Friday, August 16, 2019

Beyond Repair by Nancy Beach

Nancy Beach's character loses her temper at her husband and stalks out of the house in a whirl of anger and guilt.

Allie's breath caught in her throat as she stumbled down the stairs. Her husband stood frozen, slashed by her weapon of choice - her words. She hadn't meant for it to happen, again. But when words volleyed back and forth, the volcano erupted without warning. She'd looked like a two-year-old, her voice squealing and her arms flailing like the geese in the back yard.

She shuffled through the pile of papers on the washing machine, receipts and junk mail flying to the floor until she found the keys. She didn't pause when the door slammed behind her. She threw the car into reverse and roared away. It felt good, the cool wind rushing in the windows as she sped down I-71. As the miles sped past, her temper raged. How could he, after all these years, still push her buttons? He was wrong. He was an idiot. He could go crawl in a hole and never come out for all she cared. Past Medina. Past Lodi. She didn't recognize the landscape any longer. She zoomed around a truck and pressed her foot to the pedal again. Stupid, slow drivers. Faster. Freedom. Maybe she'd never stop. Except she'd need gas sooner or later. Gas. She'd forgotten her wallet. Oh well, at least she could pay for gas with Apple Pay on her phone.

As the miles passed, her anger at Rodney turned to disappointment towards herself. She shouldn't have lost her temper. Again. If she could have stayed calm, they could have resolved the dumb disagreement. Granted, his mom was out of line, for sure. And he was defending her. Again. But she could have handled the whole thing better. When would she learn? If only she could put a muzzle on her mouth when she started seeing red. No matter how hard she tried, she always seemed to end up back in the same mess, her temper flaring without warning. It wasn't as often as before. But still.

Then again, Rodney should have stayed calm. He knew not to bring up her mom. Her mom is nothing like his -

As her mind replayed the events of the last couple of hours, a truck pulled out in front of her. She slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop inches from his bumper. She cursed and gave him a one finger salute. Her car sputtered. The fuel line touched empty. Thankfully she spotted a gas station up on the right. She pulled in and reached for her phone. Might as well get gas and let that idiot get ahead of her. Her phone wasn't in the cup holder. Or under the seat. Her stomach knotted as she realized she must have left it at home too. Lovely. No gas. No money. No phone. What was this, the '70s? At least in the '70s, all you needed was a dime for the corner pay phone. What idiot forgets her phone and wallet when she storms out of the house?

No way was she going to call her husband anyway. She'd rather walk. She slammed her hand against the steering wheel again and again. This was bunk. She'd have to find a phone. She opened her car door and realized too late her foot landed in a mud puddle. She choked back her frustration as she pushed the gas station door open.

"Do you have a phone I can use?" The gum-snapping blue-haired idiot behind the counter barely looked up from his phone and grunted.

"Uh, a phone? Nah. There's not been a pay phone in here for years."

She glared at the phone in his hand. "I need to call for help. I forgot my wallet and phone at home and I'm out of gas."

He glanced back up from his game, irritated at the interruption.

"The sooner you pass over your phone and let me make a call, the sooner I'll be out of your hair."

He looked at her like she'd just asked to borrow his underwear. "Uh... you... oh." He reluctantly handed his grimy fingerprint-laden device to her.

She punched in Marie's number. Voicemail. She went to dial Colleen next. But she didn't know her number. Or Allison. She didn't know anyone else's number. The phone pinged.

Gum-Snapper held out his hand. "Come on, lady. I got a text."

She sighed. "Just let me try one more number." She punched in her husband's. He answered on the second ring. "I'm out of gas and I forgot my phone and wallet... Uh, okay. Bye." She handed the grimy phone back to the anxious teen. "He's on his way."

The punk kid grunted and wiped his phone on his red flannel shirt as if she were the one with germs.

"Where's the restroom?"

"Paying customers only."

"Seriously? I'm going to buy gas once I get my credit card."

After an eye roll, Blue-Hair handed her a key. Turned out the phone looked pristine next to the facilities. She wandered around the little gas station trying to kill time. Stale Twinkies. A refrigerated section with soda, water, and energy drinks. She reached for a bottle of water and then set it back on the shelf when she remembered she didn't have her wallet. The air was tight in the barely-turn-around space called a gas station. She stepped out and wandered down the road.

The edge of the road was rocky with tall grass on one side and cars whizzing by on the other. A vacant lot across the street. A boarded-up empty building, gravel, and rocks were strewn around the parking lot. Allie kicked the stones, avoiding the mud puddles. She heard children laughing in the distance and the sound of a swing set groaning.

Around the bend, she came to a sign, "Clearwater Pottery: The Gift of Kintsugi." Allie turned up the driveway and wondered if the little house was a shop or if the sign was left from days past and she was going to walk into someone's home. A German Shephard mix greeted her about halfway up the driveway, his tail wagging as if his long-lost friend had just returned.

"Well, hey there little buddy." Her voice was sing-songy and she hoped her fear of dogs didn't leak through.

