Shattering Glass

Marguerite loved glass. It started as a childhood collection of tiny glass animals purchased with a meager allowance. By high school she had begun collecting glass floats, snow globes and balls of blown glass. By the time her more fortunate friends headed off for college, she lived on the slippery glass footing of longing for art school with no way to get there. Her mom, feeling her parental duty completed, carefully packed up Marguerite’s glass collection and showed her to the door.

For awhile Marguerite cleaned houses, gazing like a drug addict at the glass sculptures, stained glass and even the ancient glass doorknobs in the homes she made sparkle. All it got her was an empty pit in her soul and a car that wasn’t quite a beater. So she quit.

And then not much.

She loved the look of the sun setting on the horizon as she tipped back the seat in her car. Imagining a glass sunburst of oranges and reds, longing for the completeness in her soul that came with creation. With loving fingers, she traced the rainbow of failing beams as they glanced across the dust on her windshield. It distracted her from the smell of the noodle cup heated with a plug in water warmer.

The next day her rounds of, “Do you need any help?” landed her in a gym. The smell was sweaty flavored with the pungency of gym equipment, the lingering scents of rubber on her hands that she remembered from high school PE.

She sat on a straight chair against the wall, waiting for the manager, watching the men and women work out, sweating themselves thinner and stronger. Marguerite grinned thinking how her own regimen of starvation food and pavement pounding kept her in shape. With distaste she watched a big boxer pounding on a smaller sparring partner, then laughing when the guy buckled in a welter of groaning blood.

“You aren’t such a big man, Tom,” the big guy sneered. “Let me help you up!” and laughed as he dropped the guy again.

“Creep,” Marguerite muttered under her breath.

A few of the other clients called the boxer some names and helped his opponent. A middle-aged man with bags under his eyes, handed Tom a wet towel, then left the group and came over to Marguerite.

“So what can you do?”

She sprang to her feet. “I can do whatever you need. Paperwork. Organizing. Cleaning. I’m reliable.”

The manager grunted, but he hired her. “Keep the towels washed and folded. Bathrooms clean. Equipment that these idiots leave around put away. Minimum wage. About twenty hours a week. Don’t waste time by chatting up my clients.”

As if, Marguerite thought. “I’ll take it. Thanks!”

There was no glass here, but she was deadly tired of convenience store fake food. Her mom’s once a week dinner with a pack of leftovers just wasn’t enough. The dreams of art were as strong as ever, but painfully she was aware that her body was demanding something more substantial.

The sour smell of the gym began to blend with the stale smell of her car. Marguerite opened a bank account (no fees guaranteed) and began siphoning in every cent she could manage. Most of the clients at the gym were either friendly or disinterested, so all in all it wasn’t a bad gig.

Except for Daryl, the boxer. He was a jerk in every possible way. A stupid guy wanting to be an alpha male and a boaster about how he was going to make the big time as a boxer. Marguerite thought he was too stupid to get the strategy needed for the sport, but no one asked her and she kept her mouth shut.

But something must have shown on her face. A few days later Daryl cornered her in the laundry room. He leaned his muscled bulk against the doorjamb and let his arrogant eyes stray over her.

“So baby, you need a man in your life?”

“Not so much, thanks.”

He moved forward, the stench of his sweat-soaked tee-shirt filling the room until it smothered the clean laundry scent. Marguerite held a bundle of towels in front of her and despite the warning prickles along her spine, tried not to sigh. She so didn’t need this fool bothering her.

“I got my eye on you, baby.”

“Only one?”

Daryl looked confused for a moment, but then shrugged and pushed closer. Damn her smart mouth. Marguerite backed up until her bottom hit the table. The bully strutted closer until his hips pushed against hers. Fright bringing her breath in tight gasps, she leaned back like a gymnast, groping for any kind of weapon.

Nothing but the heavy bottle of detergent. As he grabbed her, she grabbed the bottle and swung blindly.

Thwack! The bottle hit Daryl’s jaw. He stared for a confused instant, then his eyes rolled up in his head and he dropped like the dead.

Marguerite froze, then feeling returned to her legs and still clutching the detergent bottle she ran out into the gym yelling for help..

Events happened fast. Medics. Police. Shouting. Her body trembling so she could hardly stand.

Tom, Daryl’s previous victim, turned out to be a lawyer. She signed something. He talked to the police, the manager, to the insurance company. Four months later he handed Marguerite a check for enough money to cover a couple of years tuition.

“Who knew that Daryl had a glass jaw!” He laughed and laughed, then as he headed out, he waved. “Pleasure doing business with you! I’ll want your first glass sculpture for my office, Marguerite.”

“You bet!” she called.

“How I love glass,” she murmured as she felt the glass ceiling shatter.


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