SERIAL NOVEL: The Black Mennonite (Chapter 22) by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 22
Good Progress

Later that week, Eva stopped by Mrs. Rothchild’s to touch base with her being that she was scheduled to begin work the following Tuesday from 9 to 5. Mrs. Rothchild showed Eva the back room from which she and Kassadie Mendez, another of Rothchild’s employees, would be working.

“I don’t know if you’re familiar with this,” Mrs. Rothchild said pointing to two identical sewing machines sitting on a long table. “These are the new sewing machines that are out on the market. You’ll be working on one of these once you learn how to use them. Kassie has already mastered it.”

Kassadie Mendez, or Kassie as she was called, was sitting behind one of the machines. She smiled pleasantly at Eva who greeted her with a cheerful ‘Hello’ after Mrs. Rothchild introduced them.

“You both can rearrange the room to your liking,” Mrs. Rothchild said. “Over here is the old sewing machine I was using, or rather that Kassie was using. It’s the kind you have to pedal. You’re welcome to have it if you think you can use it.”

“Denke, Mrs. Rothchild. I saw one like that in a book. I’ve always wanted to have one,” Eva said.

“I know you hand-stitch the quilts and pillowcases; do you hand-stitch your dresses also?”

“Jah. My people I’m afraid to say are still in their cloisters and are slow in coming out. Those around my age and younger are looking beyond our fenced-in community and are noticing the positive changes happening around us. Hopefully, we’ll take advantage of the good progress such as having sewing machines in our homes and not get left behind.”

Mrs. Rothchild smiled. “Progress is good. Your husband can pick it up at his convenience. Or I can have a couple of the men here in town to place it on your buggy when you get ready to leave.”

“Denke. My husband’s working at the hardware store today. We rode here together. I’ll have him to move it for me,” Eva said.

“It’ll take more than one person to move it. It’s pretty heavy,” Mrs. Rothchild said. “Anyway, over here is a kitchenette with a refrigerator and a stove and a countertop and a sink with running water and a few cupboards. I try to keep it stocked with food as sometimes we get so busy I’m stuck here. You’re more than welcome to prepare yourself something to eat on the days you come in. I don’t believe one can work to one’s maximum without adequate nourishment. Any questions?”

“None at all,” Eva said.

“I know I mentioned two days out of the week starting out, but if you can spare three or even four days that would be a great help. If things work out, I plan on taking you on full-time and placing you up front,” Mrs. Rothchild said. “I hope you plan on spending the entire day here, today.”

“Jah,” Eva said.

“By the way, how’s the baby? Where is she? As I mentioned to you before, you are more than welcomed to bring her here with you. I’m all about family.”

“Denke. My sister-in-law offered to keep her since this is my first day. But I’ll take you up on your offer. I have become so attached to her I feel a little empty when she’s not with me,” Eva said.

Mrs. Rothchild smiled. “I’ll turn you over to Kassie. She’s a great person to work with. Just one word of warning: she doesn’t talk much.”

Mrs. Rothchild was being truthful when she said Kassie did not talk much; but Kassie’s inviting smile and her sweet attitude and spirit made up for that, and that was fine with Eva.

Jacob stopped by during his lunch break to check on Eva and to have lunch with her. He listened as Eva chatted away about her first day on the job all the way home, later that evening, and as she changed her mind for the fifth time on deciding where to place her ‘new’ sewing machine. It was one of those that when not in use could be transformed into a table.

“Wait until Daed Stoltzfus sees it,” Eva said after finally deciding on a spot before the window separating the kitchen and dining room. “He will really hit the roof then and preach about certain folks bringing worldly possessions into the community.”

Jacob laughed. “This may be worldly, but it will help you get the job done faster for sure, and I don’t see it taking away from our spirituality. My question is: why take a week or two to sew a dress or to do any job for that matter when you can get it done in one day by using a simple machine? You could sew a dozen dresses within that two weeks,” he said. “Anyway, if you’ll wait right here with your eyes closed, I have something for you. Promise me you won’t peek while I am gone?”

“What is it?” Eva asked with a giggle. “Just so I can know how tight to close my eyes.”

“It will be worth closing your eyes real tight; I promise you that.”

Eva closed her eyes. Jacob took long strides out to the buggy and was back within seconds. He placed his surprise gift wrapped in off-white paper tied with a red ribbon in Eva’s hands.


Eva quickly opened her eyes. “What is it?” she asked, turning the package over and over.

“You’ll never know unless you open it up,” Jacob said as he watched his wife carefully slip the ribbon from around the package. She eagerly unfolded the wrapping.

“Oh, Jacob, this is more than beautiful! It’s so rich.” Eva lifted the shimmery dark blue material to her cheek. “It’s so soft. See how it shimmers in the light. It must have cost a fortune.”

“Nee. Nothing ever costs too much for you. You deserve every yard of it and more,” Jacob said.

“When did you buy it? I didn’t see you come into the store.”

“That’s because you were in the back working when I sneaked over there during my evening break, and I told Mrs. Rothchild not to tell,” Jacob said. “I want you to sew it on your new sewing machine. You should have it ready for Sunday services. As fast as you’ll be able to sew now, you could begin your own sewing company called KEVA’s Fashions. That’s your name and Kezia’s name combined.”

Eva laughed. “I can tell you’ve been doing some serious thinking. And little Miss Kezia will get a dress also even if I have to shorten mine,” she said.

“No, we don’t want to go that far. The Bishop would literally have a heart attack. I can’t wait to hear of his response when he finds out you sewed it on your new sewing machine,” Jacob said with a chuckle.

“I’ve been wondering, do you think we’ll ever get electricity throughout the community? It’s so much more convenient and we won’t have to deal with the smell or the soot from oil lamps,” Eva said.

“Who knows. With Daed as head of this community, maybe never. I’ve been thinking over some things lately, one of which is to possibly get a place in town with all the modern conveniences: indoor water, flushing toilet, a shower head, electricity, a car. I have access to those things when in town, and I don’t see anything wrong with having them. To be honest with you, I’m beginning to feel restricted here. But like I said, I’m just thinking over these things.”

“I understand,” Eva said with a smile while nodding her head.

“And,” Jacob continued, “I don’t know how long Kezia will be with us. Some of the folks here have been cold towards us since she came to stay with us. I don’t want her to grow up feeling rejected by those around her.”