It was the Presidents' Day sale at the fabric shop, and when we arrived, expecting to have to face a frenzy of shoppers, what we saw were fabric shoppers not shopping, but standing around, all facing the same direction. We had been in this store a number of times since moving to our new home ten months before, but we had never seen anything like this. "What's happening?" I asked a clerk standing by the entrance to the store.
"Fabric fight," she said, and she told us what was going on.
Two women were fighting over the last three yards of a purple and blue batik, its sale price three dollars a yard, marked down from $7.98 a yard. Both women claimed to need that particular fabric as they both told everyone around them that it was the color of choice, that it would be just the finishing color they needed for their respective quilts, that the fabric represented the difference between a good quilt and a great quilt, and they both intended to have it or give up quilting forever. They were sisters, as everyone in the fabric shop knew, and it was said that they had fought over numerous sale items in that store for years.
"I don't understand why they have to fighting over it," I said as we moved in closer to be among the shoppers who were watching the sisters do battle. My Darling Wife asked my question to a woman standing next to her and then turned to me.
"It's the last three yards on the bolt and it's a beautiful piece of fabric, and the price is unbelievable, and I was told that these two women have never agreed on sharing anything," my quilting spouse passed on to me.
"But it's only a piece of fabric," I said.
She looked at me and made a gasping sound, put on, I knew, and she said in mock shock, "Only a piece of fabric?"
I knew I had said the wrong thing. "I'm just glad you're not that way," I said to change the subject. Now, the two women both had their hands on the opposite ends of the bolt and were having a tug of war. Each advanced a step closer to the cutting table where two clerks waited to see who the winner would be, and each warrior woman retreated a step as the other exerted more energy. The clerks did not seem bothered. They seemed to be emotionally involved in this end-of-the-bolt war, each smiling and grimacing and smiling again as the women fought to gain advantage over the other.
"You don't think I haven't had to fight over fabric?" my sweetheart asked then, moving herself in front of me to block my view of the battle.
"You wouldn't need to," I said gingerly, feeling out her mood. "You would have found some way to get what you wanted without fighting. I imagine you could be very sneaky in a fabric war."
"Well, you're wrong," she said.
"Wrong about what?" I moved sideways so that I could see that one of the sisters was on her knees and the other was dragging her sideways to the next aisle. The fabric was coming loose from the cardboard form.
"Wrong about my being a coward."
"I didn't say you were a coward. It takes bravery to avoid a fight, especially over some blue and purple piece of cloth." There was a cheer just then from several of the women who were now forming a circle around the gladiators. One of the sisters had the fabric to herself and was smiling victoriously. The other sister lay at her feet, her bare knees covered with dust from the floor.
"You remember that fabric with the Southwest design all over it that I bought?" my DW asked. She was turned away, looking at me directly, so she didn't see the woman on the floor grab her sister's leg and pull her down. Then the two sisters were dusting the floor together. There was a loud moan from the woman who thought she had claimed victory as the fabric, now almost completely unwound, was taken again by her sister.
"The fabric that you wouldn't cut up because you said it was too nice?" I asked my wife.
"And too valuable to me. I had to fight eight women for that. It was the last the store had."
"You fought eight women?" Well, if she had, she won, though I doubted there had been any fight. Civilized people just didn't fight over fabric. And my wife was civilized. Of course she was also quite tough and hard as steel from working out at the sewing machine day and night. So, if she had fought, she might have dealt the others a tremendous defeat.
"They tried to take the fabric from me. I was having it measured when a woman grabbed it off the table, claimed it was hers, and tried to run away with it. Then seven other women shouted out that they wanted it, too."
"So what did you do?" I listened to this fantasy as the sisters both, again, tugged at the fabric between them. The three yards of sacred fabric was now completely unwound and twisted as if both women were wringing out water from a wet towel.
"I screamed," said my darling as she continued her story. "Everyone stopped moving and looked at me. I lunged for the fabric and got it back to the counter and had it measured before anyone could move again."
"That was fast," I said, "and a good tactic maneuver . What did the others finally do?"
"Two settled for a brown crush. One bought some dark blue marble, and one bought a kit to make a stained glass lily. I didn't stay to see what the others bought."
"Magnanimous in victory, were you?" I asked, disbelieving the whole story. She nodded and then quickly turned away from me, and in that moment, she was lost from my view. I could, however, see that the two sisters were no longer fighting.
The crowd of spectators had dispersed and the shoppers were moving around the shop to buy their own fabric. I finally saw the two sisters leaning against a notions rack, both exhausted, hugging, their arms around each other. Then I noticed their hands. They were empty. The fought-over fabric, the prize of battle was gone.
Well, I would never understand the necessity for the fight in the first place. The store was full of fabric. Most of it was nice and some of it was beautiful, and there should have been plenty for everyone. Even my wife, who was then coming away from the checkout stand, regardless of what tales she might spin, even she would never get in such a fight.
"Did you finally find something you liked?" I asked as we left the store.
"Yes, of course," she said, and she opened up her bag to show me what she bought. I looked inside the bag to see three yards of rather wrinkled and twisted purple and blue batik. Uh-oh!
(That's "almost" the way it was!)
Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver
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