Eger is a three-time winner of the Wisconsin Regional Writer’s Jade Ring Contest. She has self-published five books that are available at Amazon. Her work has appeared in various online journals including Anchala Studio’s The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memories, Fictive Dream, Runcible Spoon, Scarlet Leaf Review, Tuck, Ekphrastic Review, Cadence: The Inner Circle Writers' Group Poetry Anthology 2018 and Fifty Word Stories. She is currently working on an apocalyptic novella under the name Copper Rose.
The Broken Bowl
It was green. Dark green. And it was old. Great-grandmother old.
I was in 9th grade, and I needed a bowl to display my prize winning raspberries and crème. I was determined to get an ‘A’ in Home Economics. For that, I would need the old green bowl.
I was hesitant to ask mother because I knew how old the bowl was, and how much it meant to her. But a picture in my head, of that ‘A’ on my grade sheet, helped fend off any fear I may have had. Mother paused, looked up from her ironing, the right corner of her lip was higher than the left, and her left eye brow was higher than the right. I always wondered how she could make her face look like that.
She wasn’t saying anything, so I asked again, “Momma, can I take the green bowl for a project at school?” I was afraid but prepared. I had a picture of the dessert, beautiful crème pudding with the reddest raspberries topping it, and held it up for her to see. “I’m going to make this for a grade in Mrs. Becker’s class. See, in the picture, it’s a green bowl. See how pretty it is?”
She took the picture, and held it out at arm’s length, squinting, humming.
“Hmmm, that is very pretty.” Now she looked at me. “Do you promise to take care of the bowl, make sure it doesn’t get broken? It’s very old, you know. An heirloom. Irreplaceable.”
“I will Momma. I promise I’ll take care of the bowl. I’ll guard it with my life,” I answered.
“Okay, then, but take it to school in the box. To keep it safe.”
I was ecstatic. I ran to the attic in search of the box. There it was in the far corner. I lifted the lid. The bowl was radiant. I held it up to the light from the high window, and smiled at how it sparkled. Cut glass, sharp edges. I found an old blanket, wrapped it up tight, and put it back in the box. Wrapped it to keep it safe.
The next day I guarded that bowl with my life. I was ever so careful on the bus, sat alone, last one off, no one to bump into me. I stepped carefully all the way to my locker, holding the box close to my belly. I spun the combination to open the door, and placed the green bowl carefully on the floor of the locker, and quickly closed the door.
My second class of the day was Home Ec, and I was full of anticipation and apprehension. I wanted the ‘A’. I made the raspberries and crème, and it was sensational, the best yet. The teacher was very proud of me. I rejoiced, unable to contain my personal satisfaction. The raspberry crème tasted as wonderful as it looked, beautiful, yellow and red against the dark green bowl.
I got the ‘A’.
After everyone had sampled the tasty treat, I scraped the last of it out of the bowl and took it over to the sink to wash it. Even without the raspberry crème inside, it was beautiful. Sparkling under the classroom lights. The teacher suggested that I take it back to my locker, keep it safe there until it was time to go home. To go now, before the bell rang, while the halls were empty, no one to bump into me. Wrap it in the blanket, put it back in the box.
I stepped out of the classroom with the green bowl in my hands. It was quiet in the big empty hallway. I stopped at the fountain to get a drink then began making my way to my locker. Pictures of the ‘A’ on my grade sheet danced through my thoughts… then my foot slipped on the shiny tile, and the bowl was sailing through the air. I watched it, all shiny and green, in the air, no sound, except for the sucking in of my breath. No sound. Then crash… green shards of glass flew everywhere, making tinkling sounds as they landed and skidded, a million pieces of green glass kaleidoscoped on the hallway floor.
Pictures of a desert where there were no people quickly replaced the picture of the ‘A’ in my mind. Now I was thinking—how would I live there? Would it be too hot in the desert? Would I be able to find enough water to drink? I knew in my heart, after this, I couldn’t go back home. The punishment I had in mind was just too great, the pain in my mother’s eyes. Another place? A mountain? Maybe some farmer would take me in. Then the tears came as the truth of it hit me, seized my heart with its knuckle busting grip. I had broken my promise to keep the bowl safe. I and I alone, broke the bowl.
The teacher stuck her head out of the classroom door, her face white, not as white as mine, but white enough. Color completely gone as she groped for words that would make sense. Her mouth was moving, but no words came. We seemed to be trapped in slow motion, though my heart was thundering in my chest. Tears were streaming from my eyes. My eyes mimicking my terrified heart.
“Oh honey, what happened?” Mrs. Becker asked. “Did someone bump you?”
I shook my head, still in slow motion. I pointed to the floor, half-heartedly, and then let my hands fall to my side. I hung my head, trying to hide the whiteness of my face, though I could feel the blood as it pumped into my cheeks, making them red. I must look like a clown I thought. But I did not feel happy like a clown. No, I did not feel happy at all.
I took the green cut glass bowl home. In a brown paper bag. Making broken glass sounds whenever I moved it. There was no where else to go but home. Nowhere to hide. The dry, empty desert crept into the edge of my thinking, then quickly left.
At home, I stood outside the door to our house. Like a stranger. Wondering if I should ring the door bell, to summon my mother so I could tell her that I had broken the green bowl. I reached out my hand, and suddenly the door opened. It was mother.
“Hi honey, are you home already?” she said with her smile. “I worried about you all day, about your raspberries and crème. I thought you were going to take the old green bowl. I found it in the attic after you left. I almost called the school to tell you. I hope you got your ‘A’,” she paused for a second, looking at me.
“Honey, are you okay?” she asked then. The glass in the bag tinkled as tears of happiness spilled from my eyes. I had taken the wrong bowl.