"I can't work any faster," she said.

"What?" I had been talking about Hurricane Floyd in the Atlantic Ocean and that was her response to some mystery statement I hadn't made.

"I'm quilting as fast as I can," she said. She was sewing paper and fabric together. "I'm in a pressure cooker."

"Slow down," I said, speaking of her hurried words, but it could have applied to her quilting as well. She had been working non-stop the past three days since her last order of Hoffman Batiks had come to our door, the postal worker overworked all this week delivering packages to our house.

"I can't use up the fabric any faster," she said.

"You're trying to use up all your fabric?" I asked. Maybe I was getting close.

"I don't have room for any more fabric, but you ordered more and I have to use it before the next order comes in."

"I ordered more for you because you said you needed more because you wanted to try the new stained-glass windows paper-pieced blocks and you wanted the batiks just for that, and you said you were too busy to order for yourself.

"But when it comes, then I want to use it. I have to use it. It's too nice not to use."

"But you said before that the fabric was too nice to use, that you wanted to save it all forever."

"That was before. This is now," she said, and, of course, that explained everything there was to know about this quilter's thought pattern and her brain's organization.

"There's one more order coming in the mail today," I said knowingly after receiving confirmation of it from the fabric store the day before. She had forgotten the order she had called in a week before.

"Don't let me see it."

"You said you needed to choose the colors for the sunflower. You had me order golds and yellows and browns, all those solids and water colors and hand-painted batiks."

"Then all is lost," she said, wiping her arm across her pretty quilter's brow, her arm in the exaggerated motion of someone saying, "Woe is me."

"We could find some place for storage," I said, the idea foolish before I even said it. There was no storage space left in our house. Not an inch.

"Well, there's the shower stall," she said. Then she added, "No, we need that now that the tub is full of stash."

"I wasn't thinking," I said, but I had been thinking. She was desperate enough to empty the house of everything if need be. If need be she would explain the need for more space as preparation for Y2K. If we stored extra water, extra canned goods, all the essentials to carry us well into the year 2000, then why not Y2K fabric?

"I'll just work faster," she said in voice full of dismay.

"You can quilt a hundred hours a day for the next year and you won't make a dent," I said.

"There are only twenty-four hours in a day," she said, correcting me, "and I need a couple of hours to eat and sleep."

"I could tell the post office to hold our mail until next April," I said. "I'll put in a change-of-address card." I should have done that long before her name was sold around the world to every quilting supplier in the world. Did we really need that quilt catalog from Australia? Did we need our name on the mailing list from England?

"The FBI will arrest us," she said.

"Why would they do that?" I asked. The FBI still had to deal with Waco.

"For interfering with the mail. Once fabric is ordered it has to be delivered."

"Is that a federal law?" I asked.

"It's a quilter's law."

"Do they have a rule for women who are quilting themselves into lint?"

"I'm not lint," she said. "Besides, there are people who have made quilts out of lint." So there, her voice told me.

"What if I put the new fabric in the trunk of the car until you're ready for it?" I asked.

"It could get stolen, and then when I needed some curry-colored batik, I wouldn't have it, and I'd have to order more."

"You have curry fabric," I said, but I guessed telling her that wouldn't work.

"I used it this morning," she said.

"That was fast," I said. "It just came yesterday."

"I'm on a merry-go-round," she said. "I can't get off and I'm getting dizzy."

"A quilter-go-round," I said, trying to lighten the moment. She seemed in more distress than ever.

"I'll hire some help," I said. Why not? "I'll hire a whole quilting guild and its members can use up all your fabric in no time. And if the guild here in town isn't enough, I'll go out of town."

She thought for a moment before answering. "I don't have room for another fat quarter let alone twenty or thirty or a hundred women making short shrift out of all my stash.

"Do you know that shrift means a confession and short shrift was a quickly-given short confession from a convicted prisoner just before execution."

"That doesn't have anything to do with my quilting."

"No, but you're quilting like a chicken running around without its head."

"Stop right there. All I was asking for was a little understanding, and now you're telling me about executing chickens who didn't have enough time to confess. I'm trying to make a quilt here and you're slowing me down with all this talk."

"Slowing you down?"

"To a standstill," she said, suddenly aware that her hands had stopped pushing fabric. Her machine had stopped. She looked at me. I looked at her. She looked at me.

"Promise you'll hide the new fabric where I can't find it," she pleaded.

"I promise," I said.

"And make me take a break now and then," she went on.

"Now's a good time for a break," I said.

"And you won't order any more fabric even when I ask you to?"

"I promise." I also promised myself not to tell her about the two other orders she had forgotten about. They would arrive in a day or two, but I would just have to hide them as well. I had to.

Click here to see Pressure Quilt

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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