It was a scream I had never heard before. It came through the bedroom doorway and circled the bed before aiming for and hitting my ears. It awakened me and pushed me upright and off the bed onto the floor. "Arrrghhhohnoack--yeowmow!"
That was what it sounded like as I tried to understand where it came from, but I didn't wonder long. I knew where the sound came from, this sound a new scream in my life, soft and loud, rising up and crashing down on me. Darling Wife, already long in her sewing room, had been the source of the scream. I had not heard a scream from her for a long while, not for months, perhaps a year, for she was no longer the beginning quilter she had been for more than ten years. She was now an experienced quilter, wiser, more talented, much tried and tested, absolutely true to her craft. She had been to battle and had survived. But her scream had come as a clash of thunder to my ears, and that screech of a scream meant that something was seriously the matter.
"What's the matter," I mumbled and then repeated more loudly. I knew she could not hear me. My words were just coming out of habit. When one is married, as I am, to a Quilter, with a capital Q, one has learned many lessons about the quilting life, and one of the main lessons I had quite taken to heart was that quilters scream and moan and yell and pound the table and kick the furniture and yell often and then some more. And I had also long before learned that it was in my best interest to go to my Quilter as quickly as I could, to stand before her, to look for a wound or blood, and to ask, "What's the matter."
I shook myself more awake than I had been when the scream first reached me and went to her, each step faster, each breath I took deeper, my concern pushed ahead of me. "What--" I began as I entered the sewing room. I didn't have to finish my question. She answered as she saw me.
"I might have killed the dragon," she said. "How could I--?"
"What dragon? What killing?" I asked. I looked her over. She was whole, not damaged, not bloody. She was slightly bent over her cutting table, the table as usual, strewn with pattern and fabric, scissors and templates, marking pens and pencils.
"I think I'm done for," she said.
"You don't look done for," I said. I had said that before many times. It was six in the morning, and I knew she had already been up at least an hour already, so, except for the scream, which still reverberated in my skull, she looked very normal.
"I never did this before," she said. She remained motionless, still slightly bent over, but then she straightened. "I've made many mistakes, a million mistakes, you know how many mistakes I've made, but this one may be fatal," she said.
"Fatal?" I asked. I was a bit skeptical. I was very skeptical.
"I may have killed the dragon," she said, softening the word, "killed" as she spoke.
"I don't see any dead dragons," I said without looking around. I wanted to be helpful, encouraging, empathic, kind and helpful.
"I cut up a lot of fabric. I cut a million pieces. I sewed a ton of fabric to a ton of paper." Her voice lifted. "It's all wasted," she said.
"Nothing's wasted," I said. But, what did I know? Nothing. I did know she was one woman who dared not waste anything. She took her mistakes to task and reprimanded them and rehabilitated them; when it came to her quilting, she did what she had to do.
"Do you want to know what I did?" she asked.
"I want breakfast," I said, "but I do know I want to know why you screamed."
"The pages were stuck," she said. "Go have breakfast. I'll be down soon."
"What pages were stuck?" I asked. Of course I asked. What would any sane man who was married to a quilter say beside, "What pages were stuck?" which I repeated.
"Five and six," she said.
"Are they unstuck now?" I asked.
"It's too late. I pieced the other sections and used up almost all the fabric, and even though I found the pages, they--" She stopped mid-sentence and tightened her lips and put her hands to her face, and she screamed a little scream: "Eeeyeek!"
"How about breakfast now?" I asked. I put out a hand to her. I didn't want any more screams.
"Don't you want to know why I screamed?" she asked.
"The dragon's alive?"
"When I photo-copied all the pages of the pattern I missed two pages," she said.
"They were stuck together," I said.
"They were stuck together and I skipped them and I put together all the other pages and when I was ready to put together the dragon, the poor dragon was dead." She said all that without taking a breath, Then she breathed,
"You can copy the two pages now," I said.
"I don't know where they go, where they fit, what fabrics to use, how much fabric I still have, how to match the fabric to the parts already pieced."
"Are you certain the dragoon's dead?" I asked. I wasn't ready to accept the sad news of the dragon's death, nor did I believe she was. She wouldn't give up just because two pages were stuck together and she had gone ahead and paper-pieced all the other pages and had sewn together a billion pieces of fabric according to letters and numbers and symbols that covered the pattern and left out the dragon's heart or the dragon's wings or the dragon's eyes or whatever was missing from the quilt that couldn't be finished because the pieces wouldn't match up where they were supposed to match up. I took a breath."You'll fix it," I said. "Let's eat. And no screams." I was firm. I took her by the hand and led her down to fix breakfast while I went back to put on the clothes I would have put on had she not screamed and I had gotten up in the normal course of events.
In the days after she had thought she had killed the dragon, she copied the missing pages and found enough scraps of fabric to match to the fabric she had already used and, except for meals and necessary walks, worked from early morning to early evening. I worked in the garden and made her meals and shopped without urging so she would have some peace in her quilting.
Of course there were a few more screams in the next few days, but I didn't hear most of them, and the ones I did hear were more like squeals than screams. But then she did let out one loud scream that sounded like a celestial trumpet that filled the house and escaped through the open windows and filled the neighborhood. "Yippee!" she said. It sounded just like a dragon's roar. At least I thought so.
Copyright 2008 by A.B. Silver
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