The Vault




"Hah!" she said. She was reading her quilting magazines at the table as we ate breakfast. I looked up from my newspaper and looked at her. Her face was flushed a light pink.

"What's the matter?" I asked. She didn't answer right away. I kept watching her face. The pink turned to red. She wrinkled her nose. Her brow furrowed. Her eyes tightened.

"Hah! Hoo! Hey," she said, spitting out each word.

"I take it something's really the matter," I said.

"You can say that again."

"I take it something's the matter."

"Stash destruction," she said. "Stash demolition. Feh!"

"Feh?" What was she reading to get her so incensed?

"I'd hate to live in her house, her neighborhood, her city. There'd be riots all over the place. Traffic would become terrible. People wouldn't be able to get out of their houses." The color in her face began to fade. Her eyes opened and sparkled. Her brow smoothed out.

"Riots?" I asked.

"They've probably already started."

"What kind of riots?" I asked.

"Stash riots," she said as she finally got back her smile.

"Oh," I said. That was certainly clear to me. "Go on," I said patiently. I sipped my coffee. She looked at me and sipped her coffee. She put down her cup on her empty plate and took the plate and cup to the sink while I waited for an answer. "Well?" I asked. I knew she would have plenty to say.

"Reductions in force, elimination, downsizing, degrading the supply, fabric cutbacks. Some woman thinks I should slash my stash."

"Sounds dangerous," I said. She was a puzzlement.

"Come in here," she said. She beckoned me to follow her as she skipped happily out of the kitchen into her cutting room, our old pantry, the small room off the kitchen that was once her office before she retired.

I assumed I was finished with my breakfast, though the last piece of bagel still sat on my plate, the last few ounces of coffee still warm in my cup. I got up and followed her into one more part of her sewing queendom. "Yes?"

"Look around," she said in answer.

I looked around. I had been in the room a thousand times. Nothing in it looked new or odd or out of place. "What?"

"My stash," she said. "Do you think I should get rid of some of it?"

"God forbid," I said. Was she serious?

"Do you think I have too much fabric?" She was serious.

"You probably need more," I said. This room was her vault. It held enough fabric to make quilts for each of the 250,000 people in our city. Only the sewing room held more fabric. It was her collection, her treasure, her riches. How many trips had we made to fabric stores? The fabric was her life blood, the plasma that each day transfused her from a feeble invalid to a healthy and vibrant human being.

"That woman in the magazine said I had to get rid of it," she said.

"You don't have to get rid of one inch," I said. "What woman?" Who would dare to question her stash, let alone even hint at her parting with one piece before she miraculously turned it into another lap quilt or bed quilt or wall hanging?

"Some woman who doesn't understand who I am, what I am."

"I understand," I said encouragingly. I had better understand why she stores the fabric in her vault.

"A woman told you to get rid of your stash?" Who could believe such a thing?

"It was quoted that she wrote in some book that people who sew should get rid of their stash if they have too much. That way they'll know what they have and won't have clutter." Now her face was getting pink again. She was beginning to breath in and out in tiny puffs of air.

"You would never do that," I said. "Your fabric isn't clutter," I said. Actually, it was very well arranged.

"It's beautiful," she said, turning like some Fairy Godmother as she waved her wand (all right, her arm and hand), turning herself as she once again showed me her vast collection of Moda and Kona and Debbie Mumm, and Hoffman and Timeless Treasures and Robert Kaufman and Benartex and Maywood and Rose & Hubble and Marcus Brothers and other fabrics.

"Maybe I should get an alarm," she added.

"An alarm?" The house already had an alarm.

"For my vault. No one's going to come in here and take away my fabric. Not now. Not ever." Every muscle in her petite body tightened as she balled up her fists.

"You're right," I said. I never disagree when she's talking about her quilting territory.

"The nerve of someone trying to mess with my stash," she said as she unclenched her fists and started to feel the fabric. Her muscles loosened as she lifted each cut and washed and folded piece and held it gently in her hands. She seemed to swoon. And then her smile returned as she picked up the latest fabric catalog that had come in the mail two days before. I saw a new gleam in her eyes.

"Maybe some bars on the window?" I suggested. If she wanted security after reading that provocative woman's words, why not?

"I'd like to put her behind bars." She turned to face me, her hands on her hips in a defiant stand. "Are you sure I don't have too much stash?"

"You can never have enough," I said. I took her by her defiant elbows and steered her back into the kitchen. She seemed fine now, recovered from her reading trauma, and I really wanted that last bit of bagel and last sip of coffee.

"You're right," she said as I went for my food. She stopped me. "You can finish that later. We need to go shopping now for more fabric."

"Shopping? What about your New Year's resolution not to buy any more fabric for awhile."

"That was before I read this article. Now it's war. Someone has to prevent all the quilters from giving up their stash. I have to set an example. And then there's Y2K," she added.

"Y2K?" I asked.

"Just in case there really is a computer problem in 2000, I'd better have a big stockpile. Everyone who's worried says to stockpile food and water, lots of cash, and lots of stash. I have to buy more stash."

"I didn't hear about the stash," I said.

"I just added that. It's a good idea, isn't it?"

"Absolutely," I said.

"That'll teach those anti-stashers," she said.

"That'll teach them all," I said.

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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