"I need a hand," she said. She stood next to me at the kitchen table as I took what was going to turn out to be my last sip of coffee for the morning.
"A hand or a whole body?" I asked. I knew her code. I knew she wouldn't be content with just a hand. But I didn't know she would want my whole body.
"Come on," she said in a tone that would tolerate no further questions. I was to be hers. Mine was not to reason why.
I managed to put my cup and empty breakfast plate onto the kitchen counter before she whisked me out of the kitchen and into the living room. "What? What is it?" I asked.
"I need to baste the quilt," she said.
"You have the top all finished?" I asked, surprised that it was done. The night before she still had the last border to sew on.
"I've been up since two," she said.
"And you finished the top?" I asked without purpose. Of course she had finished the top. "And you finished the back, too?" She nodded ever so slightly, and that was enough to know she had been one very busy bee.
"I need a hand in making the squilt," she said. She was ready to sandwich the top and the batting and the back.
"You want me to help you put it together?" I was bewildered. Perhaps she hadn't had enough sleep. If I touched the quilt she was making, it would fall apart. It would disintegrate before our eyes. I was as handy with a piece of fabric and a needle and thread as a hibernating bear, which is one animal I envied just then.
"Of course not," she said with that cute little dismissing laugh of hers. "I need room to spread the quilt out so I can baste it."
"In here?" I asked, bewildered as I looked around the living room, looked at the sectional, the fireplace, the table of plants by the window, the coffee table, the stereo system, the television, the clear lack of space for anything more.
"It's the only place in the house with enough room," she insisted.
"I can move the coffee table, I suppose," I said. If I moved the coffee table there might be just enough space to lay the squilt on the carpeted floor.
"I can't work on the floor," she said, putting a quick end to that idea.
"So?" I asked, which of course is the worst question in the world to ask when I would have been much better off just running out of the house, getting into the car, and driving 3000 miles to the east Coast, regardless of what the weather was.
"I want you to bring in the folding tables and set them up."
I laughed, but it was a very short laugh. "In here?"
"I need lots of room," she said. "You'll have to move something."
"I'll have to move something," I muttered to myself. "I'll have to move something," I said to her. I hoped she would appreciate my smile as I spoke. What I would have to move was the ten-ton sectional.
"I'll help," she said. Hah!
She helped all right. She steered me as I swung my body low ("sweet chariot"), put my back to one side of the couch ("tote that barge"), and grunted a while without budging the couch one bit ("that lucky old sun has nothing to do but roll around heaven all day").
She helped all right. She pointed at the hearth eight feet away and said, "Just push it over here."
I pushed. I shoved. I stood up and straightened out twenty-two kinks in my back. I pulled. I grunted. I stooped over. I pushed some more. The couch moved an inch, another inch, a third inch. "Is that enough?" I asked.
"Just a drop more," she said.
And so it went. Eight lives later, I had the section up against the hearth. I had moved the coffee table. I had taken the plants and the table they were on away from the window. I had cleared a space large enough for the overseer to work. I had depleted my body of any energy it might ever have again and had pulled every muscle in my body to a place where no muscle had gone before.
"Now you can bring in the tables and set them up," she said.
"I've been up since two," she said. That was answer enough. I went into the garage to get the two six-foot long banquet tables we used twice a year when we had enough courage to have our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren over for dinner all at one time.
Of course, when I was in the garage, I looked at the tables and seriously considered what life was like before she took up quilting. Before, she only had two rooms devoted to her sewing. Now, it seemed, the living room had been added to her sewing estate.
So, I gave up on ever knowing my body again and maneuvered the two tables through the kitchen, through doorways that weren't designed for any easy passage, and into the living room, where they just happened to set up into one large "quilting table."
"Good job," my Darling Wife said. That gracious acknowledgment of my work was my only reward (except for the loss of 6 gallons of sweat and three pounds). But it was certainly reward enough.
"Now you have a place to work," I said.
"It's very nice," she said, but she said it in a very odd way.
"Well," she said sweetly.
"Well, what?" I said, less sweetly.
"Well, while you were in the garage I called Sharon at the quilting shop and asked her advice and she offered me her tables. She has those four big tables, and I can spread everything out so much better and tape down the back and she's there to help me, so I'm going to baste the quilt there. I'll be back soon," she said.
"You'll be back soon?" I asked. I had already lost my body. Was I about to lose my mind? "What about this room."
"Oh, leave it the way it is. I'll need the tables when I start the machine quilting. I'll just move my sewing machine in here. You don't mind, do you?"
The quilt is basted now, and I am resting now. I think I'll just rest here a while longer. A while longer. A while longer. A while longer....
Copyright 1998 by A.B. Silver
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