Glass. My husband, Bill, and glass. They must be kept apart.
Something seems to snap when he touches glass. In fact, he only has to look at it. Light-bulbs, tumblers, wine glasses, beer mugs, French windows, he’s shattered them all.
Mirrors. Now, mirrors are one of his specialities. Whether he’s hanging a mirror, taking it down, driving home with a new one in the boot or even just looking into one to help him do up his tie, there’s always the same result: a peace-shattering crescendo and a quick rush for Savlon and sticking-plaster. Bad luck? By the time our great-grandchildren are leaving school, we may have cleared the last seven-year curse. If I manage to keep Bill away from mirrors for the rest of his life.
And he’s an engineer! He’s great with his hands. Creative, too. Give him something to make, and wood (or metal, plastic, fibreglass) to make it with, he’s a genius. But keep him away from glass. He’s good in the garden, too, though he complains that I won’t let him have a greenhouse.
Anyway, we had this coffee table. Huge wooden thing, with large circle of polished glass slotting into the top. I’d never taken to it. It was ugly, took up room and attracted dust. Eventually, the aunt who gave it to us obligingly died and we were free to get rid of it.
‘Actually, I quite like it,’ said Bill, with every sign of sincerity.
I looked at him in disapproving, silent horror.
‘I do. It’s different, striking. You notice it.’
I shook my head sadly and straight away posted an ad on a local website. We quickly got a phone call. A couple on the other side of town liked the sound of the table, and they arranged to drop round next day. It seemed I was to quickly get rid of the thing.
The wife turned out to be a twittering young thing who gabbled constantly, accompanied by the rattling and tinkling of her beads, bangles, earrings and other dangly bits of metal. The man was sullen and quiet.
‘I love it! I just love it! It’s so beautiful! I love it and it’s going to love me too. I knew this would be right. Today’s an auspicious day for Aquarians. What do you think, darling?’
Her partner grunted a solemn acquiescence. Bill’s head was in his hands. Somehow I’d thought that she’d want it. They paid cash there and then.
‘Do you want to take it with you now?’ Bill forced himself to ask.
‘We can’t do that, unfortunately. We cycled here,’ said the woman.
‘But we’ll hire a van,’ said the man in his biggest speech to date, ‘And let you know when we’re coming.’
‘No, no,’ said Bill, ‘I’ll pop it in the car this afternoon and drop it off at your place. Let’s have your address.’ I gave him a stern look, but he didn’t notice.
Later as we watched the couple cycling away, I said, ‘It’s glass.’
‘Glass? What’s glass?’ he answered, paying I thought, too much attention to the slim, elegant figure of the cycling woman, her long, gypsy dress flowing in the breeze.
‘The table,’ I said, firmly, ‘You’ve offered to transport a table with a glass top.’
‘I know it’s glass. What’s the problem? I’m an engineer. I can handle glass. I’m not a child.’
I gave him a meaningful look. His anger soon passed and he became apologetic, even pleading. ‘Look, I promise, I won’t damage it. I can deal with it. Just let me do it.’
Half an hour later I was passing through the living room on my way to the kitchen. The wooden base had gone, and the disc of glass was propped drunkenly against an armchair. Through the window I could see the car, its tailgate open, the rear seats down, the wooden base lowered inside. Bill appeared with some old bedsheets, for wrapping the glass before loading it. I looked away. There was potential for disaster at every stage.
I hurried through to the kitchen and closed the door.
Idly I stirred some dirty dishes around a sinkful of lukewarm, sudsy water. Peace couldn’t come until it had happened, until events had worked through to their inevitable end. From the kitchen window I could see over our low front hedge: there was the odd passing car, a few pedestrians walking dogs, and a little way downhill to the right, a handful of people waiting at the stop for the local bus.
Then, from the left, I was aware of something moving, gliding smoothly, quietly, swiftly along the pavement.
It was a large, transparent disc, like the biggest contact lens in the world, whirling steadily and relentlessly down the slope. I could hear no sound, so the scene had the hushed magic of a silent movie. The magic evaporated when I saw Bill, running at full pelt after the runaway table top.
As I watched, the accelerating disc scattered the bus queue, most of the people ending up taking refuge in gardens or on the road. As Bill sped past them he made feeble attempts to communicate apology. And then, suddenly, he stopped.
Ahead of him I saw what looked like a sparkling fountain of crystal water, a cascade of glinting, glittering droplets of light. Even with the window closed, I could hear the silence-rending, sickening crash of disintegrating glass.
Bill popped his head round the kitchen door shortly afterwards. ‘Just borrowing a broom, dear,’ he said, ‘and a shovel. Some sweeping up to do.’
He paused for a few seconds, and then added, ‘Would you mind phoning that couple who came over? Tell them I’ll pop over and give them their money back?’