We were waiting outside for the fabric shop to open on its sale day. Darling Wife didn't need any fabric, but she did need some advice. A local quilter was appearing that day to demonstrate a new technique for joining strips of fabric together in a brand new way she called, "Brand-New-Way-of-Quilting."

The shop opened at ten but by nine-forty-five, fifteen quilters were already there, DW, thirteen other women and one man. My DW waited halfway in the line, seven in front and seven behind. I stood faithfully by DW's side, hoping the store would open early as it was chilly outside and a brisk breeze was turning into a cold wind.

"I hope she can answer my question," my Darling Wife said in a shiver.

"What question is that?" asked a woman standing right behind us. She wore a heavy red coat with a hood and I could barely see her face.

"Oh," said my wife. "I was just going to ask about a problem I'm having making the table runner." I think my wife answered because she felt warmer if she was active, and talking was as active as we were going to get until the store opened.

"I have a table runner," said the woman in front of us. She was wearing a short-sleeved blue sweat shirt and a pair of jeans. She did not seem cold as the wind picked up and blew her dark hair straight out.

"It's a Stack-n-Whack," said my Darling Wife, turning her head side to side to include both women in her conversation.

"Who's been whacked?" the man said from his position three steps ahead. He was leaning toward us, into the wind.

"It's for a runner," someone said.

"A drug runner whacked someone?" he asked.

"A table runner," DW tried to explain.

"Skip the runners, Honey, they're too ordinary. If you want a good man, go for the body builders."

"A quilt. She's making a quilt," I said, but my answer was lost in the wind.

"I wouldn't kill someone over a quilt," I heard from behind us. I couldn't turn into the wind, so I didn't see who was talking.

"I just need to know how to design some whacks into a table runner," my SW (shivering wife) said.

"It's hard to get wax out of a quilt," a woman in a blue parka yelled into my ear.

"No getting ahead in the line," someone yelled at the blue parka.

"I can get wax out with my iron," another voice said. A green-hooded woman came up from behind to join us. "It's gum that's the problem."

"It's just that I'm having trouble with the design," DW said. She tightened the drawstring on the hood of her Winnie-the-Pooh jacket.

"They should have signs to tell us that they're going to open late," a voice yelled from far at the back of the line. The wind slowed and I turned to look. The line was longer.

"Design," I said, not sign."

"I have to follow a pattern," the woman in the red coat said. "I have no imagination at all."

"The best advice for that is to read Grimm's Fairy Tales," said a woman who had moved back to us from the front of the line, someone holding her place no doubt. "You learn to use your imagination that way," she said. She looked grim.

"It's really about my Stack-n-Whack hexagons," Darling Wife tried to say, but the line of shoppers were all talking at once now. The wind carried their voices directly toward us.

"Whose talking about stacks of fabric? My husband says I have too much fabric anyway."

"She didn't say stacks of fabric. She said stacks of stash."

"I was wondering what it would be like to quilt a mattress cover."

"I could use a quilt in this cold."

"I could use a mattress. My feet hurt. I should have worn better shoes."

"I don't think there is a brand new way of quilting. I heard people have been quilting the same way for two thousand and ten years. That's why I never learned."

"What did she say?"

"I think she said she was getting too old to quilt."

"I don't see why hexagons can't be runners. They have runners in the Olympics from all countries.

"If I were you...."

"Try a different kind of needle."

"Hand quilting is much better than machine quilting, don't you think?"

"I only do scraps."

"Do you really want to whack someone?" This last was from the man again.

"No," said my Darling Wife as she pulled me out and away from the line.

"You getting the help you need?" asked the woman who started this talk show. She was no longer directly behind us but had crept up two places in line.

"Yes, thank you," DW said, though she seemed a little impatient now for the store to open.

"You all right?" I asked. She was making fists out of both hands. I was hoping we could go home soon.

"Let's go home," she said, as if she heard my thoughts.

"What about the advice on the table runner?" I asked.

"I figured out what to do," she said.

"You have a design in mind," I said. She seemed determined now.

"No, but there's too much advice here. It's hurting my ears."

"So you want to leave."

She didn't answer. She moved out of line and off to the side. I followed her and we headed to the car. The line was even longer now for the sale, but at our place in line, the spot we had just left, about twenty women--and one man--were standing clumped together, moving around, pointing at each other, gesticulating, nodding, shaking their heads, all, no doubt, giving even more advice to the quilter who had just gotten away.

At home, early in the afternoon, she brought me a piece of graph paper covered with her new design for a Whack-n-Stack hexagon table runner.

"You figured that out yourself?" I asked. She was very pleased with what she had drawn.

"Well, I took your advice."

"You took my advice?" I didn't remember telling her anything.

"When you were thinking it was time to go home. You were right."

"You knew what I was thinking?"

"Home is where the hexagon is," she said.

"You mean heart?"

She didn't answer. She went skipping back toward her sewing room. I know what she meant. I just stood there wondering why she just didn't ask my advice in the first place.

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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