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Breakdown

by A.B. Silver

"Breakdown" is published with permission. This story first appeared in Julie Page's Sewing List on Quiltropolis. A.B. Silver (popser) will soon be publishing a collection of his stories!

She broke down in Fort Bragg, California. For five days we had been on the road, stopping in town after town, walking beach after beach, and she had been good. She had made a promise and she had been keeping it. She had not sought out, hoped for, or seen a sewing or fabric store. She had been to art fairs and street fairs and crafts fairs, but she had not been tempted once to break her vow. But as we walked up Laurel Street in Fort Bragg, just window shopping, mind you, she suddenly stopped. I was five steps ahead when I realized she wasn't holding my hand. I panicked. Had she been kidnapped along the way? Had I lost my wife in this strange town 455 miles from home? I turned quickly back and saw her, her nose pressed against the large plate glass window, her eyes wide with excitement.

"Sew'n Sew Fabrics," the sign said. I read the sign and reached quickly to pull her away from there, but I grasped only empty air. She was already inside the store.

"Just to look," she explained as I followed her into the store. But I knew better. She was in one of her spells, a zombie lost in the underworld of a cult that could not ever be explained to normal human beings. Her breathing was fast and deep. Her eyes glowed. She was having a sewing breakdown.

I felt for her pulse. It seemed normal, but as she approached the sale table, her pulse picked up, throbbing against my fingertips. "We should get out of here," I said. "Let's go look at the tide pools. We can see if the sea lions are out on the rocks. Please," I said.

"I'm just looking," she said, but she already had a bolt of fabric in her arms, cradling it, swooning there in the aisle. I looked over to the owner to see if she realized what was happening. But then I realized she must have seen it all before. My Darling Wife was not unique. She was joined by some invisible but unbreakable thread to hundreds, thousands, millions of sewers all over the world. In reality, all I could do now was stand by her side, catch her if she fell, call 911 if she collapsed under the weight of dozens of bolts of fabric.

"We looked long enough," I said, trying to save the moment and our vacation. Once she gave in, the rest of our trip would be lost going from town to town searching out every nook and cranny fabric store, exploring the darkened shadows and basements of stores new and old, large and small.

"I haven't seen this fabric before," she said, holding up a piece of fabric covered with crawling fluorescent lizards."

"You can get it back home," I said. Didn't we have House of Fabrics and Beverly's and Wal-Mart, F & M Fabrics, and Hancock Fabrics?

"No, it's never going to be anywhere else, and if I don't get it here, I'll never see it again, and our grandchildren will grow up emotionally unstable unless I make them all something to wear out if it." She said that all without taking a breath.

I had to take drastic measures. "You made a pledge, a promise, a vow," I said. I wanted her to face up to the moral issue involved. No shopping," I said emphatically.

"Pooh," she said, and she wasn't talking about Winnie. She had already overcome the struggle between good and evil in her mind. Good was sewing a new outfit for each of the grandchildren. Evil would be to leave the fabric in this town hundreds of miles from home.

"Divine intervention," I said. It was the only way I could accept her breakdown. Somebody up there likes grandmothers, I thought.

"What?" she asked as she took the fabric to the cutting table.

"Que sera, sera," I said.

"What?" she asked.

"If it was meant to be...." I said.

"How much do you think I'll need?" she asked me. She was still in touch with the living.

"For all four grandchildren?"

"Of course for all four."

"The whole nine yards," I said, wondering what the capacity of a cement truck had to do with sewing.

So she bought the material and we went outside the shop and we walked down toward the beach and I thought about the meaning of life and how humans have the great capacity to recover from breakdowns. All it takes sometimes is a nice walk along the beach, the sight and sound of crashing waves, and a bright sunny day. I didn't think at all of the package she had put in the car ten minutes before.

A.B. Silver

"The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."


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