David has gone out of town for a while and I quickly realize that I will be bored and lonely, stuck in a town I don’t know all that well, with no Mahjong group, no nearby lunch and shopping friends, only my little dog, and the hummingbirds, which are plentiful and ravenous.
I need a project. I’ll make a quilt. I choose a pattern and assess the fabrics I already have in the hope that I’ll be able to make use of them. I seem to have a lot of pink, rose, and burgundy, shades I can work with.
The quilt shop is forty minutes away, in Llano, and it closes at three. The two carpenters who are replacing the attic door don’t leave until two (overcharged; won’t be calling them again), which means I’ll be arriving just as the store’s closing, when the clerks are harassed and tense, wanting me out the door so they can go home.
I haven’t made the drive to Llano before and it’s lovely—green treetops, ups and downs, broad curves. Very little traffic. I arrive at the shop at two-forty and am met at the door by the owner. I apologize for coming in just as they are preparing to close.
“Oh no,” she says. “Though the website says three, we’re here as long as we have customers.”
She follows me around, wanting to help. But taste in fabric is subjective. The selection is inspiring and I am like a chubby kid in a pastry shop. I entered with a specific vision—a creamy gold and maroon floral, the color combo all the other shades will defer to. But instead, burgeoning blossoms on a striking black-and-gray background catch my eye.
I buy several yards of it, along with smaller amounts of accent colors. I leave happy.
But the next morning I realize I’m short a trim fabric, and I’m pretty sure I saw exactly what I need at Walmart earlier in the week. I set out with a quick raid in mind. It’s Sunday morning and nobody will be there. Sure enough, the parking lot is practically empty.
In the fabric department I easily find what I’m looking for—a mid-shade pink with a subtle cracked gray pattern. I pull the bolt, carry it to the cutting table, and wait for a period too long to be deemed reasonable. I walk around the three-row department. No one seems to be working here. Who will cut my fabric? I could cut it myself, but that’s against every fabric-buying rule I know.
I seek help from the woman behind the counter in the entertainment department. She pages Iona to fabrics. I return to the cutting table and wait and wait, but Iona never comes. A middle-aged woman wearing a droopy Walmart shirt shuffles along in the main aisle. I assume it’s Iona—but no, her nametag says Marilyn. I ask her if she’ll cut and price my fabric.
“This isn’t my department,” she says, approaching the table, wanting to help.
“It’s easy,” I tell her. I point out the wand, show her the bar code, tell her I want a yard and a quarter. She sees another clerk walking by.
“Hey Wilma,” she calls. “You know anything about this department?”
Wilma joins us, saying, “Let’s page Iona.”
“Someone already paged her,” I say, reaching for the scissors. I spread and straighten my fabric, generously giving myself an extra four inches to make up for the crooked edge at the end, the result of previous sloppy cutting.
The two women gasp, horrified, when I cut. If they don’t know how to cut, how can I, a person who doesn’t even work here, know how?
I tell them how to scan and register the measurement. But they can’t seem to grasp it. I’d do it myself, but they’re withholding the equipment, hunching over it protectively, eyeing me with distrust. Another woman walks past and they call her over. This one’s named Maureen.
“You should page Iona,” Maureen says. "I don't know anything about this department." By this time I’ve been hanging out in Fabrics for more than half an hour.
“We can’t figure how to register the quarter,” Wilma tells Maureen.
I tell her to enter 1.25, which she does. The black box hums and spits out a price tag. On the way out of the store, I pick up Fritos and bean dip. Then I grab some cherry tomatoes to counteract the junk food. When I get home, it’s to find that I’ve received an email from a woman who plays Mahjong in Marble Falls, telling me when and where the group plays, and inviting me to join them. Yay!