"Scar. Scar. Leave the poor lady alone and come here." A busty woman came around the side of the house, wiping her hands on the polka-dot apron tied around what would have been her waist if she'd had one. Instead, it made her look a bit like a snowman. "Now, dear, what can I do for you?"

"I saw your sign and -"

"Well, come right in! We rarely have people stopping in these days. Mostly it's internet orders, you know?" She pushed open the door and Scar bolted in front of her. "Out you go. Shoo, you silly boy." She swatted the German Shepard on his caboose, and he slinked back out the door.

"Now, what are you looking for, my dear?"

"Well, I don't know, really. My car ran out of gas down the road, and I forgot my phone and wallet. I'm just killing time waiting for my husband." Allie took a step back. "Everything is so beautiful here." On each wall of the small wood cabin room were glass shelves lined with rows and rows of pottery all the way to the ceiling. "Do you make these?" Allie picked up a bowl, brown with a pattern of thick gold etchings throughout the piece.

"Yes, yes, I do. Well, kind of. You see, each piece comes broken. Maybe it was a family heirloom or a wedding gift. The stories vary as much as the pieces do. A toddler crashed into the end table and the treasure smashed to the floor. A spouse threw it across the room in a rage. An earthquake.

"When a piece comes in, I sit outside in the cove." She pointed out the back window. "That's where I was when Scar found you. What a broken-hearted client sees as ruined I see as a treasure. When I begin to repair the pieces with seams of gold, their true beauty begins to show."

Allie stood there, mesmerized. "You mean you've repaired all these pieces?" She looked around in wonder. Gold glistened in the room, each piece beautiful. "The pieces are more beautiful than before they were broken."

"It's called Kintsugi. It's an ancient Japanese art."

"But," Allie looked at the woman. "You aren't Japanese." Then slapped her hand over her mouth, embarrassed.

"No, dear." She laughed. "I'm surely not. I spent two decades in Japan with my late husband and his family. His baba had a shop and she taught me. She always said something is more beautiful for being broken. After Hiroo died, God rest his soul, I came back to the States, so my boys could go to college. Ah, but there I go again, rambling on."

"No, no, go on," Allie insisted.

"Well, I don't quite know how I got here." She waved her hand around the shop. "It started quite by accident. Marie, the neighbor down the street who watched my boys, was in tears one day when I came to pick Jimmy and Johnny up. She held up the soup-serving bowl her mama had given her for her wedding, it was in pieces. After I put it back together, word of mouth got around and it brought clients from all over the county. Then the internet took off - who knew I'd be making pieces for people I'd never met." She chuckled. "Wouldn't Baba just have gotten a tickle out of that?"

Allie fondled the piece in her hands. "I just didn't realize something so broken could be so beautiful." As she set it back on the shelf, she read the sign below the shelf.

"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places."
- Ernest Hemingway

"That was one of Baba's favorite quotes. She always said people are like pottery. Life is harsh. People develop cracks, some hairline and others life-shattering for many reasons. People who were supposed to love and care for them hurt them. Loss. Heartbreak. Many times, people sweep up their lives and throw it in the trash just like the broken pottery, thinking they are broken beyond repair. Thinking no matter how much they try, they will never be whole again. Thinking the pain will never stop.

"But when we let it, from our deepest hurts, we develop strength, hope, and courage to be mended and not give up. From our flaws, we find meaning and purpose. See that quote over there? It's a line from the song Anthem Leonard Cohen wrote, 'There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.' It's a great song, you should google it when you get home. When we realize we are all flawed, we can love others in their imperfections. Look at this piece. See all the seams? It took me weeks to finish this.

"It's the most beautiful piece in the shop."

"The most broken people can be the most beautiful if they let themselves be. We are all broken in some way. In this throw-away society, we lose a valuable lesson when we focus on replacement instead of restoration."

"Thank you. You are just what I needed today. I need to be getting back to my car. I'm sorry I can't buy anything. I don't have any money with me."

"Here." She handed Allie the dish with all the seams. The light shone in the window through the gold, and it glittered and glistened.

"I can't take this. It's yours." "Honey, at my age I've learned to hold things lightly. Keep it and whenever you see it, remember you have value. You have worth. Jesus says you are more valuable than the sparrows and look at how he cares for them. Don't be discouraged. Don't be bitter. Don't let your pain ruin you. Let it make you beautiful."



Back at the car, Rodney had already paid for the gas and was pumping it when she rounded the corner. She ran into his arms. "I love you so much. I'm so sorry for the way I treated you. Will you forgive me?"

Rodney put the hose back on the hook and took Allie in his arms. "Of course. I was wrong too." As they hugged, the gleam from the gold on the bowl caught the light and she smiled. Things weren't going to be easy. But they would be okay. She would be okay.

3 comments:

  1. I loved this story. I empathized with Allie as I too have lost my temper and reacted much the same way she did. I really liked how the author was able to capture my attention right from the beginning and then completely surprised me with the ending. I can't wait to read more by this author.

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  2. Very sentimental positive and romantic story one that many may identify with. Many have lost their temper and done something on impulse then regretted it terribly later. Kintsugi would be an even better title that is kinda the theme...restoration.

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  3. Love the idea of beautiful brokenness. Your story made me smile.

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