"Cat got your tongue?"
"Cat's in the cradle."
"While the cat's away."
"Cat in the Hat."
"A cat has nine lives."
"Curiosity killed the cat."
"So you won't tell me what you're working on?" I asked.
"Why am I not surprised? What kind of quilt?" I assumed it had something to do with a cat. When I had asked her, she had begun reciting cat phrases. But she had never wanted to do a cat quilt. We are both allergic to cats. They make us sneeze and wheeze. We had once had a cat, a stray we had adopted when she was pregnant with our first child. When she had begun to have asthma attacks we assumed it was from the farmland that surrounded our first home. Later we discovered it was from the cat. A cat hair will constrict our throats and blur our eyes with tears. But we love cats. Maybe a cloth cat would be safe.
"A quilt for Jennifer," she said. Jenny was our niece. She loved cats. She had cats.
"A quilt with a cat?" I finally asked. Might as well get it out in the open.
"Twenty-four cats," she said.
"Oh," I said.
"What do you think?" she asked when she had finished twenty-four cats and had sewn them together. I saw a variety of fabrics sewn together.
"I thought you were making a cat quilt," I said. Wrong answer. "I mean...."
"These are cats. Look."
I looked. "Yes, they could be cats," I said.
"They are cats," she repeated.
"Cat's have whiskers," I said.
"Not all cats," she said.
"And eyes, And a nose. And a tail," I said.
"Maybe eyes," she said "But eyes are a lot of work."
"The cats have to see," I said.
"They're not real cats," she said.
"They need to see. And smell."
"It's only fair," I said.
"And a tail, no doubt."
"Not to mention the mouth."
"You mentioned it," she said.
"You're the cat's meow,' I said.
She worked on the cats. I did not. "They'll have beady eyes," she said at dinner that night."
"Mean eyes? Suspicious eyes?" I asked.
"No, just beady eyes. I'm using the beads left over from the dragonfly I made last year."
"Will they be able to see?" I asked.
"The cats will, not the beads."
"The cats will be able to see with beads for eyes?"
"These are special cats."
"Will they be able to smell and taste and eat?" I asked.
"They're made out of fabric. I'm quilting on the noses and mouths."
"You can spray them with perfume. Then they'll smell," I said.
"Then you'll sneeze from your allergy to perfume and I'll sneeze from my allergy, and the cats will sneeze, too."
"The cats have allergies?" I asked.
"They're quilt cats," she said. I detected a touch of exasperation in her voice, and her eyes seemed to show impatience with me, and her eyes were not beady.
"Jenny will like everything about these cats," I said. "Will she need cat litter?" I asked.
"Jenny already has cat litter. She has real cats. Now, go away so I can do the noses and mouths and tails."
"For appearance's sake," I said.
"How about disappearing," she said.
On our walks in the next few days, we did not see any real cats in our neighborhood. As our neighborhood was surrounded by habitat on three sides, cats would be easy prey for the coyotes that now and then appeared, so the cats were kept in. "Your cat quilt will be safe from the coyotes, won't it?" I asked on a walk. We had only seen two coyotes in the past four years on our walks, but I didn't want to tempt them by carrying a cat quilt on a walk even if the cat quilt had twenty-four cats all in one place,
"When the quilt's finished, I'll keep it safe in the closet until it's time to send it to Jenny," she said.
"Will the cats like being in the closet?" I asked. "There's nothing for them to see in there. Maybe they're claustrophobic?"
"They're very brave cats and it will only be for a little while, but if it will make you happy, I'll take them out once or twice a day."
"I just want the cats to be happy," I said.
"They will be," she insisted.
She finished the cats, the eyes, the faces, the tails, the border, the quilting, and the binding. She stood in front of me and held the quilt up so the cats all faced me. "What do you think?" she asked.
"Nice cats," I said. "They look happy."
"They all make a happy family," she said.
"With bright sparkling eyes," I said. "Even if they're a little beady," I added.
"Do you want to see my eyes get beady?" she asked. I knew that voice.
"Do you think they're hungry?" I asked.
"I'm hungry," she said. "Take me out for dinner."
"Will the quilt be all right?" I asked.
"I'll put them to bed."
I smiled at her. "You're the cat's pajamas," I said.
Copyright 2005 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Meow Quilt"
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