Going Topless





Of course it was time for something new, something to take her mind off of not having anything to do. My Darling Wife Joan's last quilt was finished, and she was waiting for the last three parts of a quilt she planned to make when all the monthly installments were published. "I can't just do a section each month and leave it undone until the next month. I need to do it all together."

"That's why you never do a block-a-month project?" I asked, but I knew the answer. It was the same every time I suggested she start one of the "mystery" quilts that appeared in so many of her quilting magazines.

"I don't like mysteries," she had said. "It's a mystery enough wondering if the quilt will come out the way it's supposed to when I have the picture of the whole quilt in front of me. I just can't do pieces of a quilt."

So, she decided to do something new and something that wouldn't stretch her mind too much, something that would keep her busy for awhile."I'll just do this until I come up with something I really want to do right away," she had said.

The quilt was going to be a nine-patch quilt, one made up of scraps, scraps she had accumulated since before the beginning of time, which for her had begun when she started her first quilt six years before. Our house, in a small way like the earth at Creation, was filled with rivers and oceans and desert and forests and mountains. The mountains were piles of scraps spread throughout the house. Wherever there once had been a void, that emptiness was filled with fabric.

It was during her search for scraps that she came across a treasure buried deep in the back of a closet, a treasure made up of dozens of squares and half-square triangles that she had put together a year or two before to use in a scrap quilt she had thought of making but had given up on. There weren't enough for her new projects, but she had plenty of other scraps to work with.

Day after day she found more and more scraps, sorted them, arranged them, re-piled them, re-sorted them, rearranged them, until she had enough in order to start the quilt top. The only problem she encountered was that the design for the quilt, a design she pounced on when it appeared on the latest issue of another one of her overwhelming supply of quilt magazines ("I need every one, for ideas.") that design called for two-inch patches and half-square triangles, and all the ones she had were twice that size.

"No problem. I'll make everything twice as big," she had said, and she did. It didn't matter, she told me now and then, this quilt was only to pass the time until she did the real quilt she planned to do.

Day after day she cut new patches and new half-square triangles and sewed them into blocks and put them up on her design wall until the shape of the quilt burst forth and she saw that it was good.

Day after day she sewed and sewed, and when she wasn't sewing or living the rest of her life, she looked for some new project she might like better to do, but none appeared, and she sewed.

"I'm done with the top," she said recently. I think it was recently. It might have been that morning or it might have been two weeks before. When she was finished with a quilt top, she really wasn't finished until she thought about it, looked at it over and over, wondered if it was something worth making into a quilt, and then, only then when she decided to continue on, to give the quilt a life, did she tell me it was done.

"You're ready to quilt?" I asked.

"Since yesterday morning."

"You're sure?" I asked.

"I'm never sure, but I'm sure," she said. Those words might puzzle some, but they didn't puzzle me. She wasn't sure she was sure, but she was sure enough. I'm sure of that.

"So, I should get down the batting?" I asked. The batting was high on a shelf in the garage, and it was my job on those occasions when she was ready to start putting the top together with the batting and backing, to get out the small ladder and climb up and bring down the batting. Her job was to tell me to get the batting down. I did.


"I'm going up to quilt now," she told me after lunch.

"Have fun," I said.

"Of course," she said, and off she went.

Five minutes later she called down to me from her sewing room. "Did you see my top?" she asked from afar.

"What?" I asked.

"My new quilt top is missing," she yelled down. "I'm topless."

"Topless?" I thought for the briefest part of a moment. "It's where you left it," I said helpfully, knowing if she had been next to me I would be feeling the wrath of a quilter who was serious about her quilting.

"No, it's not," she said, her voice quite calm, a bit of puzzlement in the words. "It's not here."

And so began the search. I went up to her sewing room where it wasn't that unusual for her to find something gone missing in the midst of her working a project, a time when there was often great disorder, or, in non-quilting terms, a mess. Often a scissors was lost under a pile of magazines, thread gone missing in the closet where she kept enough thread to circle the globe, her rotary cutter hiding behind the sewing machine, needles hiding in the carpet.

"I don't see it," I said.

"Keep looking. It has to be here."

"Where was it last?"

"Where I left it."

"In this room?"

"I thought it was in this room. It should be in this room."

"Maybe it's downstairs," I suggested.

"Why would it be downstairs?" she asked.

"It's a big quilt top. It can't be hiding anywhere," I said.

"It's lost," she wailed.

"It's not lost," I said with a soothing tone.

"It was right next to the bag of clothes," she said.

"What bag of clothes?" I asked.

"The ones we took to the charity drop-off location yesterday," she said. Her voice dropped as she spoke. "Oh, oh, no," she said. "We didn't, did we?"

"We took the blouses and the old long-sleeved dress shirts. We took whatever was piled on the table downstairs," I said, trying to remember a quilt top I couldn't remember.

"Let's go," she said.

"Go, go where?" I asked, but I knew. Ten miles to the parking lot where the charity truck sat seven days a week.

"Maybe we can find it," she said.

"Maybe," I said, but I knew it was wishful thinking.

"The quilt top will help us," she said, speaking to herself more than to me. "I know it will help."


We waited to pull up to the space near the truck. Two other cars were in line ahead of us for a parking space, and they didn't move. "I'm getting out," she said.

"Wait until I park," I said, but it was too late. She was out of the car, hurrying toward the truck, toward what looked to be a ten-mile-long truck full of discarded everything.

In a few minutes I was able to pull into a parking space, and I hurried after her, but she was gone. I looked around. I faced the two men gathering donations and giving receipts to those who asked for them. "Did you see...?" I began, and one man pointed to the opening at the back of the truck. "The donations from yesterday?" I asked as I moved past him.

"Still inside," he said.

"Thanks," I mumbled and walked up the ramp into the back of the truck. I saw dark shadows moving and bags and boxes moving like creatures of the night, and then I saw another bag move, then another. Black trash bags attacked me. I didn't see my Darling Wife, but I heard her.

"I'm close," she said from somewhere amidst the pile of bags. Then, as I ducked from one more bag pushed my way, I saw her. She came toward me, both her hands pushing aside more boxes and bags. "Listen," she said. I listened. I heard nothing but the movement of the bags and boxes.

'You heard the quilt top?" I asked. If she said she did, she did.

"Of course," she said, and with that her voice raised up and she bent and pulled forward a bag and thrust it at me. "This one," she said, though the bag looked the same as the others, all of them looking exactly like the black bag we had dropped off.

"Ouch," I said as it hit me in the stomach.

"Look inside," she said. I looked. As I reached into the bag and pulled out my old shirts, I thought I heard a faint sigh of relief coming from the bag. Or was it from my wife? Or both?

"Yes," I said, finding the quilt top buried deep in the bag. "Yes," I said again more loudly, my words echoing in the truck. "How many did you look through?" I asked.

"All of them, I think. It was in the last bag I looked in."

"It's always in the last bag," I said wisely.

"This quilt top has had enough adventure," she said, grabbing back at the bag. "It wants to be a quilt now," she said.

"I think I heard it say that," I said, knowing I'd had enough adventure as well.

She took the quilt top in her arms, clutched it tightly and turned toward the light. I followed her out into the sunlight and toward the car. "Find what you wanted?" asked the attendant.

"She's topless no more," I said. He looked at her. He looked at me. I smiled. He went back to work. We went home. There was quilting to be done.



Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Sparkling Lattice Quilt"

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