it was a long haul on the bus — but then he told her he would be teaching a very special set of moves called the Caterpillar Transformation Dance.
That changed everything. She'd recently seen a documentary about this dance and its amazing chakra-recalibrating effects, and her chakras were definitely in need of recalibration. She heard destiny calling.
As she knits on her way to the dance studio, Brigitte hums a lively tune, quietly enough that she doesn't annoy the other bus passengers. Not that it's humanly possible to hum loud enough to be heard over the mob celebrating the city's victory in the National Chess Championship. Riding home after an evening of rioting, setting small yet well-designed fires in dumpsters, and overturning police cars, the nerds howl with grape soda — induced laughter as they reenact their most impressive chess moves. One hops two seats back and one over to represent an especially exhilarating knight maneuver.
The other passengers are all regulars. There are the exhausted slaves going home from the swing shift, dreading their unhappy spouses and cranky, tired children. There are the people who ride the bus purely for the air-conditioning, back and forth, back and forth, all day and all night long, to escape the hellish heat outside. There's the pair of teenagers making out a few rows ahead of Brigitte, who become frantic when they simultaneously realize their stop is next and discover their braces are locked together. There are the two teenage boys playing "clear the seats," a game that involves each hiking up one butt cheek, holding that position, then high-fiving his comrade as other passengers scatter. Brigitte is grateful the boys are seated a fair distance from herself.
Too close, however — in fact, directly in front of her — sit a man and a woman. The woman asks over and over, at full volume, "Just tell me, do you love her?" and the man hisses back, "We'll talk about it later." This goes on for blocks. Finally Brigitte can tolerate it no longer. She taps the man on the shoulder. "Tell her already — we all want to know!" The other passengers lean forward, waiting for his answer. He claims he does not, but a straw poll indicates most passengers do not believe him.
Then of course there are the obligatory boys playing Dungeons & Dragons, the three radicals in the back plotting to overthrow the government, a young woman practicing her tennis serves down the aisle, and a group of trained Navy SEALS balancing balls on their noses. When a priest, a rabbi, an imam, a Lutheran minister, and a polytheistic pagan sorceress board the bus and approach the overhead bar, Brigitte decides it's time to get off.
Looking out the window, Brigitte realizes that leaving the crowded bus may be even more disagreeable than the ride has been. This neighborhood is cruddy enough during the day, but it's positively menacing at night. Many of the streetlights aren't working, and few pedestrians are about.
She almost decides to turn around and go home. A lurid thriller she's eager to read, The Everglades Avenger, waits on her nightstand. But she pulls the cord to signal the driver to stop.
"Now, you take care of those pretty shoes, ma'am," he says as she makes her way down the steps.
Brigitte walks along a darkened sidewalk, swinging her tote bag and still humming. She glances behind her to make sure no one is following. (Marilyn's students are never able to understand someone having to do anything of this sort.) She adopts the walk that all women from an early age learn to use in scary places: rapid, firm, and purposeful. Look like you are determined to get where you're going, and are eagerly awaited by many large, aggressive friends who will scour the earth searching for you if you don't arrive promptly. Appear confident. Show no fear.
The street is deserted. The buildings Brigitte passes are miserable boxes fronted with weeds struggling to break through the concrete. Bedraggled hand-lettered signs scream desperation and failure: "Moved to www.secondhandcutlery.com." "New management — we don't suck like they did!" "Buy one, get thirty-seven free!" A faded poster slumps in a window, "90% off retail price! This weekend only!"
She steps in gum. Damn it.
Finally, she sees the neon sign ahead, a weakly glowing magenta heart announcing the safety of the dance studio.
The cavernous dance studio is dimly lit by candles lining the edges of the polished wood floor. Their flames reflect and multiply in the mirrors along the walls. Romantic music plays, and it takes Brigitte a moment to recognize the end of Barry Manilow's "Mandy." There is a pause before the next song begins, a medley of Manilow's advertising jingles. She hears Manilow sing, "C'mon, get a bucket of chicken, have a barrel of fun."
She stops humming and softly calls, "Hello? Hello?"
Riversong de la Huerta, the dance instructor, steps into the candlelight. (He tells everyone his New-Age name means Riversong of the Heart, but it actually means Riversong of the Market Garden. He serenely ignores all helpful souls who attempt to inform him of his error.) Tall and handsome, he owns an impressive head of shiny black hair and a magnificent mustache he calls "the mane of a lion on the face of a lover." His shoulders are draped with gauzy colorful scarves. He wears a eurotard (20 percent more Lycra), a wide leather belt, and knee-high black leather boots.
