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The Magic Quilt

Once upon a time…

David poked the screen of his tablet and glanced casually at the advert that popped up beneath his fingertip. “Oh look,” he said to Jennifer, “there’s a quilting exhibition on at the Function Centre. Do you want to go?”

“Yes please,” said Jennifer, “that sounds like fun. Maybe some of the quilts will be for sale. We really need a new bedspread. The nights are starting to get quite cold.”

And so it was agreed.

* * * *

The quilts hanging on the walls were quite magnificent. Some were large, some were small, all of them blazed brightly. Some consisted of multi-coloured abstract shapes that glowed symmetrically like a view through a kaleidoscope. Others had their patterns less rigidly arranged and so gave the impression of a Jackson Pollock painting or a Picasso collage. And some of the quilts showed marvellously detailed pictures which made them look more like tapestries than quilts.

“I like this one,” said Jennifer gazing at one of the more abstract offerings. “It’s just the right size for the bed and I love the bright patterns.”

“The shapes they make are interesting,” said David. “If you look at them a bit squinty eyed you can see different pictures in them. And the closer you look, the more the pictures change into other things.” He pointed vaguely to an area where a swirl of colour looped back upon itself. “At the moment I”ll swear that’s an image of a witch crouched over a very complicated sewing machine,” he said. “But if I turn my head slightly it looks like a saucepan instead.”

Jennifer looked where he was pointing. “I don’t think so,” she said. “To me it looks more like a fried egg.”

There was a label pinned to the quilt. Just for You it said. A Mad Maggie Quilt $200. There was a phone number on the label as well, presumably Mad Maggie’s.

“See?” said Jennifer. “It’s just for us. It says so.”

They went to talk to the lady on the desk at the entrance and explained which quilt they wanted to buy. “Ah, yes,” said the lady. “I know the one you mean. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? There’s always something magical about the quilts that Mad Maggie makes.”

When they got the quilt home, Jennifer spread it out over the bed and stood back to admire it. “It fits perfectly,” she said. “I told you it would.”

“And you were right,” said David. “But now that it’s horizontal I’m sure I can see a frying pan in the pattern.”

“Nonsense,” said Jennifer. “It’s a toaster.”

That night they went to bed early, eager to try out the new quilt.

“Nice and warm,” said David.

“Mmm,” said Jennifer. “Snuggly.” Then she started to snore. A few seconds later, David joined her.

* * * *

David awoke to the smell of frying bacon and freshly brewed coffee. Yummy! He rolled over to Jennifer’s side of the bed expecting it to be empty because she must be in the kitchen. Who else could be responsible for such delicious smells? So he was quite surprised when he bumped his nose hard on her forehead. It brought tears to his eyes. “Oww!!” he cried, which woke Jennifer up.

She sniffed appreciatively. “Have you been making breakfast, you darling man?” she asked.

“Not me,” said David. “I thought it was you.”

Puzzled, they climbed out of bed. Jennifer started to straighten the sheets and smooth the quilt. “You’ve got what looks like bacon grease on your nightie,” said David. “It’s made the fabric go all transparent. I really like what I can see...”

Jennifer looked at him coldly. “You’ve got what looks like tomato sauce and a couple of squashed bake beans smeared on your pyjamas,” she said. “I really don’t like what I can see.” She turned her attention back to the quilt. “Look at the picture it’s making,” she said.

David looked, but he couldn’t see anything he recognised. “What is it?” he asked.

“I think it’s a bain-marie,” said Jennifer.

“What’s one of those?” asked David.

“It’s what they call the big silver dishes with heating elements underneath them that hotels use for keeping food warm,” she said. “The guests just go and help themselves to whatever they want.” She gave David a funny look. “I think I know what we’re going to find in the kitchen,” she said, “and I’m horribly afraid that I know how it got there.”

“I’m two steps ahead of you,” said David. “Let’s go and find out if we’re right.”

The kitchen was full of delicious smells. Several bains-marie and a pot of coffee steamed on the table. There was nobody else in the room. “Judging by the evidence splattered on our nightclothes, and the complete absence of a kitchen full of servants,” said David, “it looks as if you and I must have spent much of the night preparing all this. But I don’t remember doing it. Do you?”

Jennifer shook he head. “No,” she said. “I don’t remember a thing. I was sure that I just had a long, restful, dreamless sleep. But clearly I must be mistaken.”

David, ever the pragmatist, lifted the lid of a bain-marie and sniffed appreciatively. “Be a shame to let it all go to waste,” he said. “Let’s tuck in.”

And so that’s what they did. It was the most delicious breakfast they had ever eaten, far better than anything either of them had ever managed to cook before. Jennifer pushed her plate away with a deep, contented sigh. “I enjoyed that,” she said, “but it can’t go on.”

