Grace Hershey watches over the tailor shop when Carilto is away. She tackles the task of laundering for the community in his absence.
“This place is yours until I return,” Carilto says to his friend Grace, a woman who he has known since an Earthly childhood. “Watch over it for me.”
“Carlito. I will miss you. Hurry back, dear,” Grace reassures. Kissing his rosy face, leaving traces of dark red lipstick smeared over his bright smile like the tracks from a peeling automobile.
When he ceases from weaving magical dream garments and takes a break from a vocation of sewing with golden needles, the man with the face of a boy and hair like an Earthly woman runs off to the arms of the sea to enjoy the pleasures of paradise. For now, his work is done here. The knitting is complete. The reassuring clacks of Carlito’s needles ends and the village freezes in silence.
They know that soon, Grace will be in charge again– a time of dancing, heaving drinking, drugs, deviant sexuality and a host of other once sinful acts of human nature. Only when Carilto returns will the craziness come to an end here. Carlito knows that all will be in order in his shop with Grace watching over, no matter how rough it gets.
The singing of ruby birds in the cherry trees that surround his stone hut is no more. The birds too followed him when he left. Carilto, like the seasons which change, converts back to his form of the sea– a woman. He knows he must leave the land now, or he will turn to a pillar of salt in the dry winds of land. His breasts slowly started to swell. Golden hairs that covered his boyish chest feel off, revealing his softer side. Carlito measured out the last sleeve for the robe he was working on, attached it with a blind seam, and decided to leave Oceana once again. They will be alright. Grace is with them, he reassures himself. He says goodbye to his goat Cassie and calls upon Grace to step into his shoes for a while.
Grace cannot sew nor does she have an interest in learning to. She runs a laundry service from Carlito’s tailor shop while he is away. She uses a stream of crystal clear emerald waters which flows out back to hang garments on lines that cross under the gentle fall of a burgundy waterfall. She dries the clothes on lines and folds them for the patrons of town who come here to have their laundry done.
Carlito puts his silk treads in a cedar sewing box to go swimming like a fish in the sea. He swims away for long periods of time, exploring an ocean with private islands that no man has ever stepped foot on before. Grace is in charge of this place while he is away. He trusts her and knows that his business and animals will be in safe keeping as he swims upstream, like a salmon scaling waterfalls in search of spawning ground. He is off to repeat a cycle that has continued for what seems an eternity. Grace understands the movements of the mermen. In a way she is just like them, but she is a lady who lives on the land at her choosing. Like Carlito and Marco, she is one of the saved. She has had her fill of the pleasures of paradise and chooses to stay behind to give hope to those who suffer when the gods of the sea are back in their realm.
She is a good friend from his childhood. A woman, who though not related to him by blood, helped to raise him. She lived in Carlito’s hometown of Saltillo. She is like his mother, picking up behind him as he changes like a butterfly from a young man to a virgin girl. She too can go back to the waters and swim as a young, youthful girl again. But she has done so, many, many times before and is tired. She wishes to serve Carltio and remains here to tend to what is his, knowing that if she stays here in Oceana, they will be alright. Grace realizes that in life, it is better to serve than to be served.
Carlito will return from his swimming in the Holovakia Trench. Until then, she is in charge here. Her hair is white like snow now. So long it has been since she herself repeated the cycle. She has learned to love her ancient body, more than the youthful, new ones that await her within the cycles of eternity. For now, this is where she wishes to be– in the tailor shop. The peace, the quiet, the comforts of the house with a waterwheel outside. The garden– the flowers– the bees– it is just like a time she remembers, in the little town of Saltillo where Carlito was once her paperboy.
Chickens continue to lay eggs and goats should be milked daily with fresh straw placed their pens. Purple horses prefer to have their manes brushed weekly and the sheep, especially Cassie, need company and to periodically have their precious fleeces sheered and placed in the shop, awaiting the return of Carlito the man, the tailor.
Grace takes care of it all. Soon she will return– Carlina. Days later her voice will lower and suddenly he will insist, “Please, call me Carlito.”