One Broken Glass by Nathan Leslie

As a result of the geological makeup of Loaf Island most of the sand is darker in hue and, as a result, it is very difficult to find clear glass on the island—this must be imported. Glass goblets and wine glasses are held in high value, as they are often quite expensive. In a typical Loaf Island house, a display case of glasses rests front and center, exhibiting the owner’s wealth and status

On Loaf Island to break a clear glass is a faux pas, on the level of touching an older woman’s head without her consent or sleeping in a married couple’s bed.

Miliverk Chamburt sat at a small family gathering when, after drinking his second glass of wine, his hand descended just a bit too fast, shattering the stem (the wine spilled onto his mostly empty plate). He apologized copiously to his aunt and uncle, volunteering to pay for every bit of the glass. They were stunned at this carelessness, however, and instead simply cut him out of all future gatherings.

Miliverk sent his uncle cuts of meat and rare flowers and even a gift of two midget hippos, but his uncle wouldn’t budge. A glass is a glass—more revered than any of those frivolities.

Miliverk was despondent, and when he discovered the date of the next family gathering, he stood outside the window where the guests were eating in an attempt to guilt his uncle into letting him join the party. His cousins surely had to see him there, didn’t they? But to the family, Miliverk was now all but invisible.

The next week Miliverk purchased a lavish set of four drinking glasses from the mainland. At first he unwrapped them and ogled at their beauty. The glass was so pure, so clean—unlike much on the entirely of Loaf Island.

For a week he kept the glass on his table in his humble little city apartment and then he knew what to do. He placed the glasses gently back into the box, rewrapped them for protection and subsequently gave all four to his uncle. On his knees, Miliverk pleaded. 

“Please, uncle. Should one moment of ignorant distraction destroy me? Please accept my offering, please.”

The uncle opened the box and eyeballed the glasses. Slowly, he nodded. He embraced his nephew, without a word.

At the next family gathering Miliverk would only drink from cheap, dark glass vessels. He could not help but notice the four glasses he gifted to his uncle perched in the display case. 

“Four for one is a deal I will always make,” Miliverk heard his uncle proclaim.

Nathan Leslie’s eleven books of fiction include Three Men, Root and Shoot, Sibs and Drivers, among others. His latest books are The Invisible Hand (Hamilton Stone Editions) and the forthcoming A Fly in the Ointment (Apprentice House). He is also the author of The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice, a novel, and the poetry collection Night Sweat. His work has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines including Boulevard, Shenandoah, North American Review, Hotel Amerika, and Cimarron Review. Leslie was series editor for Best of the Web anthology 2008 and 2009 (Dzanc Books) and edited fiction for Pedestal Magazine for many years. He currently serves as the series editor for Best Small Fictions and edits Maryland Literary Review, which he founded.

The stem of a broken wine glass

Photo by Pixabay.

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