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Old Things in Need of Repair

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Summer Qing learned early to love old things. She also learned early to love dangerous things.

In years gone by, swish, swish, swish went her feet as she watched her Papa work. Her feet didn't quite touch the bars on her stool. She liked that she could swing her legs.

Fwoomp, fwoop, fwoop went Papa's brush. Seeing her watching, he gave her a brush to make her own swish, swish, swish sound. "Gently now, Summer." He'd watch her as she carefully brushed every last bit of clay from the ceramic bowl. She watched the primary colors of the design emerge from the black clay. She laughed to see the faces of the animals smiling back at her.

Sometimes it was hot in her green radiation suit, but Mama insisted that she wear one if she was going to work with them in the field. "Little bones need extra special protection." It was even green, her favorite color. She giggled with them in the shower at the end of the day. She loved to hold the counter that made crackle, crackle noises to see if they'd been exposed to too much radio active.

One day, Papa held up the shards of a bright green cup. "See now, how bright this is. If I were to put water in it, the water would stay hot. Do you know why, Summer?"

Summer nodded hard so that her braids danced on the sides of her head.

"Careful now, or your head will fall right off." Papa stilled her nodding head with a curve of his hand on the back of her head. "Okay, now, don't keep me wondering about it, let loose the answer in your mind."

"Because the people a long, long, long, long time ago put radio active in it and the radio active jumps around and keeps thing warm." Summer jumped to illustrate her point.

"That's close, but it wasn't all that long ago." Summer scooted closer, because now Papa was going to tell her a story. The plastic of her radiation suit crinkled as she moved . "People had been studying radiation since the late 1800s, but after people made the first atomic bomb they wanted to use it for everything. Do you know what an atomic bomb is?"

Summer nodded, but not so vigorously. "We studied Paris blowing up a few weeks ago in school." She scratched her face. "It means there's no more France."

"That's right. Well, after they made the very first atomic bomb, people wanted to use radiation in everything. They thought they could make super heroes with it or big monsters. Rar." Summer giggled. She loved it when Papa rarred. "When they realized that it could keep their drinks warm or their food hot, they put it in their plates or cups like this one. This is part of a set that I'm fixing." Papa smiled at her over the top of his glasses and she felt warm inside and not because the radio active was heating up her bones and stopping them from getting growed, because she had a green radiation suit.

Swish, swish, swish went her feet as she watched her Papa apply glue to the edges of the cup. "Will people be able to drink out of it when you're done?"

"I'm afraid not. The glue would hold it together, but it might make them sick if they did too often." Glop, gloop, swish went her Papa's brush putting the pieces of the cup together. She saw the cup go from being pieces of something to being a cup. She watched her Papa do it again. He put the cups together, because they were a couple like Mama and Papa. She could see the cracks, but that was okay. If there were no cracks at all, then people wouldn't know that Papa had put it back together again.

Summer went back to cleaning her bowl. It was a little chipped, but she could see the smiling faces of the animals on the surface. It felt good to know that they would always be warm.

Summer learned early to love old things. She also learned to love dangerous things.

Summer wasn't nearly so young when she met Joe. She flipped him off in the smoke and rubble. She knew she wanted him.

A cupboard with lead glass paned doors full of brilliantly colored ceramic cups and bowls and plates told the story of that want. Those cups weren't to drink from. Those plates weren't for eating off of. The bowls should not be used for soup. They were for looking at. Sometimes, she looked at the colorful smiling animals forever frozen. They would never be discovered at the bottom of a bowl of oxtail soup.

She wanted Joe. She took him home. She carefully brushed away addiction's clay from his eyes and veins and skin. She didn't wear her green radiation suit. She was no longer so young that her bones were still growing. She glued his pieces together with careful attention. It was still possible to see his cracks. He shouldn't have been for everyday ware. Even cleaned and glued, he crackled with that long ago radio active.

But still, she couldn't put him away behind lead glass panes and tell him goodbye. On the day that they were married, she made him Jasmine tea in the bright green cups with their long repaired cracks. He drank it because he loved her. She could tell he hated the taste. Still, he swallowed it down. She didn't tell him what they were drinking out of.

Every year, on their anniversary, she would make a fresh pot of Jasmine tea from a bright orange tea pot and he would drink it all down.

The glue that held the cups together held for another year each time she used them. She would carefully rinse them by hand. She dried them with a cotton cloth. She would put them away behind the lead glass for another year.

He never asked why the tea was always hot. He never asked why they were using cracked cups.

She never told him.