Tempered Glass

May 3, 2013 § 13 Comments

Breaking Glass

Breaking Glass

By Jacqueline Austin

So I got up to take a bathroom break this afternoon, and with a sudden enormous boom, the shower exploded in my face.  Broken glass flew everywhere.  It crashed on the ceiling light and hit me in the chest, my arms, my hair.  I ran outside barefoot.  There was no blood.  My feet had not been cut.  There was glass on my shoulders and my clothing but the door had fortunately caught the shrapnel, so I was lucky — I guess.

After a few minutes of standing outside in the beautiful, hot, serene day, with birdies chirping in the blossoming trees, and the glad laughter of playing children wafting gently to my throbbing ears, I felt like a fool — but curious.  Surely exploding wasn’t part of a shower’s usual repertoire?  It wet people, it held in water — that was it.  And doubting my experience as usual, I went back in.

But from my kitchen I could immediately hear something which sounded like a rushing river, with popcorn popping over it, and there was an ominous smell of dust.  I went to the bedroom door, and made my way over a scattering of small, square pieces of glass, which crunched almost restfully underfoot.  The door had blown shut but I opened it, screeching over jagged glass.

My bathroom had been in a tornado.  It was buried ankle deep in what looked like slushy ice.  The shower door was intact, if skewed on its hinges, and creaking.  The heavy tempered glass wall next to it, though, was now more hole than glass.  The part of the wall that remained, crackled and crazed, as I watched.  It bowed outward infinitely slowly, but it held.  The slowly breaking glass was so beautiful, I almost touched it, but realized it might take only one gentle tap to explode once again, in my face.

I’m used to people exploding, but not showers.  I did what we all do now — went on the Internet.  Dozens of pictures of blood and glass later, I realized I was a very lucky girl.  That’s what my folks always used to call me — a “very lucky girl.”  They’re dead now.  Maybe that’s part of my very luck.  Maybe not.  In any case, tempered glass just does that sometimes, explodes, and it generally explodes while we are naked in the shower, all soaped up, with our eyes shut, groping for our washcloth.  Killer shower walls are apparently responsible for many ER visits; perhaps not for deaths, but they are bad enough to be up there on our daily list of terrors we would fear, if we weren’t so lamentably ignorant.

I called a shower glass place and was lucky again.  A guy came right over, clad in a canvas work suit, carrying an enormous bucket, heavy duty vacuum cleaner, glass-poking prod and willingness to do a messy job.  He thanked me for my business, and while he poked out the remaining glass — slowly and carefully — he told me that his divorce had just been finalized the previous week.  His name was Che Guevara.

“No,” I said, “not really?”

“Yes.  Why?”

A question about parental naming practices led to a discussion of abusive fathers who drank and left their families high and dry; of cheating wives and the boyfriends they lied to (“She told him she was single!”), and — big swaths of glass were dropping, crashing as he spoke — how he was going to leave this job as soon as he got his teeth done.  He didn’t like the thought of dentures.  Two more months of shower glass replacement should be enough to pay for four dental implants and a week or two of decent recovery, and then, “my friend,” it was off to parts unknown.  The ex wife had taken the ranch, the house, all the proceeds of his entire life, but that did not matter.  His dream — after the teeth — was to buy a really fine metal detector, and head south.  Over the border south, to his old land, to meet his compadres.

He had given each of five compadres one of his houses, and a car.  They had gotten married.  They had kids, some even grandkids.  And now these five compadres owed him, or his name wasn’t Che Guevara, some of the fat of their happy new lives.  Each of these friends would drive him, and would wait in the car for him, on the outskirts of some piece of history that only he knew about.  For in the time between being a house and car man, and being a shower glass repairman, Che Guevara had not been idle.  He had, in fact, been going through the Internet, scouring libraries, listening to people’s tales.  At that middle time of his life, he’d had a career as a private investigator.

The worst thing about being a private investigator had been times like the day a fugitive held a gun to his head, and the FBI had shown up in the nick of time.  And the best thing about being a PI, and learning skills of detection, had been that he had learned how to detect treasure.  The treasure of the ages.  So while a compadre waited in the comfort of his gifted car, Che Guevara would pick up his metal detector and go into the wilds that only he knew about, alone.  And there he would find treasure.  Well, *more* treasure, actually.  Because one day, the first day he ever hunted treasure, Che Guevara had found a cache of silver.  He’d given 800 pieces of silver to the owner of the land.  He’d given 800 more pieces to the government, to pay for taxes.  And he’d kept 800 pieces of silver for himself — silver coins that had been worth only $10 apiece at the time, but were now worth $50.

By now Che Guevara had finished knocking out the glass.  He was carrying it out in bucket loads.  Four enormous loads it took, to carry out that glass.  It shimmered and shone, and whispered over itself as it shifted.  At the end of Che Guevara’s story, there was no glass surrounding my shower.  In fact my shower looked just like it had that morning, when it had glass — only one couldn’t shower in it, and one could walk right through what still kinesthetically felt to me, like a wall.

Che Guevara counseled me to vacuum three more times, and to wash the bathroom, before I went in without socks and sturdy shoes.  “Three months from now you’ll still be picking up glass,” he said.  “Three months from now, when I have my teeth.  And my treasure.”

Copyright 2013 by Jacqueline Austin.  All rights reserved.

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§ 13 Responses to Tempered Glass

  • Lisa Milligan says:

    Love this, Jackie. visual, charming, original. Congrats!

  • Mike Greenwald says:

    Wow. Great story Jackie. Thanks for sharing.

    Mike G

  • Brian OConnell says:

    Nicely done Jackie, very engaging. It’s wonderful to accidentally encounter great tale spinners.

    And thank goodness for tempered glass!


  • Anne Reese says:

    What a day, Jackie! Holy Moly. Well done! XO Anne

  • LINDA NISHIO says:

    Hi Jackie, Wow! I just read your entry! OMG! Glad you are okay. Great story of Che Guevara. I had a T-shirt with a photo of Che Guevara on it but I think it got so thin, I had to throw it out.

    One day I have to tell you my story of shattered glass and art at Barnsdall. Luckily, no one was in the gallery when it exploded during an earthquake because I didn’t have tempered glass.

    Yes, vacuum again for me!

    Love, Linda


  • Kagan, Bruce says:

    awesome post,Jackie! ________________________________________

  • masgorgone@aol.com says:

    Great piece, Jackie! Your description of the event itself, your response, and especially your characterization of the guy — beautiful stuff.


  • jacajacjac says:

    Thanks, guys! Every word is true–well, almost every word.

  • Bronwen says:

    *whispered over itself as it shifted* — wow, great story, great writing!

  • nicolajbs says:

    Wow!!! Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the shower!! Is there a test for stressed shower glass? How can we anticipate this?
    Love your description Jackie.

  • Anonymous says:

    Felt so true! Was it?

    • jacajacjac says:

      Yes, it’s true, except for changing the guy’s name and identifying details.

      And Nicola–we can’t anticipate this. Some glass shatters spontaneously either due to a hit on its edge (there were two earthquakes that morning) or to flaws which grow over time.

  • Carla Danes says:

    So, I am having coffee at the breakfast table at Claire’s house in Hillsdale, NY, with baby Cyrus on my lap, reading Jackie Austin’s story about treasure in the ground and sparkling in the bathroom to my sweet husband Chris. Could anything be more perfect? Thank you so very much,

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