Broken Dishes
by William Michaelian

She told herself she didn’t understand. But she did. Everything was there before her, plain to see. Three of her beautiful wedding dishes, broken. It wasn’t an accident. He’d done it on purpose. Yet there was no denying that she was also to blame. She had dared him, taunted him. She wanted this to happen. And now she was sorry. He wasn’t a bad person. He was her husband. They both had faults. He worked hard. So did she. They had some money. Not a lot, but enough. They owned a small car, and were able to make payments on a house. It wasn’t a fancy place. But it had a porch and it was near the park. Before moving in, they had cleaned and painted everything from top to bottom. There was a glass door leading outside from their bedroom. Through it they could see the flowers she’d planted and the arbor he’d made for their star jasmine. On warm summer evenings, they left the door open. The heavy scent drifted into their room. Sometimes, in the morning, the sheets on their bed smelled like jasmine.

She picked up the larger pieces and swept up the smaller ones. The dishes were beyond saving. There were still nine others. She wondered what would happen when her mother noticed. She didn’t know what to tell her. Dishes were usually broken one at a time. Then she remembered the marks on the wall. Though she had cleaned the area, it would still need to be repainted.

She moved everything away from the wall, then covered the floor with newspaper. There were brushes and leftover paint in the store room. She pried open the can and stirred the paint. It smelled good and clean. Hopeful, even. After the paint had been mixed, she chose a brush and started to work. To avoid attracting attention to the spot, she decided to paint the entire wall. But before she could make much progress, her mother came to the door.

What was she doing, her mother wanted to know. The kitchen was beautiful. Why did it need painting again? What happened?

She told her mother that nothing had happened.

Right away, her mother understood. I see, she said. Maybe I should go and let you work.

No, she said. Don’t go. She put down her brush and showed her mother the large brown grocery bag that contained her three broken wedding dishes. Then she started to cry.

She told her mother everything. While they were talking, her husband came home. First he looked at his wife. Then he looked at his mother-in-law. Then he looked at the wall, the newspaper on the floor, the can of paint, the brush, and the brown paper bag. I’m sorry, he said. I’m sorry. This should never have happened.

So they’d have their privacy, his mother-in-law got up to leave. Thank you, he said. I’m sorry about this. We’ll get everything cleaned up. Why don’t you come for supper tomorrow?

His mother-in-law smiled and said she would.

Together, they painted the wall. Then he insisted that they go to the department store and buy three new dishes to replace the ones that he’d broken.

They showered and changed. Luckily, the store still had the pattern available. While the clerk was wrapping the dishes with tissue paper and putting them into a box, they found two pretty wine glasses they liked. The glasses were expensive, but they bought them anyway.

On the way home, they stopped at the grocery store for a bottle of wine. They drank it that evening with their supper, which she served on their new dishes. There hadn’t been time to make much of a meal. They had corn on the cob and mashed potatoes. They laughed at the odd combination, wine, corn, and potatoes.

While they were cleaning up, he said it was a day they would always remember. She agreed.

But then so many other days followed, so many months and so many years, that they did forget.

They had children, and their children had children. They became old and lumpy and crazy. But the flowers outside their bedroom door still bloomed. The star jasmine scented their sheets. And they still had their old dishes. All twelve of them, without a crack.

William Michaelian’s newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelian’s other books and links to this site’s other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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