Thursday, May 1, 2014

One Second

     "Alright, are we done here?"
     "I think so."
     "Let's pack it up then."
     The museum curator had been very kind, lending them a few exquisite pieces for the shoot. James watched as his partner, Andrew, deftly hoisted a beautiful glass vase into its soft, padded transport case.
     "I'll take these two if you can get the rest," Andrew said, referring to the vase he had just loaded and a porcelain bowl that he was in the process of wrapping up tightly in foam. "I think we can do it in one trip."
     Borrowed artwork in hand, James followed Andrew out into the hallway and down the stairs. As he trailed his partner, James watched Andrew shifting uneasily, trying to balance the weight of the pieces he was carrying. After cycling through a few configurations, Andrew hefted the boxy case containing the glass vase up onto his left shoulder, curling up the wrapped bowl under his right armpit. After a few steps, James saw the case on Andrew's shoulder tilt back, and the unsecured lid flopped to the side.
     James stared as gravity worked to overcome friction and the vase began it's slow, inexorable slide down the slight incline. The fall was a blur, the vase accelerated towards the linoleum tile floor too quickly for his mind to react mid flight. It's fall was soon arrested by the hard surface, and the vase burst out in a symmetrical spray. Shards flew across the ground in all directions, taking him back to the time he had dropped a plate at dinner. "Don't move," he heard his mother saying, "Let me get the broom and sweep up the pieces, I don't want you cutting your foot." And then the ensuing lecture about why he should never walk around barefoot and the time she stepped on a piece of glass as a child and spent twelve hours in the hospital. He felt the chill of winters spent cracking icicles off the side of his house and breaking them against the pavement, trying to track the scattered fragments. The tears that streamed down his cheeks when his elaborate diorama for the third grade book fair fell off the table and was utterly ruined. He could smell the oil sizzling up from the hot pan as he cracked eggs onto it. Reality began swimming back. He pictured the curator's old, creased features, his warm smile. The smile turned to an angry, disappointed frown as he imagined delivering the bad news.
     Back to the scene in front of him. jagged strips of glass littered the floor all around the two boys. Andrew turned around, mouth agape, taking in the magnitude of the calamity.
     "We're in big trouble."

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