"No, I can't do it," she said as we sat at the kitchen table after finishing breakfast. She closed her eyes tightly and balled her small hands into tiny fists.

"What can't you do?" I asked. She was my Darling Wife. She could do everything.

"I've lost it," she answered without answering my question. She opened her hands and pressed her fingers to the table top.

"Somewhere in the kitchen?" I asked, not knowing what she'd lost, but it seemed it was something valuable the way she looked.

"It's no use. My brain is stuck."

"You have a stuck brain?" I knew she had had some crackers with peanut butter just moments before. Maybe the peanut butter was stuck to the roof of her mouth."

"It's been empty since yesterday," she said.

"I thought it was stuck. Now it's empty, too?" I'm nothing if not a patient husband.

"It is stuck and empty," she said.

"This is something serious?" I asked. To me, this was something serious.

"I lost all my ideas again," she said. That was serious, though I wasn't sure what she was trying to tell me.

"Where did you lose them?" I asked. Maybe I could help her find them. I found her glasses once in 1977 when they had fallen behind the bed. "In the bedroom? The kitchen? The sewing room?"

She buried her head in her hands. She looked so forlorn.

"The sewing room," I guessed. "Your brain got stuck in the sewing room and you lost your ideas there so now your head is empty?" I thought I was getting close.

"I was doing that last appliqué on the wall hanging and instead of concentrating on my quilt, I started thinking about my visit to the dentist last week; then, I remembered being up in the mountains last summer, and I thought about the holidays and our grandchildren, and my mind wandered away from the appliqué and the quilt, and then I looked at the fish I put on the wall hanging, and I couldn't remember what a fish was."

"A fish is an aquatic vertebrate of the superclass Pisces, characteristically having fins, gills, and a streamlined body," I told her.

"That's nice," she said. I waited for more of a response. "Do you want salmon for dinner?" she asked. Now she had lost her train of thought.

"Salmon's good," I said helpfully. "But what about finishing your wall hanging, fish and all?"

"No, I can't finish anything. All morning I just sat at the sewing machine and my mind turned fuzzy and black and everything that was in there poured out onto the quilt and sewing machine and chair and floor."

I envisioned a Noah's flood of brain cells in her sewing room. "All right, so you can't finish the wall hanging. You can start something new."

"I can't make another anything. I don't remember how to quilt. I don't have any ideas for any more designs. I am a lost soul wandering in the dry desert without hope."

"Are you thirsty?" I asked. Desert talk always makes me thirsty.

"I'm thirsty for ideas."

"Is it a big desert?" I asked. We had once hiked in Death Valley. Now, that was a desert.

"I'm not in the desert anymore," she said. "I'm in the kitchen. But I have a block."

Now when she says block, I know she is talking about her quilting. "Don't you want to quilt?" I asked gently.

"I'm all blocked up," she said. "I can't quilt anything."

"Maybe if you had some more fiber," I suggested.

"Not that kind of block, Blockhead. I have quilters block. Sometimes that happens."

"But you never had a block before. Not even quilters block."

"I do now,' she moaned. "What am I going to do?"

"You have to go back in there," I said.


"You can't let it win," I said. I didn't know what I was saying, but I had watched a lot of those old movies where the hero is down and out and some old man tells the boxer to get back in the ring, the flyer to get back in the plane, the swimmer to get back in the water, the cowboy to get back on the horse. "You got to get back into the sewing room and turn on that machine and let it know who you are." I am old enough to say things like that.

"Do you think so," she asked. "Do you think I can do it?" she asked.

"Victory is yours," I said. "Now get in there and thread that machine."

"All right," she exclaimed. "Oh, yes!" she exclaimed. And in a bound, she was up out of her chair, leaping over the table, zooming down the hall. In moments I heard the sewing machine running.

It took an hour, but then she called me. I went to her.

"Look at this," she said as I approached her. I saw heat waves rising from the sewing machine. I looked at the ocean she held hanging from her hands. She had completed the top of the wall hanging. Boats sailed in the breeze. The sea waves were gentle. The fish swam happily.

"It's a miracle of nature," I said in amazement.

"I had this idea...." she said.

"Then your brain...."

"My brain's back," she said.

"The block's gone?"

"My brain is full again," she said.

"Then we can celebrate?" I asked. The words came out before I engaged my own brain.

"This is my celebration. Now get out of here," she said. "I have my ideas back and lots of new quilts to do."

I got out. I walked back to the kitchen and found a nectarine in the refrigerator and took a bite of it and wondered who invented quilting and why.

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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