"Hello, pretty one," he calls as he strides across the room.
Brigitte looks around, confused. "Where is everybody? You said there was a class tonight."
Riversong's voice rumbas from somewhere behind his glorious mustache: "It's a very special class. For me and you."
Brigitte frowns. "I'm leaving. I don't appreciate —"
"I've been watching you, Brigitte. The way you move. Your grace. Your subtlety. Your lithosity."
Brigitte blinks twice. "I'm fifty-three years old. I haven't been lithe for thirty years." She blinks again. "Well, fifteen."
"Do you know French, Brigitte?
"Ah, too bad. You have that certain something the French call, 'Je bande comme un ane et meme les plus de la classe m'ont le dos.' And so, as they say in Paris, 'J'ai carrément besoin de faire mon trou et toi, t'es toute mimi.' Or as they say in Marseille, 'Faute de grives, on mange des merles.'"
Brigitte puts her hands on her hips. "And all of this means?"
Riversong answers, "It means you are ripe for the Caterpillar Transformation Dance, where the little caterpillar grows and grows, becomes fuller and fuller, until he bursts forth to fly away as a butterfly."
Brigitte nearly leaves in disgust. But then she remembers the testimonials in the documentary. She really needs her chakras recalibrated. And she's come all this way on the bus.
"Hell, I'm here. Let's give it a shot." She drops her tote bag and walks toward him.
Riversong stands tall, arms outstretched, the scarves draped over his hands. "With these silk scarves we give the caterpillars wings. Like so!" He moves his arms in circles. It's actually quite pretty and impressive.
He hands the scarves to Brigitte. She tries. It looks okay, but not stunning.
Riversong and his extraordinary mustache implore, "Lose yourself, Brigitte! Drop your inhibitions!"
Brigitte tries again. She's still not very good.
"Let me show you." He moves behind her and takes her wrists in his hands. He guides her arms in the proper motions: big circles, grand gestures, sweeping scarves.
Brigitte stops suddenly and pulls away. "Is grinding your hips part of the choreography?"
"Oh, yes! It's all part of unleashing your butterfly!"
"Well, I can feel your caterpillar, and I don't like it."
Riversong leans to her ear and says softly, beseechingly, "My caterpillar needs to be in a cocoon. Your soft, warm cocoon."
"Your butterfly needs to spread her wings. Let's fly together!"
Brigitte laughs. "Riversong, I could never be attracted to someone who mixes metaphors."
He says earnestly, "My love knows no grammar. I want you."
"When I was a little girl," she responds, "I wanted a pink pony. I didn't get that either. I'm flattered, kind of, but I'm leaving now."
Riversong spins her around and pulls her body against his.
She pushes him away and starts walking toward the door. She hears him behind her and walks faster, then begins to run. He chases her around the mirror-lined room, into the prop room, and back out to the dance floor. The scarves around his neck flap furiously behind him. He reaches out and almost catches her, but she slips away. Finally he corners her near the front door and shoves her against a wall.
She struggles in his arms and says, "Stop it this instant!"
He and his mustache say together, "Never! I listen only to la Huerta! Listen to your heart, Brigitte! Your mouth says no, but your la Huerta says oui, oui!"
"No. My whole body is saying no. No, Riversong, no."
"It takes more than mere words to stop this runaway freight train of love." He reaches down and pulls a ridiculously bejeweled dagger from his boot. It looks like a souvenir from Disney World, but it's sharp. He points it at her, and she can tell he knows how to use it.
"You're not leaving," he says.
Brigitte stares at him a long time, then asks, "Is that how you want it?"
His mustache hides the movement of his lips as he says, "No, my dear, that's how you want it."
"I'm not choosing this."
"Yes, you are."
"This means that much to you? This is how you want it?"
"This is how I'll take it."
Brigitte looks down. She sees her tote bag on the floor slightly behind him and to one side. The top is open, and the knitting needles are barely visible. "So you're going to take it?" she says.
He kisses her forcibly. After a moment she stops struggling and reluctantly puts her arms around her assailant. Riversong closes his eyes in ecstasy, murmurs, "Much better. You like, no?"
Tightening her grip on Riversong, Brigitte stretches out her right leg and uses her toe to snag the handles of her bag on the floor behind him. She raises it with her foot, reaches around him with her left hand to get inside, and pulls out a knitting needle. Riversong gyrates against her, delighted with the apparently enthusiastic contact. With a sudden scream and a move reminiscent of Dial M for Murder (she, being a rabid fan of classic film, cannot help but notice), she stabs him.
