Square Thieves




"9-1-1. Call 9-1-1." I heard her desperate words as I was shaken in my sleep, my chest pounded by her cute tiny hands.

"What?" I said, half mumble, half snore. I had been sleeping so nicely, too.

"Call the police," she said. I opened my eyes and stared into her face right above mine.

"Are you all right?" I asked, suddenly becoming aware of what she was saying. I raised myself up. "Are you all right?" I asked, urgently now.

"I think someone's broken in."

"Here? Now? In the house?" I looked around. I looked at the clock. It was two a.m.

"Not now. No one's here now," she said. Her words were rushed, gasping. She took a deep breath and slowed down.

"My squares," she said.

"What? Are you sure you're all right?" I sat up as she stood by the bed. She certainly looked all right.

"Someone broke in to get all my squares," she said.

"What squares?" I looked at her face. I looked at her eyes. Then I knew she was talking about her quilting squares.

"I made forty-nine of them," she said. "Twenty-five nine-patch squares and twenty-four snowball squares."

"And you think someone came in and took them?" I asked. I began to relax. There was no need for police. No need for 9-1-1. There was no emergency. She had been working too hard. She was exhausted. For three days she had been sewing squares for her new quilt. Several times I had been able to butt in, to get her to eat, to go for a walk. But ever since she had come back from her second lesson in how to make a Snowball Quilt, she was so inspired, so intent, she had to get the squares ready for her next class. Though she had two weeks, she did it in three days.

"I heard a noise," she said. "I knew someone wanted to take my snowballs."

"Did you look to see if they were still there?" I asked. I knew where they should have been. The afternoon before she had sent me to Home Depot to buy a piece of Masonite, to take an old flannel bed sheet, to make her a flannel board. The completed board was in the living room, every inch of it covered by forty-nine squares, all the squares arranged as they would be when she sewed them all together to make the top of her quilt.

"I want you to look," she said.

"You really think someone took them?"

"They're good squares," she said. "Go look."

"All right," I said, lifting my two a.m. body, which was very sleepy and hard to move, but I dragged myself down the hall to the living room. She waited in the bedroom.

I turned on the light, looked at the bookcases where I had last seen the flannel board leaning against the shelves. I saw the board and forty-nine squares. The pattern for the quilt looked fine, too. She had done a good job for her first quilt top.

"Everything's here," I shouted down the hall, but my words were sleepy too and came out softly and took a while to reach her. I followed after them and went to her side.

"I must have dreamed it," she said.

"You dreamed it?"

"I had a quiltmare," she said apologetically. "It seemed so real."

"A quiltmare?" Well, why not? For two weeks that's all that's been on her mind. "What's real," I said, "is that it's two o'clock in the morning and I am very tired and you are very tired and I think you should go back to sleep so I can go back to sleep."

"You have to lock them up," she said.

"The doors are all locked," I said. "The burglar alarm's on. Everything's safe."

"You need to lock up the squares," she said.

"You want to lock up the squares so they'll be safe?" I asked.

"I just said that. Don't you listen?" I looked contrite and she went on. "I read in a quilting magazine last week that squares are stolen all the time. One woman lost all her squares to a square thief."

"I've never seen a square thief," I said. "Are there round thieves as well?" She swung a fist at me, but she was too sleepy to connect.

"Get a chain. Don't you have a big chain?" she said.

"I have chains for the car tires," I said.

"The squares should be safe," she said. "I worked a long time on them. They should be locked up with lots of chains."

"Yes, you did work on them a long time," I said in a husbandly fashion. "And that's why you need to reward yourself with a lot of sleep."

"You think they'll be safe?" she asked, her voice full of hope and hesitation both.

"Yes, of course," I said as I led her back to reality. She lay down on the bed. I stood by her side until she fell asleep. I went back into the living room, looked at the work she had done, smiled to myself, She had spent the afternoon arranging the squares and rearranging them until she had the design the exact way she wanted it. She deserved her sleep. I turned out the lights. Now it was my turn to sleep.

Instead, I lay in bed, my eyes wide open, my ears alert for the sound of anyone trying to break into our well-locked, well-alarmed house. Either that, or I was having a quiltmare myself and was ready to believe that our house, our block, our neighborhood was full of square thieves and burglars, all waiting for me to fall asleep so they could sneak into our house and steal 49 well-made quilting squares. It could happen, you know. They are very valuable squares. My Darling Wife made them.

Copyright A.B. Silver 1998

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