Big bag o’ sweaters

“Psst! Hey! Blue pullover with the big floppy turtleneck!”

“Me?”

“Yeah, you! What’s up with that neck thing? Are you a girl sweater? What are you, from the 70s or something?”

“Yeah. I was so stylish! My owner had blue eyes and they would just POP when she wore me! Then (snif!) one day she decided she was allergic to alpaca, and (gulp!) that was it. For a few years, I just sat on a top shelf and never got worn. Then last week, she drank a Mountain Dew at dinner and couldn’t sleep, so she went through the closet, and I wound up stuffed in this bag! How could she? After all we’ve been through…”

“Ah, knock it off. She probably just got tired of looking like an all-grown-up cast member from The Facts of Life.”

“Oh, aren’t you funny!” came a voice from farther down in the bag. “What are you, some kind of comedian or something?”

“As a matter of fact, I am! Can’t you see me? Don’t you know who I am?”

A hush fell over the bag. Nobody spoke until a houndstooth cardigan finally got up the nerve.

“C-Cosby?” he stammered.

“Yeah, that’s right. Couldn’t you tell from the 12 different colors? The oversized, overstuffed sofa look? That bunch-of-rags-tied-together style that was so popular for Christmas in 1986? It’s true (bursts into tears) — I’m a… Cosby sweater! I’m done! I’m toast! Forget the Woolite — I’m washed up!”

“There, there,” cooed a sky-blue cashmere number with pearls on her collar. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything!”

“Thanks (sniffle). I know. It’s guilt by association. Now, my kind are in bags all over America, ready for that long, last trip to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. But even their clients won’t want me. They’ve seen the papers. They’ve heard the rumors.”

“Those aren’t just rumors, baby. Your comedian was not what he appeared. He fooled America all those years, making us think he was this great guy, this funny, wise family man, this icon of respectability — when all along he’d been slipping girls drinks and having his way with them! Shame on him!”

Pearl Collar got so worked up she almost popped a sequin.

“But why should the sweaters suffer? We’re innocent — and very cozy!”

“Oh, you’re not the only innocents to suffer. What about Fat Albert? What about Theo and Rudy and Claire? Look at his real family, his poor wife, his kids and grandkids. Thinking they had this big teddy bear of a dad, only to find out he was some kind of pathetic old predator — a male cougar.”

“Yeah, I know. He never considered the impact his, uh, hobby would have on them — or on the sweater industry.”

“He never considered a lot of things,” piped up a dyed cotton pullover from the bottom of the bag. “Think about all those guys who grew up listening to him, lying there during sleepovers, memorizing whole monologues off of his records. Now they’re in their 50s, and some of these guys can hardly have a conversation without biting their tongues when they’re just about to do a Cosby impersonation, drop in a quote or echo some line about having babies, drinking too much or getting a prostate exam. What about Noah? The Lone Ranger’s horse? His little brother? It’s funny stuff! And it’s all off-limits now!”

“Tell me about it. I feel like my life is over, but I still have so much to offer. I’m warm! I’m cuddly! I could save somebody’s life in an avalanche. Surely there’s a place, somewhere — Alaska, Sweden, Siberia — where they don’t see the news, don’t care if they look like a lying old wisecracking hypocrite?”

For a second, he almost expected an answer. But there was no answer, just a faint flutter of moth wings as the laughter faded.

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