Old Nick’s Needle

Why are they called pants when there’s only one?

*  *  2  *  *

With a final elegant stitch, the tailor completed his work for the day. He sighed as he sat back in his chair and looked out the window at the sunset.

Just two more days.

He returned his long silver needle to the glass box sitting on the mantle, crossed the room, and collapsed onto the bed face-first. He lay there for a long moment letting his breath heat up the blankets around his face until it became too difficult to breath. Rolling over, he turned to admire his work: a flowing white skirt adorned with delicate flowers. Two more days. He sighed as he blew out the candle on his nightstand and closed his eyes unconcerned about the fact that he was still wearing his work attire.

Just as he was about to fall asleep, he felt a weight on his chest that forced him to jerk back to full consciousness. He opened his eyes to find a small man perched precariously on top of him, bent over so that their noses were mere inches from each other. While the rest of the room remained dark, the tailor could clearly make out the small man’s features. It was as though he was glowing, making his bright green and yellow clothing stand out. His eyes were huge and seemed to be the only dark spot of his entire body.

“What do you want, now?” the tailor asked groggily.

The small man chuckled as he leapt from the bed toward the fireplace. “Oh, just checking in.” He snapped, and a spark flew from his fingers onto the pile of logs. A fire erupted, forcing the tailor to close his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, the strange man seemed to have nearly tripled in height, now towering near the ceiling.

“See for yourself,” the tailor said with a wave of his hand. “It’s almost done.” He lay back down on the bed, hoping that if he managed to fall asleep, his companion would go away.

The strange man walked slowly toward the skirt. “Yes, I can see that. So it will be ready in time?”

“For the hundredth time, yes. The skirt will be ready in time.”

“Good. I wouldn’t want my bride to having anything less than the best on her special day.”

The tailor gritted his teeth and fought back the tears that welled in his eyes. “Is there something else you wanted?” he asked in a practiced level voice.

The man was suddenly sitting at the foot of the bed. “Not really.” He smiled. “I just want to be sure I’m getting what I paid for.”

The tailor rolled over and closed his eyes. “You’ll have it.”

After a couple of moments of silence, the tailor opened one eye to survey the room, but his visitor was nowhere to be seen. He accepted this and tried once more to sleep.

Unsuccessfully.

A bright light suddenly erupted from somewhere near the door. The tailor squinted toward it, assuming his visitor had returned. “Can’t you just let me sleep? Everything else you’re doing to me, and now I can’t even sleep?”

A voice echoed out of the light. “Baethan Pantalion. Arise. Your hope has come.”

The tailor tried desperately to respond, but his mouth wouldn’t move.

“You have but one hope to be with the one you love. Your bargain with Old Nick can be undone. It will require you to put your pride aside in more ways than one, but you can have her. I will teach you how.”

Two days later, the tailor delivered the skirt to Old Nick, recognizable only by his bright green and yellow clothes. “Thank you, Baethan,” the man said. “I assure you, after today, the Pantalion name will live on forever.” The tailor nodded and left in silence.

He waited until the service had begun. Beside the door to the hall was a full-length mirror which proved to the tailor just how ridiculous he looked. The Pantalion name will live on, alright.

“…any reason why these two should not…”

That’s my cue.

The tailor strode into the hall, head held high, arms pulling up the hem of the skirt he was wearing. A skirt identical to that of the bride’s.

“Baethan?” she asked, her eyes wide.

The tailor stared straight at Old Nick. “The deal’s off.” With that, he pulled out his silver needle and snapped it in half. He looked into the eyes of the bride. “I’m so sorry. I love you.” Wind whipped around the room as the tailor and the bride were both lifted into the air.

With both tears and understanding in her eyes, the bride whispered, “I love you too.”

The two embraced as a bright light enveloped them.

When the light faded away, the two lovers were gone, leaving behind only their matching skirts, now fused into one single garment.

Old Nick walked calmly over to the garment and picked it up. “You win this round,” he said to no one in particular. “But mark my words. Some day, I’ll separate the Pantalions. Some day.” With a smile, he slung the pair of Pants over his shoulder and addressed a couple on the front row. “Mr. and Mrs. Scissor, perhaps you could assist me?”

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