Copyright is held by the author.
The sound of breaking glass shatters the serenity of a quiet Sunday afternoon. Walter Keeler knew all too well what this was about, and what to expect in the next few moments. It happened far too often but, nevertheless, he played along as if it was simply an accident. As per usual, he asked, “Everything okay down there? What’d ya break?”
“Oh, just an empty old wine bottle. Sorry. Nothing to worry about, I’m okay,” replied Anna, his wife. She was in the basement of their home and would soon begin sweeping up shards of glass from the concrete floor.
But worry was just what Walter had coming to him. He knew what the broken wine bottle was meant for. A silly, superstitious practice passed down from Anna’s mother and grandmother. He would often poke fun at Anna for the foolishness of it all, not to mention the waste of a perfectly good bottle. How an educated woman could be a part of such a ridiculous old wives’ tale baffled him.
According to Anna and her mother, bad things happened in threes. They firmly believed that once an awful thing happened, they could complete the triple play by intentionally causing two further, inconsequential events to occur. Two broken bottles, a deliberate tear in two stockings, any relatively benign losses were called for and acted upon, thereby preventing two much more tragic events.
“Okay, Anna. Let’s have the second one now,” muttered Walter to himself. He wondered if this latest folly into the realm of the absurd was due to Anna’s visit to her doctor yesterday. She had come home that day unwilling to talk. Bad news, he guessed, but she wouldn’t say. She would never speak of bad things, just act upon them.
The thought of cancer had crossed Walter’s mind. Anna had lost her mother to that horrible disease, and she worried that she was next in line for its deadly grasp. What made matters worse for Anna was her strong conviction that she could have prevented her mother’s death, had she acted in time. She was too upset by her mother’s initial diagnosis to quickly follow through with a couple of minor misfortunes of her own choosing. Her mother was in a state of denial and did nothing. When Anna finally came to grips with her mother’s fate, it was too late. The disease had doubled, spreading rapidly, with no hope of recovery.
“Any time now, Anna. What’re you waiting for?” whispered Walter. He couldn’t relax and get back to his book until he heard that second crash of glass. He expected it, even welcomed it now, phase two of her pre-emptive strikes, the shattering sound of relief. But no further sound came from the basement.
Maybe this time only one bottle was needed, guessed Walter. That would mean that two bad things had already happened. Then a terrible thought entered his mind. Had Anna been given a double whammy? Was she diagnosed with two types of cancer? Was it spreading beyond control? Dear God, was she to suffer the same fate as her mother? These questions ravaged Walter’s mind, but he refused to accept any of the possibilities. He would not let it happen.
“No, you haven’t received any such diagnosis,” murmured Walter. He tried to reassure himself that the doctor had found nothing wrong. Just the flu, the common cold, that’s all. I know I’ve ridiculed you about breaking bottles, the silliness of it all, but Anna, if there’s the slightest chance it’ll make a difference . . . “Now please, let’s hear that second bottle break.”
Time stood still for Walter. The seemingly endless silence was a deafening assault to his sanity. If Anna died his life would be as shattered as the glass on the basement floor. She just couldn’t leave him now. She was a part of him. “What will I do?” he pleaded. He felt his life hanging in anticipation.
And then, finally, that sweet sound of salvation.
“Everything okay up there? What’d you break, Walter?”