The incredible disintegrating vase


We were three brothers, large, lanky and bored

It was the winter of 1979 in Canon City, Colorado.   Snow was thick  on the ground, with more in the forecast.  Three snow days in, cabin fever was reaching its peak.

“This sucks,” said Garth.

“No doubt,” said Jerry.

“I wish I was at school,”  I said.

For a moment, they both looked at me as if I had grown another head.

“What?  It’s frigging boring around here!” I said.

“Anyway,” said Jerry, shaking his head as if to dispel the craziness, “What’s on TV?”

“Nothing we haven’t seen 12 times,” said Garth, tossing a  football in the air as we brainstormed.

Cable television was in its infancy and only a recent addition to our household.  After three days, endless reruns of “I Love Lucy” and “Gilligan’s Island” were already provoking thoughts of suicide.

“How about Monopoly?” I said.

“Mom yelled at us last time we played,” said Garth.

Jerry’s loansharking and  Garth’s Trump-like propensity to stack hotels on Park Place had led to an impromptu wrestling free-for-all around the kitchen table.  Board games were out.

The football stopped.  Garth’s eyes lit up.

“Jerry,” said Garth.  “Go long!”

Going as long as the dining room allowed, Jerry caught Garth’s pass just short of the front door.  Turning, he fixed me with a hard stare that said there was a minute left and we were down by six and by God it was down to me and him to win this thing.

I ran into the living room where Jerry’s perfect game winning pass landed in my arms.

“Your turn, Garth!” I said.

Garth took off.  My perfect pass sailed through his outstretched hands and into our mother’s favorite vase.  Horrified, we watched as it fell off the table, landing in 3 pieces on the carpet.

“Idiot!”  I said.

“You’re in trouble,” said Garth.

“Your ass,” I said.  “We’re all in trouble.”

“What’d I do?” asked Jerry.

“Threw the ball in the house,” I said.  “Just like us.”

“Yeah, but you broke the vase,” said Jerry.

“I’ll just say you did it,” I said.

“Me too,” said Garth, grinning evilly.  He was good at that.

“Bastards,” said Jerry.  He stared at the vase; shoulders slumped, he realized how this was going to play out…how these things always played out.  There would be blood, maybe lots of it, but he knew I wasn’t going down alone.  Mom would see the broken vase, and the interrogation would begin.  We would screech our innocence in a jumble of accusations and denials, louder and louder, until Mom couldn’t take it anymore and kicked all three of our asses.   It was inescapable, and a week later, that’s exactly what happened.  Meanwhile….

“Hey, check this out,” Jerry said, picking up the remnants of the vase.  “We can put it back together!”  Sure enough,  the three pieces stacked together perfectly.  We marveled at the newly restored heirloom–we were saved!

The week that followed was hellish.  School resumed, but was little relief.  Each day the walk home got longer as we imagined Mom greeting us at the door with folded arms and crazy eyes.  Normally the highlight of the day, evenings around the TV became torture, with Mom invariably taking her accustomed position next to the vase.  Wide-eyed, our hearts lurched with every twitch of her hand or toss of her hair.

Finally, inevitably, her hand lightly brushed the vase as she reached for the TV guide.  We watched, almost with relief, as it crashed to the floor.

Once again we found ourselves staring at the broken vase.

“Mom,” yelled Garth triumphantly. “You broke it!”

“Horseshit,” said Mom.

And there was blood.  Lots of it.