Absurd. I sat, staring down at the blank piece of paper. Absurd was the only word to describe the situation. As punishment I was being forced to write lines.
The phrase “I will not break things that do not belong to me” covered eight complete sheets of paper front and back. Only two more sheets left to go.
Out the window, the day was perfect. I could hear my friends’ laughter. Every now and then I would see them riding their bikes past the house. Every time they passed the sun had inched lower and lower in the sky. Soon it would be twilight and dinner time.
How I wished to be with them! I knew this was the reason for the punishment, to keep me from having fun. However, writing a meaningless phrase over and over again for the sole purpose of passing the time was ludicrous. Why not make me do extra chores or send me to my room? Why this pointless exercise?
The punishment was not to atone for broken objects. The real purpose was to coerce me into talking about why I had broken said objects. In the past three months I had managed to break a coffee pot, two casserole dishes, four drinking glasses, and an antique vase. The last accident resulted in my present situation. Mom could not accept that I had not meant to break any of these things. She insisted that no one could have so many accidents in such a short amount of time, and that I must be acting out.
No matter how much I pleaded with her, I really, truly had no idea why things were breaking. It was as much a mystery to me as it was to her. I had not dropped or thrown or struck these broken pieces. They had simply fallen apart at my touch – or at least it seemed that way. Usually it happened so fast, I couldn’t remember any details.
As I scribbled “I will not break things that do not belong to me” again and again, I tried to think about each accident. My frustration started to swell. Emotions rose and sank. Sadness, self pity, and anger all came and went.
At the completion of page ten I set down my pen. My hand was cramped and aching. It was getting dark outside, dinner time. As if on cue my stomach growled. I got up; I had to stretch my legs. They were getting that uncomfortable antsy feeling. I walked over to the switch and turned the overhead light on.
Mom entered the kitchen and took up my day’s labor, scanning each page. She sat down and watched as I paced back and forth. Finally she asked, “So, why did you break the vase?”
Startled by her direct question, I stopped mid pace and glared at her. As slowly and as calmly as I could muster, I said, “I don’t know how the vase became broken.”
“Heather, please, don’t lie to me.” Her tone rose as she did, standing now, anger and disappointment evident in her stance.
Irritation and rage swelled up inside me – overflowing into tears. I clamped my fingers into tight fists by my side. And then, the lights went out.