Saturday, May 22, 2010

Broken

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades, 1947


Broken

an excerpt


By Kelley Williams

After her family left and Jake had been put to bed, Maggie went through the house checking the locks on doors and windows that had not been opened. She flipped off lights and headed down the hallway to her bedroom. Besides the unmentionable boxes in the garage, four boxes still lined the hall. Her mother had left them there on purpose, hoping to encourage Maggie to make some contribution to her new house.

Three were labeled office, and one was labeled kitchen. It had been placed there by mistake. Sighing, Maggie picked it up and headed to the kitchen.

The box was full of miscellaneous items, two cookbooks, a toaster, four plastic bowls stacked inside each other, refrigerator magnets. The last item Maggie pulled from the box was delicately sheathed in bubble wrap. It was the antique porcelain tea-pot passed down to her from her great-grandmother. She ran her hands over its cool, smooth surface and wondered at the types of things it had seen over four generations.

If teapots could talk. Would it tell of how she and Jackson used to run through the house, Maggie shrieking in delight as Jackson chased? Would it tell of the times she and Jackson had made love on the counter, the kitchen floor, the dining room table? Would it talk about the mistress of the house, a woman who’d once known happiness so great it burst like sunshine from the tips of her fingers and toes, out the top of her head and through her eyes? Would it mention the ghost, the lost soul, who now haunts in her place?

Maggie stood up over of the kitchen floor and kicked the empty box away, exposing the hard tile. One more time, her hand lovingly traced the handle, the spout, the base of the teapot.

She held it out in front of her with both hands and let it drop. It shattered to pieces, the way she knew it would, and the sound, that of a heart breaking, was familiar and oddly comforting.

She stared at the jagged pieces that, together, once held the shapes of roses with intricate detail, but were now only swirls of pale pink and lilac. Deliberately, she stepped forward with her right foot and then her left, letting her weight settle over the pieces. The shards sliced her skin, tore her flesh apart. But it wasn’t enough. She twisted her feet from side to side, grinding them to the floor. Looking down at the tile, she watched the blood seep from beneath her feet, and she waited.

Nothing.

She twisted again, rocked forward on the balls of her feet and backward on her heels, each movement cutting new wounds. Again, she waited. Waited for the pain, for an ache more intense than one she carried with her every day. But, as she knew it wouldn’t, it didn’t come.

Maggie stepped back, grabbed two dishtowels and fashioned them around her feet to contain the blood. Crudely hobbling to the bathroom, she washed her feet in the tub and bandaged them. From her bedroom, she grabbed a pair of fuzzy pink socks and slipped them on. She found the box in the hallway labeled office junk drawer and rifled through it until she found the superglue.

Thirty minutes later she had glued the pieces back together. Amazingly, none were missing. In some places you had to look closely to see the lines of repair. The jagged shards were once again her great-grandmother's teapot.

But Maggie knew even if you put all the pieces back together, once something had been broken, it would never be whole again.


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