It hadn’t stopped raining since Roger and Martha moved into the new house. Days. Weeks. It didn’t matter in the endless dark. Pans in the attic overflowed into the insulation and ceilings. Brown-ringed stains blossomed on the cracked plaster walls of the old farmhouse. Mice and insects were driven from their nests and pathways into the kitchen, scuttling under the stove and deep inside cabinets and the roof and windows were pelted ceaselessly, filling the drum-like rooms with the cadence of rain.
Roger walked down the wood plank steps into the basement, the sound of the rain muffled under the ground. The uneven stone walls glistened with damp. The floor was wet and in spots puddles of oily water had gathered. Moss and mold grew on beams and rafters and the rough field-stones that made the walls. A grindstone—a big one—stood at the far end of the basement. The stone set in the wooden frame was as big around as a wagon wheel and five inches wide. It must easily have weighed five hundred pounds. The previous owners of the house couldn’t move it and neither would Roger.
On the wall behind the stairs, on wooden shelves, slick with moss, were mason jars. For canning. A few fermented jars of beets stood seeping and foaming onto the shelves. The rest were empty. Dozens. Hundreds. Grimy and clouded from use and re-use and neglect and age, streaked with wet soot. The dull thumping of the rain receding into the background, Roger picked up a metal pry-bar from the floor, felt its icy wet weight in his hand. He stood in front of the jars in the dark of the basement where he could be away from the dark of the rain, a month of night and the hissing and tapping and looked into the jars. He swung the pry-bar into them. The sound echoed off the stone, was muffled by the moss and dirt, pierced Roger’s ears, didn’t make a noise, was the hush of the rain.
He swung again and again until all the jars were broken and his shoulders, back, and wrists ached and he breathed in ragged gasps. The floor of the basement—clay bricks set into dirt—was covered in a carpet of shards. Roger, barefoot, walked onto the glass. He let his weight push his fleshy soles onto the jagged fragments, puncturing and slicing his skin. He walked and hopped and ground his feet into the shattered jars and his blood mingled with the water and mud and oil on the floor and the sound of rain was replaced by the sound of his pulse in his ears and the sound of glass grinding against brick. Glass needles imbedded themselves into his flesh, tendons, scraped against bones, severed ligaments. The nerve damage would haunt him into old age and surgery would never let him walk the way he had before the rain began. Still, he rocked on the balls of his feet and wiggled his toes like a child at the beach as he clenched his teeth against the singing of his nerves.
The glass, Martha, he would say later.
The glass was like sunshine.
Ethan Tinkler teaches Creative Writing and English at Atlantic City High School in New Jersey. A graduate of Fairleigh Dickenson’s MFA program in Creative Writing. His work has appeared in RavensPerch, Rosebud, and Spittoon among others. His story published in Gingerbread House was nominated for Best of the Net award and a Pushcart prize.