His eyes widen in disbelief. The leonine mustache twitches its final twitch. That is all. Well, perhaps a final gurgling noise or two, which are over quickly and barely worth mentioning. Riversong falls, a knitting needle piercing his la Huerta.
Brigitte stands over Riversong's body and looks at it impassively for a few moments. She sighs. "No, Riversong. I no like."
She tugs the knitting needle from his body, wipes the blood onto one of his scarves, and slides the needle back into her tote bag. She walks to the door and uses another scarf to wipe her fingerprints from the knob and then to turn it. She peers out, looks both ways, and lets the door click shut behind her before walking briskly back to the bus stop.
Brigitte wearily enters her house, closes and locks the door, flicks on a light, and tosses her tote bag onto a chair. She sighs heavily and sinks onto the couch, then suddenly leaps up to race to the window and scan in both directions before firmly shutting the curtains. She paces back and forth, unsure what to do.
In the bathroom, Brigitte looks in the mirror and sees tears forming in the eyes of the woman in the glass. She blinks them away, forces her face to relax. She keeps looking. Slowly her mouth begins to form a smile.
She walks back to her living room, sits down, and dials a number on the phone.
"Nick," she whispers.
Nick cheerfully replies, "Why are you whispering? Do you have a special guest?"
Brigitte whispers, "Why am I whispering?" Then she says in a normal voice, "No reason. Why indeed? What are you doing?"
"You caught me at a very busy time. I'm choosing between watching Gone with the Wind for the twenty-sixth time or Casablanca for the thirty-fourth."
"Come over. I can do better than that."
"Better than Rhett and his ill-fitting dentures? Better than the thrill when Ingrid Bergman says, 'Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time'?"
"Better than both; I guarantee. I've had a rough day. Please come and take my mind off my troubles."
"What happened, sweetheart?"
"No discussions, honey. It's something I can't think about right now. If I do I'll go ..."
They say together, "... crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."
They both laugh.
Brigitte says, "What I need right now is distraction."
Nick says, "So that you can forget for one night that the problems of a few little people don't amount to ..."
They say together, "... a hill of beans in this crazy world."
They both laugh again.
"Sit tight, Brigitte," Nick says. I'll be right over."
Nick hangs up the phone and starts to get dressed, strutting around as he hums Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing." He spritzes cologne into the air and walks through the mist. He combs his hair, smiling at himself in the mirror. He looks down at his crotch and says, "Big Louie, if Brigitte and I weren't already such good friends, I'd say this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Meanwhile, Brigitte sits with her hand on the phone, half-smiling, humming the same song. She stands, changes her clothes, then brushes her hair.
At first Brigitte didn't tell anyone, not even Nick, what she had done. For weeks she was terrified the police would arrest her, but Riversong had, for obvious reasons, made no record of her visit that night. Brigitte was never visited by the police, much less questioned. She carried on with her life as usual.
The next step in the revolution took place several months later. It was accompanied by the smell of cheese. Smoked mozzarella, to be exact.
Every Thursday night Brigitte and five other women gather in the back room of a cheese factory for their knitting circle meetings, not to plan revolution, but rather to talk and knit and plan their next group trip to Daisy's Craft Barn to pick out more yarn. They started meeting at the cheese factory because it was the only appropriate public space they could find that would let them use a room for free.
A couple of years before, they had met for a time in a back room at a rescue center for cats, but even though they were all animal lovers, they found that the smell of cat urine began to permeate their yarn. And who wants to wear a sweater that smells of pee?
After that they met for a few months in the basement of a fundamentalist church. That tenancy had ended one evening when one of the church elders just happened to be kneeling outside one of the doors to their meeting room, and just happened to have his ear pressed against the door when Marilyn, fourteen at the time and not normally a member of the group, asked Brigitte why she'd never had any children.
Brigitte responded that she'd never wanted any, and so she had taken great care to always use various forms of protection, which she would be delighted to describe in detail and recommend or disrecommend to Marilyn if she was in need of such information.
Red-faced and mortified, Marilyn said of course she didn't have any need for it. She was just curious. But had Brigitte's protection ever failed?
Brigitte said, "Yes, once."
"I ran down to Baby-B-Gone faster than you can say, 'Not every ejaculation deserves a name.'"
Excerpted from The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad by Derrick Jensen, Stephanie McMillan, Theresa Noll. Copyright © 2012 Derrick Jensen & Stephanie McMillan. Excerpted by permission of PM Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Derrick Jensen is the author of numerous books, including Endgame, A Language Older Than Words, and This Culture of Make Believe. He lives in Crescent City, California. Stephanie McMillan is the author of As the World Burns, Attitude Presents Featuring: Minimum Security, and Mischief in the Forest. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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