Bad, Bad, Block




I found them on the bottom shelf of the linen closet. It's not a real linen closet as nothing in there is made of linen, more like cotton and polyester. The closet is reserved for extra bedding, sheets, pillowcases, and blankets for guests. As most of the guests are our children and grandchildren, some of the bedding has seen better days.

I was looking for an old pillowcase that Darling Wife wanted to use to wrap some part of her hoard of fabric. "Find me an old pillowcase," she had said moments before. At that time, I was three blocks away in the market buying bread when she called, but I heard her voice calling to me, my Darling Wife some Siren of mythology who knew how to lure me, not to destruction, but back to her side for some quilting chore.

On the bottom shelf behind several guest towels and an old pillowcase, which I grabbed for her, was a small pile of fabric, squares and blocks which looked to my practiced eye very much like something that had to do with quilting.

I was not surprised. Nothing surprised me anymore. Everything in the house lately had do to with quilting. Not only did quilts insulate our house, cover beds, hang on every wall, and lay draped on every piece of furniture, quilts were pot holders and plastic bag holders and foot warmers and place mats.

Indeed, when I looked closer at the pieces of fabric I held in my hand, my suspicions were confirmed. There were several paper-pieced squares, paper still attached to their backsides, a row of assembly-line-sewn triangles still attached to each other in a long chain. There were several blocks made up of smaller squares. Along with the pillow case, I took them to my quilting boss, the Godmother of the notorious quilt family that had taken up residence in our home.

"I found these hidden away," I said to Darling Wife. She was standing at her ironing board assembling a new paper-pieced design from Carol Doak's new book. She looked at what I held.

"They weren't hidden away," she said. She reached for the pillow case but left me holding the squares and blocks.

"They were hidden in the back of the linen closet behind sheets and towels," I corrected. She was no innocent. But I knew she would not easily confess to malfeasance. She would have a quilter's explanation.

"I stored them there for a while," she said.

"You hid them!" I insisted, hammering home the truth as only a quilting spouse could. It was for her own good.

"All right, I hid them," she confessed.

"Why?" I asked. In the fourth dimension world of quilting, asking a quilter, "Why?" was a dangerous procedure, one in which the person asking the question risked life, limb, and a long happy marriage. Still, I held the evidence in hand. I had to pursue the matter regardless of what the answer might be. We had been through hard times before, and we could weather whatever came next.

"Bad blocks," she said.

"Bad blocks?" I asked. Had I heard her correctly?

"Squares and blocks that turned bad on me," she said.

"Bad squares and bad blocks?" I asked more forcefully.

"Infant criminals and juvenile delinquents and adult offenders," she said.

"Criminal blocks?"

"The worst kind," she said.

"They were in jail?" I was trying to understand.

"It was minimum security," she said.

"Show me," I said, and I handed her the blocks I was still holding, not realizing the extent of their crimes.

"Each one is rotten to the core," she said. She spread them out across the top of the ironing board.

"Show me," I repeated.

"Look at this one," she said, and she pointed to a blue and purple star design stitched onto muslin. I looked. "It started out fine, but then the quarter-inch I measured for the first seam became an eighth inch and then three-eighths, and then it disappeared. It was supposed to be a four-pointed star and it's now a pentagon. I think it's a pentagon."

"Definitely a well-pointed pentagon," I sadly agreed. "You must have been a beginner when you made this," I said, trying to comfort her.

"Last week," she said, not too comforted. "Now this one. Look." She reached for a block of four squares sewn together to form a bow-tie pattern. "They don't match up."

"They bow but they don't tie," I said helpfully.

"They don't match up," she said again.

"Are they all like this," I said before she could go on. If she was going to be miserable telling me about every one, I wanted to prevent it.

"Some have bad seams, some have bad stitching, some have the design reversed, some have points that don't point anywhere close to where they should, and they are all bad."

"Why didn't you throw them out?" I asked. It wasn't a real question. She had only thrown one thing away in two years of quilting, and that was a pattern she had bought at a quilt show that had mistakes in the directions and bad corrections of the mistakes. After cutting out the fabric for the pattern, fabric which later became part of a scrap quilt, she quickly began to hate the pattern. She kept it for months, locked away in a drawer, and then at one second after midnight on the morning of the year two-thousand, she dropped it with a New Year's bang into the trash.

"I might use them some day," she said.

"If they become rehabilitated?"

"If I run out of other things to do," she said.

"So I should put all these bad blocks back in jail now, in the cell block where I found them?"

"That would be a good idea," she said.

So I picked up all the squares and blocks from the ironing board and carried them off down the hall to the closet and stuffed them in behind an old blanket. "Bad blocks," I told them as I closed the closet door. Then I headed back toward her sewing room, passing one wall hanging after another. I patted each one with my hand. "Good blocks," I said, and they were. They are.


Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver

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