“What do you mean?” asked David through a mouthful of scrambled egg, bacon and mushrooms.

“If we keep making ourselves breakfasts like this every night we’re soon going to get quite plump and podgy,” said Jennifer.

“Then let’s stop doing it,” said David. “All we’ve got to do it take the quilt off the bed on nights when we don’t want breakfast.”

“But then we’ll get cold,” protested Jennifer. “That’s why we bought the quilt in the first place, so we’d get a warm, snuggly night’s sleep.”

“I think we’d better have a word with Mad Maggie,” said David. “Maybe she’ll have a solution. Where did we put the label with her phone number on it?”

“It’s in the sideboard drawer,” said Jennifer. “The one we keep old receipts in.”

David went and rummaged through the drawer until he found the label and then he sent Mad Maggie a text message describing their predicament. A few minutes later his phone pinged. He looked at the screen. “She’ll see us this afternoon at three o’clock,” he said. “She’s given me her address.”

Jennifer spread some marmalade on a slice of well buttered toast. “Who’s going to do all the washing up?” she asked. “There’s rather a lot of it...”

“I’ll just go and get the car out of the garage,” said David hastily. “I need to fill it with petrol before we can visit Mad Maggie.”

* * * *

David opened the garden gate and he and Jennifer walked up to Mad Maggie’s front door. David rang the bell. A few seconds later the door opened and a lady who was presumably Mad Maggie herself beamed out at them. “Hello,” she said, “you must be Jennifer and David. Come in, come in. I’ll make a pot of tea.”

David thought she looked rather familiar, but he couldn’t work out where he might have seen her before. It wasn’t until she ushered them into what was obviously her sewing room that the penny dropped. There was a very complicated looking sewing machine on the table surrounded by scraps of fabric and half finished sewing projects. That was when David realised that Mad Maggie was the witch he had seen in the very first image that the quilt pattern had shown him.

“Have you been enjoying your breakfasts, dears?” asked Mad Maggie as she poured tea and offered them biscuits.

“Perhaps you could explain about the breakfasts,” suggested Jennifer.

“It’s my daughter,” said Mad Maggie. “She spent six months of her gap year working in a hotel and then she went travelling with the money she saved from her job. She was in charge of making breakfast for the guests and she was very good at it. She earned twice as much in tips as she got paid in wages. I made the quilt out of her old hotel uniform together with a few other bits and pieces I had lying around to give it a splash of colour.”

“I see,” said David. “So that’s why we made ourselves such an appetising breakfast when we slept under the quilt. But we really can’t keep doing that every day. It’s far too much food, yummy though it is.”

“No problem,” said Mad Maggie. “Only sleep under the quilt when you feel like treating yourselves. Throw the quilt off if you feel like fasting.”

“But it’s too cold without a quilt on the bed,” protested Jennifer.

“Oh that’s easily taken care of,” said Maggie. “All you need is another quilt that you can use on the days when you don’t fancy breakfast.”

“What quilt would you recommend?” asked David.

Mad Maggie thought for a moment then her face brightened. “I know what we can do,” she said. “My son is a computer programmer and one of the places he used to work at insisted that all their employees had to wear a suit, a shirt and a tie every day. He hated that and so he bought a lot of ties with really silly designs on them which he wore as a sort of protest against the ridiculous rule. When he left that job he gave me all his old ties and I made a quilt out of them. Let me show you.” She bustled out of the room and came back a few minutes later with an enormous quilt. The familiar shapes of dozens of ties were spread out all over it. One tie had a herd of cows on it, another had a plucked chicken. One was a dismantled computer and one showed a very proud cat with the tail of a computer mouse in its mouth. The most impressive tie of all displayed the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

“Gosh,” said David, impressed. He stared at the quilt, quite transfixed. “I can see words forming behind the ties,” he said. “They look terribly technical. I don’t understand any of them. What does sudo rm -rf /* mean?”

“No idea,” said Mad Maggie briskly. “It’s probably a spell, maybe an incantation that only a computer and a nerd can understand. I’ll let you have the quilt for $300.”

“Is it magic?” asked Jennifer.

“Of course,” said Mad Maggie. “All my quilts have magic sewn into them.”

“We’ll take it,” said David. He stroked and poked his phone for a few minutes as he transferred the money to Mad Maggie’s bank account. “There,” he said. “All done.”

They took their leave of Mad Maggie and carried their new quilt out to the car. “What do you suppose sleeping under a computer geek’s quilt will do for us?” mused David.

“I imagine we’ll soon have a lot of pirated movies that we can watch when we’re eating our yummy breakfast,” said Jennifer. “That will be fun.”

...and they all lived happily ever after.


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