Coffee! I needed coffee. I rolled off the edge of the bed, crawled on my knees until I got a grip on the headboard, and lifted myself unsteadily until I was standing. My body listed from side to side as I went down the hall. Finally, my head dull and my body still asleep, I reached the kitchen. I pushed myself along the counter until I reached the coffeemaker. I reached for the handle of the carafe and the handle was missing. The whole carafe was missing. The coffeemaker was missing.
"The coffeemaker's missing," I said to my Darling Wife, who had gone to the kitchen long before me. But, there was no answer. She was missing as well. I looked again for the coffeemaker. The spot where it sat faithfully every morning was empty. The area around the coffeemaker was empty too. I reached for the toaster oven, but it was gone. The breadmaker was gone. The knife block was missing. "Everything's missing," I said to my missing wife. The whole counter was empty. Every appliance we owned and loved and which kept us alive and well each day was missing. "Help," I said as I began to collapse back into sleep. "Burglars," I said as I sat down heavily at the kitchen table.
"What burglars?" I heard as my head dipped toward the table top. It was the voice of salvation coming through the doorway from the garage off the kitchen.
"The coffeemaker's gone. Everything's gone," I said.
"I'm cleaning the counter," she said as she stepped into the room. She had a can of cleanser in one hand and a bottle of tile cleaner in the other.
"You're cleaning the counter?" I asked, unsure that I was speaking to the love of my life. Why was she cleaning the counter at four in the morning? "Why are you cleaning the counter before breakfast?" I asked, though I knew it was foolish to ask.
"It's the only place long enough to baste the quilt," she said as she put down the can and the bottle and picked up a sponge and began wiping at the counter top. "I measured it."
"You measured the counter?"
"Of course," she said.
Now, a man in better condition, a man who had already had his coffee and was alert to the world, a man who had lived with this quilting lady and understood every quirk, every idiosyncrasy a quilter might have, that man might have understood. But just then I was not that man. So I had to ask. "Why?"
"The table runner quilt won't fit on the kitchen table," she said as she rubbed at black spots left by the rubber feet of the heavy breadmaker.
"You made a table runner that was too big for the table and it's now a counter runner?" I asked. It sounded like a good question to my brain, though my brain felt as though it had a breadmaker in it.
"It's just too big for our table. It's not too big for every table," she said. She began wiping the counter clean with a wet dishcloth.
The toaster joined the breadmaker in my head. "What?"
"I need to baste the table runner I'm making for your brother. He has a big table. We have a small table. I knew you wouldn't want me to wake you up to drag out the banquet tables and set them up, so I looked around for a place to baste the quilt top to the batting and the backing and there's no other place in the house."
"No, there's no other place," I agreed. I knew why there was no other place in our house. She had taken it all. Slowly, openly and without a qualm, like an oil slick spreading over the ocean from an oil spill from a tanker, she and her quilting had taken over every inch of the house. Her fabric stashes (yes, plural), her batting, her sewing machines, her storage bins, her notions, her quilt books, all had joined in a conspiracy to cover the world. But the kitchen counter, too?
"Where's the coffee maker?" I asked.
"In the garage," she said. She dried the counter top.
"Is it all right to make coffee in there?" I asked, moving toward the garage in front of the house.
"Of course," she said.
"Thank you," I said.
That was, of course, in the early morning. By mid-morning she had her quilt sandwich spread out over the counter, a counter which previously had only known about turkey sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and toast and coffee and bread. I watched her begin to put in the small brass-coated #1 safety pins one by one. She turned and saw me watching her.
"It's just the right height," she said. "It's so comfortable to work at this level." She smiled. It was a quilter's smile, the worst kind.
"No," I said, understanding that smile too well. She was planning to capture and occupy the last free space left in the house, perhaps for all time. Where was NATO when I needed it?
"My back doesn't hurt working here," she said. She had a dozen pins in, all of them still open. She would take her little wooden Kwik Klip and close them all after they were all in. I had once tried helping her close the pins and had lost twelve fingers or so in the attempt.
"It's a counter top," I said quickly. "It's for toasters and coffee makers and teapots and breadmakers," I added in panic. I couldn't let her have it.
"Just once in a while," she said, that impish smile still spread across her devious face.
"How often is that?" I asked. Once, a long time ago in a land far away, she had told me she was only going to quilt once in a while. Hah!
"The counter's only wide enough for a table runner," she said, "a long table runner that won't fit anywhere else."
"You promise?" I asked. What is a quilter's promise worth? Do quilters know right from wrong? Are they even aware of their surroundings?
"For now," she said.
I just had a cup of coffee. I made it at the counter. The table runner is basted and back in the sewing room ready to be quilted. The coffee maker and all the other appliances are back now where they belong. All's right with the kitchen. For now.
Click here to see "Counter Quilt"
Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver
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