"No, no not again," she said. She was sitting at the kitchen table drinking her fifth cup of herbal peppermint tea when she put her teacup down with a hard bang.
"Too much tea?" I asked. I sat opposite her. I was reading the morning paper; she was reading one of her many quilt magazines. It was probably an article on quilting.
"This always happens," she said. She reached for some napkins and wiped at the tea which had spilled from her cup.
I knew a lead-in line when I heard one, so I asked, "What always happens?" My first thought was the magazine contained a photo of a quilt so exquisite, so beautiful, that it was impossible for any normal quilter ever to attempt, let alone complete. She usually yelled or screamed at the teasing photo, but she had never before banged down her cup.
"These directions," she answered. She was calming down, but her voice still trembled.
"Bad directions?" I asked. She shook her head. "They call for too much fabric?" I asked. She had once shown me a design for a miniature quilt in a magazine that asked her to buy twelve rotary cutters, sixteen yards of batting, eighteen yards of fabric, 54 spools of thread, and a new house. Or so it seemed.
"They're good directions. They're clear directions," she told me.
"Put down your dander," I said. Her dander was still up and it was hard to see her through it. She calmed down a bit more.
"I am calm," she said.
"So it's a terrible design with good directions?" I asked. I was patient. My checklist of what could have gotten her so riled up was very short. That was the last question on my list.
"The design's simple and the directions are clear," she said.
"So what's wrong?" I asked. That was the bonus question.
"What's wrong? What's wrong? I'll tell you what's wrong." But she didn't tell me just yet. She began flipping through other pages of the magazine, reading a moment, staring at a photo a moment, then flipping some more pages. Then she pushed the magazine aside and did the same with two more in her pile. She did this quickly as I sat and started at her, waiting for an explanation.
"December, October, March, June," she said.
"They're all good months," I said. Since we both retired, all months were good.
"I don't have all the months," she said.
"How many are you missing?" I asked. I knew there were only twelve months. I also knew about seven days in a week. Sixty minutes in an hour.
"November and January and...." Her voice dropped then rose again. "Oh, it's no use. I'll probably need some years, too. I hate it." Her dander was back up.
"Have some more tea," I said.
"You want to know what I'm talking about, don't you?" she asked.
"I want to help you," I said. Since she had taking up quilting, I have tried to make our home a safe environment for her. I haven't padded the walls yet, but at that moment, the thought was circling my mind.
"There's nothing you can do," she said. She pushed the magazines away from her.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I asked. I piled the magazines together and pushed them across the table, far away from her. I took her hand.
"You'll think I'm getting upset over nothing," she said.
"If you get upset, it must be something important," I said. My quilting spouse is usually tough as nails, stronger than steel, more stable than Mt. Rushmore. But she is joined at the hip, the brain, and the charge card with thousands of quilters all over the world. If she gets upset, it must be something important.
"Hand me the magazine on top," she said.
"Are you sure?" She seemed calm again.
"I can handle it," she said.
I handed her the magazine. She flipped it open, turned several pages, read a moment, then slid the magazine across the table to me, her fingers holding her place.
"Read that," she said. I read the paragraph of directions she pointed out to me. They were clear, though I had little idea what they had to do with anything.
"I read it," I said.
"Did you read it all?"
"I read it all," I said. But to be sure I read it again. "So," I asked, truly puzzled. She reached over and pointed to a line between parentheses in the middle of the paragraph. I read it out loud.
("For a complete illustration for putting these blocks together, refer to the July 1998 issue.")
"There, you see," she said. "You see what's making me crazy?"
I saw. "You don't have the July 1998 issue?"
"I never have any of the issues they refer to. They do it to drive me crazy. Even if I had that issue, it would refer me to March 1997 or May 1954 or July 2001."
"They want you to buy all the magazines?" I said.
"They begin an article and give directions and just as I begin to get excited about making whatever quilt it is, and they always show this gorgeous color photo of it, that's when they pull out the carpet from under my feet and say, 'continued next month.'"
"They pull out the carpet?" We haven't had carpets like that in our house in thirty years, I thought. Our wall-to wall carpet is nailed to the flooring just so no one could pull it out from under us, but I got her message.
"So what do you want to do about it?" I asked. She could stop buying the quilting magazines, I foolishly thought.
"I'm going to subscribe to them all," she said. I'm going to buy all the back-issues in the world. I'm going to every garage sale in the western United States."
"That's a lot of magazines," I said, but I didn't doubt her. I remembered not believing her when she said she would buy all 114 colors of Kona cotton." Four days later the UPS man struggled under that burden.
"Yes, well, maybe not all of them."
"Just the July 1998 issue?" I asked with hope in my heart.
"To begin with," she said. "But if it refers me to another article...."
Copyright 1998 by A.B. Silver
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