Call them corduroy or corde du roi, the “cloth of kings” in fake French. In the dawn of the 18th century, an aspiring inventor from Manchester coined his fabric, the name coming to him in a dream the night before he timorously handed the nubby fabric to the industrial manufacturer who thought — not knowing French, but wishing to show he did — the phrase sounded elegant, almost haughty, and easy to sell. The bourgeois proprietor repeated the phrase in the haze of his after-dinner brandy, whilst in his nearby factory an unnamed eight-year-old began to feel her leg bones bend to the whims of a weaving machine.
Once this cloth was stitched into my modern-day, chocolate brown trousers with copper snaps, the tufted rows were mysteriously transformed into the supple wings of crickets; since I have bowlegs, with ankles that often knock together as I walk, I am singing to the world a velvety song of tu-wee-tu-wee-tu-wee.
The width between the lines of corduroy, termed a wale, threads us back to the night wails of the first child who wove corduroy on her loom and onward, to today, to the lone whale that scientists say has been wailing in a voice unlike any other species for the past twelve years. He sings to the world at 52 hertz — higher than Baleen and Fin whales, lower than Humpbacks — and he cruises the North Pacific every autumn and winter on his private migratory path. They surmise his cries for a companion have deepened over the years, due to the gradual progression of age.
Corduroys, friends, are best reserved for casual folk from northern climes — not to be taken seriously by those from the East or West, and certainly not the costume found in society’s upper realm. They are not an option for brown-nosers with aspirations of managerial prestige. I wear mine to work, which indicates a destiny to travel these narrow office hallways between cubicles forever, tu-wee-tu-wee-tu-wee. Somewhere, all the others, too, are wandering, wayfaring ghosts. We are singing lullabies to the tired children who lie on rows and rows of oily cots — solitary songs sung to the cruxes of our crooked little knees.
About the author: Rebecca Dosch-Brown lives in media res in Northeast Minneapolis with her husband, an electronica composer, and their bright son, whose name means ‘sun’ in Japanese. She has been a teacher of writing, EFL, and cultural awareness, and she has also enjoyed stints as a gardener, a translator, and as an apprentice in modern bonsai and tile-making. You can read more of her writing on her blog.
About her work, Dosch-Brown says: “I write whenever I get the urge to escape mediocre and ignorant humans, and that includes my own boring, dumb self. I like how images, sounds, and smells from everyday collide in odd juxtapositions to stand for what can’t be said otherwise. For me, daily life is a mess. Words, with their odd shapes as tools, help me to sift through the rubble of my day and build an internal hut. I want to live near visionaries, like Rumi; saturated sensory writers, like Neruda; and near artists who saw through the haze of normalcy — the outcasts, the underdogs, and the genius miscreants found in Issa, Coltrane, Rosanjin, Nina Simone, T-Monk, and Santoka. I admire how they rode their minds to the wild edges of society. I hope, someday, to go where they did, where the air is cleaner, where truth and imagination hold hands, undisturbed.”
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