First came the elephants, two by two. Then came the lions and the giraffes and the camels and the flamingos. All came two by two. The ark hadn't yet been built. I assumed Noah hadn't heard about the 40-day rain that was expected. "The animals came before the ark was built," my Darling Wife said earlier as she explained to me the order of her work on her new wall hanging, temporarily called "Noah's boat and a bunch of animals."
"They're nice animals," I said. They were very nice. Of course, they were smaller than real animals and, as we had no role models in our neighborhood except for a few cats and dogs, she relied on the pattern for their design.
"They're cute," she said as she put the first pig up on her design wall.
"Yes," I agreed, wondering why she had gone ahead to make this particular quilt when it was about thirty-seventh in line for new quilts.
"I made this quilt now because I wasn't going to," she said as if she read my mind, which she did. As an experienced teacher in her life, she knew what kind of questions a slow student would ask. As her answer wasn't quite clear to me, I tried to get her to explain. I squinched up my eyes in what I hoped was a good display of puzzlement.
"I'm trying a new method of paper piecing," she said.
"You're not paper piecing," I said.
"I'm foundation piecing," she said.
"And? But? So? What?" I am good with questions.
"I'm not using muslin for the foundation," she said.
"You're not paper piecing because you're not using paper, and instead you're foundation piecing, but you are not using muslin for the foundation. Is there more?"
"Do-Sew," she said. Of course she doesn't speak with hyphens between her words, but later she showed me what she was using and how the brand name was spelled, so I had to put in the hyphen.
"What sew?" I asked.
"It's polyester pattern tracing material. I'm using it for the foundation. It's cool stuff," she said.
Now when she says something is "cool," it means she found something wonderful to use in her quilting and she wants more of it, more often than not, right away. Within the hour I had ordered more from Stretch & Sew. She couldn't leave her newly created menagerie to order herself.
"It helps you make little animals?" I asked.
"I just leave it in when I'm done sewing the pieces together, and it becomes part of the quilt. No paper picking the little guys to pieces."
"Don't some of the animals have to be gals?" I asked.
"Half of them are," she said.
"That's good," I said.
"What's good is how nice and neat they come out without paper lumps." She showed me the back of the pig. No paper lumps.
"How many animals do you have to make?" I asked. I wasn't sure if our house was enough cubits long and wide to hold them all. I wasn't even sure if the distance of my forearm from the tip of my middle finger to my elbow was the same length as when Noah measured his ark as 300 cubits long.
"It depends on how big I want the wall hanging to be. I'm thinking sixteen or twenty pairs."
"That should be enough," I said.
"I'll let you know."
"I have a bad tiger," she said later that day when we were about to go shopping. Her sewing room might have had a lot of animals in it, but she wanted a new pillow for her bed and she had to go along to try it out so it would fit her neck.
"Punish it," I said.
"If the tiger's bad, it needs some discipline. Tough love," I said.
"It's not behaving badly," she said. "I made it bad, strange."
"Noah won't take it aboard the ark?" I asked.
"It has bad stripes," she said.
"No, not too many." She paused. "I don't even know how many stripes a tiger is supposed to have. Do you?"
"A bunch," I guessed.
"I have enough stripes then. But the stripes make the tiger strange. And it has a fat tail."
"You have a strange tiger, not a bad tiger?"
"Both," she said.
"Let me see," I said. "I could be your animal advisor," I added.
"I know what's wrong already," she said.
"What's wrong already?"
"The tiger has sideway stripes," she said.
"Show me," I said. "I'll also be your tiger doctor."
"Come with me," she said, and before we could go shopping, we went into the sewing room, the room now a zoo.
"There," she said, wincing as she pointing to the little tiger on her cutting table.
I moved forward carefully, hoping the tiger wouldn't pounce. "The stripes are sideways," I said.
"I just told you that."
"Noah won't like that," I said.
"I'm going to fix it," she said. "Sew-Do is very forgiving. I can just take off his hide and turn it around and sew it back on the correct way without ripping the tiger apart."
"You're going to be a quilting vet and fix the tiger?"
"Right now," she said.
"What about our trip to buy a new pillow for your neck?"
"The tiger needs good skin," she said.
"I won't argue with that," I said. "Give it good skin." I slapped my hand in hers.
An hour later she came to tell me the operation was a success. And that is the story of how my Darling Wife's tiger got its stripes on right and made Noah happy.
Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver
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