They Lay Eggs Now
"What?" I asked. I was sitting on the sofa as my Darling Wife Joan passed by. She was wearing the headphones of the portable telephone and speaking into the slender mouthpiece as she walked. Whenever either one of us called someone or received a call, the headphones went on. The portable telephone allowed us to move around the house and not have to hold the telephone. Most often she used the portable phone when she was quilting and her conversation was going to be long. Too often before, she had had a sore neck trying to cradle the old telephone between her ear and shoulder. Quilting doesn't allow for sore necks.
"Cackle," my wife said again, looking at me this time. "I'm talking to Fran," she said. "She's describing the chickens. Cackle, cackle."
Fran is her sister, and they talked every Sunday morning, the three hundred and fifty miles between them too far to yell at each other.
"Tell her, peep, peep," I said, extending my greeting to my sister-in-law.
"That's a baby chicken," my wise wife said.
"Cluck," I said, and I thought it was a good time to get up, go outside, and bring in the morning papers. I was sure she would explain the conversation to me later. I wasn't that sure there was an explanation that I would understand.
"Fran said the chickens are unhappy," my wife told me an hour later as we went on a morning walk.
"She bought some chickens? I thought they weren't allowed in her neighborhood." Fran had moved out in the country a bit, but where she lived chickens were not allowed. Five miles up the road from her, they were allowed and provided fresh eggs to their owners.
"The chickens I quilted for her."
"Quilts? Chicken quilts that cackle and cluck?"
"Fran is into chickens now. She wants her house to look like a real country house. But the chickens I sent her are sad now."
"Fran said they cackle?" I asked. I had seen the quilts when they had been finished. The chickens were made of fabric. Thread. They only lived in a quilt. They were not real.
"The chickens have been complaining lately," my quilting wife said. "They can't lay any eggs. They want to be mothers. It's a maternal instinct," she said.
"The quilts talked to your sister?" I pursued.
"They want chicks," she said. I took that as an answer. Of course the quilts talked. Quilts talk to my wife, so why wouldn't they talk to her sister?
"Quilted chickens don't lay eggs. They don't do anything," I said wisely.
"What do you know," she said. It was not a question. "If they had the right conditions, they would be fine."
"Quilted chickens and conditions? One of the chickens is a wall hanging. Two others are pot holders."
"They need a friend," she said.
"A friend? Quilted chickens need a friend?"
"For the eggs," she said.
"Oh," I said. Oh! She had trapped me. I knew what she was up to. "A rooster," I added. "You plan to make a quilted rooster to send her so they can get together, have a little party, make eggs together."
"I need some brown batik," she said.
Now, all of this may sound absurd, bewildering, madness of a sort. But it all makes sense to a quilter. My quilter lives in a world just a dimension or two away from the reality of our world. She and her quilts have a relationship, a bond built up from the very first cut of the fabric, the first stitch. There is not much use in trying to explain it to the unitiated. That would only bring some strange dialogue.
"Your wife a quilter?" someone asks.
"Yes," I admit.
'She buy a lot of fabric and cut it up?"
"Uh, huh, yes," I say.
"Designs and patches and stuff?"
"And stuff," I agree.
"She make a lot of quilts?"
"She like doing that?"
"Costs some money, eh?"
"Some," I say.
"Doe she ever get carried away?' I hear some of those quilters go off now and then."
"She's fine," I say truthfully.
"She really likes them quilts, huh?"
"I suppose so," I say.
"Does quilting ever make her act strange?"
"Spend too much time with them quilts?"
"Quilting time," I say.
"Well, I hope she never talks to them. My wife talks to the cat all the time."
"Cats are nice," I say.
My sweetheart quilter began paper piecing the rooster. Piece by piece, she sewed and sewed. Little by little the parts became the whole. Day after day a rooster was created. I left my quilter alone. I did not question her. I did not ask if it was a young rooster or a mature rooster. I did not ask if the rooster said anything as it emerged from her sewing machine, as she attached the batting and the backing and the binding. I waited.
"Here it is," she said last week.
"It's ready for the chickens?" I asked carefully.
"It'll be in the mail to Fran today. Her chickens will be very happy."
"I'm sure they will be," I said.
We heard from Fran this morning. She was happy. The rooster crowed. The chickens were happy. "They're ready to lay eggs now," Fran told us.
"Of course, they are," we agreed. Why not? Take a rooster. Put him in with some chickens. Eggs happen. Ask any quilter.
Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Rooster Quilt"
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