Flash Fiction 3rd Place: Liberty Glass by Sherry Morris
Always watch for chips and cracks.
She nods at her windshield installer husband. Doesn’t need to look up to know he’s waggling a bone-thin finger. She tilts her head, peers through a curtain of hair. He’s halfway through his second beer. End of the third is when trouble arrives.
The key is to catch a chip early. Before it turns into a crack. Ignore a chip, the next thing you know, it’s a crack — letting in dirt and dust and debris — expanding into a hazard. Or worse. Today we had one go postal. Collapsed the roof. No shit! Donna nods. She can see that happening. Easily. Notes the turn in his tone. Sees him reach for the bottle, watches his Adam’s apple bob three times.
He loves talking shop. Countless times she’s heard There’re two parts — the tough outer layer, protecting the inner lamination, the safety glass. That inner layer holds the broken outer layer together in an accident.
And in non-accidents she could add but doesn’t. She understands inner strength ability holding everything together.
A windshield cracks when struck but doesn’t fall apart or cave in on the driver in most circumstances. That part always reassures. Then he’ll pause. She’ll brace.
But there’s a breaking point.
A truth she knows deep down.
Just like she knows Windshields are designed to handle the stress of the road, but over time damage always occurs. She keeps nodding to show she’s listening, agreeing while he drones on and drinks. She wonders if he’s noticed she’s become a bobblehead.
Her mother said to find a man good with his hands, who could hold down a job. She’s done both. In a way. She rubs the fading bruise on her arm. Almost cracks a smile at how well she’s followed her mother’s instructions but doesn’t. It might expand into a hazard. Go postal.
At least his work is steady. Windshields are always getting chipped, cracked, broken.
She wonders if her head will nod off her neck. At first, she saw it as a sign — him working at Liberty Glass, repairing windshields. Keeping people and their cars moving. That’s what she fell for — the movement — freedom from her parents’ rigid home. Now she scoffs at this workplace name. There’s no liberty in glass. Only multiple chips, expanding cracks.
He’s talking size now. A chip or crack covered by a quarter is repairable. Anything bigger than a dollar bill — forget it. There’s slur in his words now. Glint in his eye.
In her head, she counts her secret stash of dollars and quarters. Nearly enough. Even for canyon-size cracks.
Best to use clear resin for the fix. It restores integrity. Improves appearance. But even a good repair leaves discolouration, mistiness, reduced visibility.
But Donna’s view is clear. No more misty-eyes. The discolouration’s nearly gone.
With multiple cracks, you gotta decide whether to fix it or go new.
Donna’s decided. There’ll be clatter and shatter. Postal-size hazards. But she’ll survive — finding liberty through glass.