Fine China

The cacophonous cawing of crows carries on the wind. The discordant sound and sight of these scavenger birds, harbingers often forewarning of a person’s impending illness bringing calamitous change, disturbs him. The crows’ black forms, perched high among the straggly branches of the cluster of trees along the shore, are starkly silhouetted against the clear-blue afternoon sky.

Fred feels the cool ocean breeze off the water as he stands by the open living-room window. He wonders if this is how the burglar got in.

The salt air touches the shattered furniture, ripped upholstery with its stuffing showing and the black and white family pictures lying ripped under the broken glass in their frames sent flying with the wall-mirror from the mantel to the floor by the metal fire-place poker in Fred’s shaking hands. He had repeatedly swung the poker at the image of the burglar, glaring back defiantly at Fred from the mirrors and reflective surfaces as Fred pursued him from room to room.

Fred stares down the length of the house, past the open, broken glass doors of the dining-room hutch. The fine china that had rested within, given to Fred and Clarissa as wedding gifts, now lay smashed by the metal crushing bar into the mosaic of the thousand small, puzzle-pattern pieces on the plush carpet. In the distant kitchen the tin toaster and silver-coated kettle had felt the bite of the poker’s metal tooth in Fred’s whirlwind smashing as he spun around searching out the reflection of the burglar.

Fred tries to control his breathing.  He needs to listen for the sound of movement within the house.  He looks down with surprise at his hands but cannot remember when or why he put on the gloves.  The poker is heavy and the sinews in his arms burn as he lays it down.  He finds the pain strangely disturbing.  He is a young man with a young family and the metal’s weight should be nothing to him.

His foot hits the picture frame on the floor.  His wife Clarissa, in her sun-flower summer-print dress, and son Sam, with his youthful, golden, sun-drenched locks of hair, smile up at him from the colour photo.  Sam, thirteen, is proudly wearing his school football team uniform as Clarissa places a pitcher of lemonade on the garden table.  They watch Fred, with Betsy their horse, plow the field running down to the sea behind their house. Fred in the photo tugs on reins signalling Betsy to pull the plow, splitting the sod of the meadow and cutting deep into the rich brown soil in the valley formed of volcanic movement over eternity. Fred remembers how Sam would run alongside, shouting encouragement, whooping and hollering, young and alive, planting the seed potatoes in their wake that will grow and multiply. Sam would place his arm and a cooling, wet towel from a bucket of water across Fred’s shoulders.  Father and son share in the wonder of witnessing the cycle of life and the passing of seasons.

A shiver of fear runs along Fred’s spine. Sam will soon be back from school.  He’d be here now except he often stays after classes finish for football practice. He’s the star player with his bedroom full of trophies. He wants to be a coach when he grows up.

‘Where is Clarissa?’ he wonders. She must be out in the garden not to have heard the ruckus…or upstairs. Seized with a panic, Fred rushes for the stairs. He must find her…before the burglar does.

*          *          *

Fine China

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author
Lawrence E. Collins travels, hikes, fishes and writes from his hometown, St. John’s, NL. His stories have been published in magazines, including Canadian Stories Magazine, ‘The Dress’, Vol 17 No. 96, April/May, 2014, ‘Ebenezer's Party’, feature story, Vol 17 No. 99, Oct/Nov, 2014, at www.canadianstories.net [Archives 2014], and ‘Sidney’, Vol 18 No. 102, April/May, 2015.
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