Quilting

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Oh, she’s so fucking old. How is she still clinging on to life? How?

“Morning Mrs Tidpot,” I call as I lug her shopping through to the kitchen.

“Mm.”

She’s quilting as usual. Always bloody quilting. How she isn’t bored to death of it yet I don’t know.

“Working on that quilt again, are you?”

“Mm.”

I put the kettle on and unpack the shopping, wondering who I could get to shoot me if I ever ended up quilting every damn day just to while away the seconds until death.

“Kettle’s on Mrs Tidpot. We’ll have a nice cup of tea, eh?”

“Mm.”

She’s so old she can’t even form words properly anymore. Fuck. I don’t want to end up like that. Why did I take a job where I’d be face to face with the concept of mortality every bloody day?

I nip back into the sitting room to retrieve the dirty teacup on the table beside her and I take in the sight of her hand-sewn quilt. Constructed well, I suppose. Can’t fault her skill. But it’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.

“Coming along now, isn’t it, your quilt?”

“Mm.”

“How long have you been working on it?”

She looks up from her needlework. “All my life. Every day.”

Bloody hell. That’s the most she’s said in my presence for months.

“What a project! And how long until you finish?”

“How long do you think I’ve got left?”

There’s a little sparkle in her eye. I think.

“Oh, plenty more years yet!” I lie.

“We’ll see.”

“So you’ll keep quilting as long as you keep… going?”

“Of course. The quilt’s a memoir.”

Cute, I suppose. Although God knows how she manages to keep on adding squares. Sweet eff all happens to her these days except for my daily visits and a glass of sherry every Friday evening.

“I see. So all these letters and numbers and stuff you add to each square — I suppose they mean something to you.”

“Yes.”

I wait for her to explain it to me. Usually the old dears are chomping at the bit to talk my ear off about this type of inane shite. Mrs Tidpot’s always been a bit different.

“So… what does it all mean?”

She runs her fingers over the quilt wistfully. “Initials. Dates. You know.”

“Ah, I see. So you can remember when you did certain things with certain people.”

“Something like that.”

“Am I on there somewhere?”

The corners of her mouth stretch just slightly.

“Well?” I push. Coming up to a year I’ve been doing her daily visits — I should bloody well hope I’m on there somewhere.

“No, you’re not on it. Because I haven’t had intimate relations with you.”

I look at her and then at the quilt and then back at her. “You mean?”

She nods. “Mm. It’s like notches on a bedpost. Every new conquest is a new square.”

I look at the quilt with fresh eyes. There are hundreds of squares. Hundreds.

“I have the initials of the lover along the top of each square, the date of our first meeting and last meeting on the bottom, although most of them are just one-nighters. And in the middle is a little something to remind me of their… unique qualities. I’m not much of an artist but I do my best. This one, see? Hairy chest. And this one is supposed to be a skyscraper — I’m sure you can imagine what that represents.”

I find myself blushing. Mrs fucking Tidpot has been around the block more times than I can count. Well I never.

“Do the colours mean anything?”

“Well the blue shades are men and the pink and purple shades are women.”

“Really?”

“I don’t discriminate.”

“Right. Of course.”

I had no idea she was so liberal. Good on her!

“And you’re still making the quilt, so… you’re still…”

“Still shagging? Of course.”

I can’t help but laugh. Bloody hell! At her age?

“Yes, still shagging at my age. Impressive, isn’t it?”

I nod. Is she reading my bloody mind now?

“Shall we have that cup of tea?” she says. “And maybe I’ll give you a tour of the more interesting squares of the quilt.”

I nod again and head into the kitchen with a grin on my face.

Good old Mrs Tidpot. Now I know exactly how she’s hanging on. She’s having far too much fun to drop dead.