Leather

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Kate made little things out of leather, badges mainly, with the faces of writers and rock stars on them, gave them as presents to friends. Working a succession of casual jobs, she would also sometimes make badges featuring the logo – lovingly hand-drawn – of whichever company she happened to be at. It was a bit of acceptably shameless advertising, she felt, for her craft (not business, she couldn’t bring herself to call it that). Once, she had worked in the customer service department of an electricity company, the HR manager of which had insisted she remove the badge she had made because it was not official uniform. Kate did so, but she didn’t care. Enough of her colleagues had seen the badge, and knew of the care she took to make them, that the new commissions coming in more than made up for the HR manager’s opprobrium. ‘You should have an Etsy store,’ her co-workers would tell her, to which Kate, ever modest, would just smile and flap a hand and say, ‘one day, one day’.

 

Kate thought about animals a lot. She did not eat meat, but was not a vegan. Lately, she had been troubled by the idea that the more we found out about the emotional lives of animals, the more keeping a pet looked morally indefensible. She did not personally own a pet, though one of her housemates did – a tender, half-blind staffy called Benton. (Presumably, Kate thought, it would be immoral not to have Benton as a pet, given that his chances of survival under any other condition seemed remote.) Kate was aware she sometimes wore belts and shoes made from leather, but she tried to source the material second-hand whenever she could – from the charity shops she liked to frequent especially. She had contacts at the various art schools she had started some course or other at, and could sometimes get her hand on offcuts, stuff that might otherwise have just been thrown out, or ended up in some forgotten box.

 

She got a boyfriend who moved in, and who liked her badges a lot. He wanted one of Iggy Pop, of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. She made them when she could, not at his behest. (She never knew what to charge for them, and felt indistinctly bad about accepting any payment at all, but the boyfriend, who was, as they used to say, independently wealthy, would insist on handing over what seemed to Kate to be embarrassingly large sums of money for them.) One day, the boyfriend wanted her to make a badge in his likeness, and one in hers. ‘We can each wear the other’s,’ he grinned. She didn’t want to wear a badge with his face on it, but did not have the heart to tell him so. She joked they should wear their own badges, like the drummer in Queen who put a picture of his own face on his bass drum. He didn’t laugh. He was serious. Kate made the badges, and he paid more than ever for his, but neither ever wore them, breaking up before they could do so. He had gone on a business trip to Perth, and kissed someone else at a Stevie Nicks concert. Kate wasn’t sure she cared at first, but it turned out the boyfriend had taken this other woman’s number, and had caller her, and that she was coming to Adelaide, and that he was going to move in with her when she got there.

 

The day he stood on the steps of Kate’s house, surrounded by his bags and waiting for an Uber, he hugged her and told her she should have an Etsy store. ‘One day,’ she said, feeling his belt press into her pelvis, the way it always had when they had hugged, the two of them never quite fitting together as they should. She thought about what she could make with it, leaving him there in the street, his jeans down around his ankles.

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