The F Word




"Something has to go," I said to her last week as we signed a contract to get a new air conditioning unit. Our 27 year old unit was not working very well in our hot summers (where 95 degrees is considered cool) and the ductwork on the air conditioner seemed to be leaking 90 percent of the cooled air into the surrounding neighborhood. Our backyard birds were skipping the bird baths around the neighborhood and were hanging around in the 60 degree drafts of air escaping from our house.

"You mean my fabric has to go," she said as I sent off a check for her most recent order of coordinated fat quarters and more rolls of batting for more quilts she just had to sew to use up the fabric.

"You'll have to take a break for awhile," I said. I was being honest with her. It was for her own good. Her supply would now dry up and she would have to rely on her current stash for whatever moments of sheer pleasure she brought herself when she touched a piece of 100 percent cotton. Though it had cooled off outside to 92 degrees the past day, October still had plenty of hot days left, and the air conditioning was vital. Of course, she agreed. Her fabric needed a cool environment as much as we did. For us it was a matter of staying alive. For the fabric it was the matter of being happy.

"I won't say another word about fabric," she said.

"You'll still think about it," I said.

"I'll try not to," she said, "but you'll have to help. You're the enabler. You're the one who keeps finding all those photos of quilts on the Internet and calling me in to see them, and when I do, I want to buy more fabric."

"I won't mention the word again," I said.


I thought then about the word "fabric," wondering still as I had for the past few years, when the name changed from what I knew growing up as "material" to what was now commonly called fabric. Most people I had grown up around referred to material when talking about suits and dresses. "I bought some nice material for a new dress," my mother might have said, or, "That suit will fall apart because the material is so cheap," as my father might have argued.

So, as I still thought of what I saw in her quilting catalogues and quilt shops as material, I had no fear of saying anything that might inadvertently bring on a fabric attack from my Darling Wife. I looked forward to a cool house, not another bill from a quilt shop.


For several days she went about her quilting. I went about my quiet life of reclining, resting, and relaxing. Then, as luck or fate or the Quilt Goddess would have it, I went to get a video tape and watch a film. In the closet with the tapes was a package of fat quarters. I had found another cache of hidden stash.

"Honey," I said as I brought my wife's hidden booty down the hall to her sewing room. "I found this in the closet with the video tapes," I said.

"What is it?" she asked without looking up from the quilt she was finishing, her hands moving the material as the sewing machine turned the quilt sandwich into a quilt.

"I found this fabric," I began, but I didn't finish. She turned from her quilting and looked sharply up at me.

"You did it," she said.

"What?" I asked, bewildered.

"You promised me you wouldn't say it."

"It? What it?" I held the assortment of fat quarters out to her, but she didn't look at it. She stared me down.

"You said the F word," she said.

"I did?" What F word. "What did I say?" I asked.

"You said the F word and you promised to help me get the monkey off my back," she said.

"What monkey?" I didn't see anything on her back except the end of the quilt she had draped over her shoulder as she fed the other end of it through the machine.

"You know how much I want the air conditioning," she said.

"What F word?" I insisted.

"And you know how difficult it is for me to go an hour, let alone three days, without giving in. And now you push me off the wagon with your language."

"I'm going to watch a video," I said, very confused.

"Fabric," she said, suddenly looking at the package I still held in my hand. "You said fabric. F-A.B-R-I-C. The F word." She reached out for the package.

"Fabric is the F word?" I pulled the package back before she could take hold of it.

"Of course fabric is the F word. What are you trying to do to me? I was being so good. I wasn't even thinking of ordering the seven yards of Stack-n-Whack hibiscus fabric or the four sets of color-coordinated fat quarters or the five extra-wide yards of floral fabric for the quilt backings." She reached for the package again. This time, as I was still listening to what she was saying and was seriously distracted, she grabbed the package away from me and looked inside.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to say it."

"I should wash your mouth out with soap," she said.

"I deserve it," I said. I bowed my head in regret and then looked up. "I apologize," I said.

"We'll it's too late now," she said. The cat is out of the bag, the milk is spilled, the horses have already left the starting gate."

"What? Huh?"

"You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube," she said. She held the found stash (formally known as hidden stash) out of the plastic bag and smiled at it.

"It's nice material," I said, avoiding the F word, but it really was too late.

"It was just a little stash I was saving because it wasn't enough to make the quilt I bought it for," she said. "Now, I'll have to order more of it or it will go to waste," she said.

None of what she said was any explanation for her having to buy more fabric, but I knew what I had to do. "Order all you want," I said, and then I prayed that cool weather would come soon so we wouldn't need the new air conditioning we might now never get--all because of the F word.

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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