Ten's the Limit




"Do you think I'll need one of those Kevlar vests?"

"No one's going to shoot at you."

"Elbows. Some of them have really sharp elbows."

"I don't think so," I said. "How about my knees?"

"A bulletproof vest won't help you there."

"How about gloves?"

"You won't be able to sort through the fabrics."

"Then I guess I'm ready. Are you ready?"

"Yes," I said, and we set off on our journey to the fabric shop for its holiday sale. She had her list of fabrics and notionss tight in her hand. As everything was on sale, she had an ample list.

"If I find more than ten, you have to help."

"What?" I asked as we drove into the parking lot. Already cars filled the lot. It was five minutes before opening.

"There's a limit of ten items for the sale. If I can find more than that, you'll have to take them to the cash register for me."

"Isn't that cheating?" I asked.

"Of course not. It's ten items per customer. You're a customer."

"Then I'll have to wait in line. You know how I hate that. There will be ten thousand people in line."

"Just hold on to the fabric as tightly as you can."

"You think someone might take it from me?"

"If they think you're a wimp."

"A fabric wimp?" I asked.

"You have to be strong. Today is the first sale day after Thanksgiving. It's the biggest sale day. You do remember the last big sale we went to?"

"It was a bloody day," I said. I remember that day well.

"Well, we're not going to be bloodied today. We're just going to go in, get all we can, and get out. Just avoid the crowded aisles. If we circle around the side through crafts and back to the sewing machines and past the books and magazines, we can get to the fabric shelves while the others get gridlocked in the aisles."

"You've worked this all out, haven't you?"

She smiled. "People who quilt know how to plan," she said.

"Something like planning a quilt?"

"Exactly," she said, but she gave me that look.

At the entrance were two men wearing dark suits and wearing black hats. "Who are they?" I asked my wife. She shook her head.

"I don't know. Maybe they quilt."

"They're bodyguards," said a whispered voice behind me. I turned slightly. "That women in front," the voice said. "She brought protection. Last time she was here she got trampled in the rush."

I looked around, but I could see no woman who might need protection. After all, it was just a sale. Nevertheless, I stood close to my wife. "So are you ready to go in?" I asked. I was proud of my petite warrior. I would be her bodyguard.


We charged in. We followed her plan, breaking off from the surge of customers who went straight down the center aisle and formed an impenetrable wall to anyone behind them. We scooted through the crafts section, avoided the few stray women who had broken free to shop for notions, and we came to the fabric. It was deja vu. I had been here before. I shuddered as I remembered that last big sale. But I took a deep breath and took up my position to block the aisle as my Darling Wife dashed for the batiks first.

"Watch it," a woman said as she crashed into me. A man who had been with her backed off and darted away to safety behind a display of Christmas decorations. He thought he was safe, but a million people rushed toward the Christmas ornaments. No one that day was safe.

"Sorry," I said to the woman.

She paid my apology no attention but elbowed her way past me. "Oof," I said as I felt her elbow. Maybe my wife was right about needing a bullet proof vest.

"What are you doing in this store?" a puzzled woman asked me. She held a yard-long list of items and whisked past me before I could explain what this old guy was doing in a fabric store on a sale day. Or any day. Would she understand what it was like to be married to a quilting fanatic, or would it be better to plead insanity?

"Ouch," a woman screamed as her fingers got caught in a drawer when it was slammed closed by a woman needing the drawer just below.

"That muslin is mine," a woman said as she yanked the sale fabric out of the hand of another.

"Do you think I should get two yards or three," an obvious fabriholic asked me. Did I really look someone who would know?

"Depends on the quilt," I said. "Some quilts are small. Some are large." So there!

"Clear the way. I'm coming through," another woman shouted as she tried to break out of the huddle of squeezing and squirming quilting enthusiasts (I am being kind here). Finally, amidst a lot of pushing and shoving and groaning and complaining, she almost broke through to freedom and the checkout stand. She pushed a cart full of fabric bolts. But she got no farther. The group moved back in around her and a thousand hands grabbed at the fabric in her cart, and in a moment she was left empty-handed. I turned away. I didn't want to see her cry.

"Poor woman," I said.

"Don't pity her," a husky voice said. I turned to a tall woman who held some of the captured booty. "She got what she deserved. She came in here the other day and hid away all those bolts under some remnants in the back of the store. She cheated."

There was combat here, I knew then. I became fearful for my wife. I couldn't see her. But I soon realized I shouldn't have worried. Hadn't I been through this before?

"Hah!" I soon heard from behind the riot of people now crowded around the notion tables, and that was a good sound. That was my Darling Wife's cry of success.

I don't know how she did it, but as if some Moses had his hand in it, the sea of women surrounding her parted, and there she came, my hero. She came a bit out of breath, a bit disheveled, but otherwise unscathed. And she pushed her own cart full of the fabrics and notions, the cart tightly held, her hands and arms chaining the cart to her body.

"Take ten," she said, and I relaxed, but then I realized she wasn't talking about a break. I took ten items from her cart. She held on to the other ten.

"That was fun," she said as she led me to the cutting table and then the cashier.

"Yes, joyful." I said. Of course. She was still alive.

"You have money for them, don't you?" she asked then as we got in line to pay.

"Yes, I have money for them," I answered. I wouldn't have to drive her to the emergency room. I wouldn't have to pay for medical care and bandages. Yes, of course, I had money for her.

Copyright 2005 by A.B. Silver


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