Broken Plates: a short story

The magic of mosaics is. . . regenerative art

The first week, they break and snip and glue.

‘The magic of mosaics is. . .’ the tutor says, her arms out wide like a preacher, ‘regenerative art.’
Laura snatches a tissue out of her pocket, camouflaging a snort. She gazes around at the other women sitting in a horseshoe at the plastic trestle tables, searching for an echo of her reaction. They are nodding, serious, all eyes on the tutor.
‘Take this plate,’ the tutor says. She plucks a cracked and chipped china plate from a box and holds it up, waving it like a fan. Laura sees a blur of pink and gold.
‘It’s an ugly, unwanted thing, but we are going to transform it into a thing of beauty when we make our house numbers.’

Laura sighs. She had grander plans in mind than a decorative 12 when she signed up for the course. After Italy, she wanted to mosaic the concrete floor of her front porch. She’d envisioned girls in flowing dresses and garlands of flowers pirouetting across her hall floor in a perpetual dance of welcome.

The tutor’s box is a graveyard of broken china. Laura picks a blue mug with no handle, and a cracked orange plate. The colours remind her of Italy. They break into pieces with one sharp tap of a hammer. In the end, that’s all it had taken with her and Marco, to shatter their relationship into angry shards. She snips the china into smaller pieces, and glues them to a board. Two orange islands grow in a sea of blue.

‘See,’ the tutor says when they stop to pack up. ‘See how beautiful your work is looking already.’
Laura shrugs. It’s not dancing girls.

The second week, they grout. Laura chooses black. It reminds her of Marco’s eyelashes.

The third week, they seal the grout, and start a new piece. The tutor has brought a box of tiles.
‘The tile shop throws away any they can’t sell.’ She shows them how to add depth with tonal changes. Laura picks two greys and starts a tree. A slender silver birch, stretching up to the sky like a dancing girl. She doesn’t think of Marco.

At home, she hangs the blue and orange 12 on her gatepost. She doesn’t have a hammer, has to bang the nail hard, twenty, thirty times, with a block of wood she finds in the garage. She thinks of Marco as she hits the nail.

A box arrives in the mail from Italy. Everything she couldn’t carry. A blue porcelain vase Marco gave her, the coffee set with the green vines curling around delicate white china. They’d bought it together that weekend in Florence, before he told her. She rips open the flaps, peels back the top layer of bubble wrap.

All her precious things lie in a shattered, kaleidoscope mess of china shards.

Three weeks ago, Laura would have cried.

Today, she smiles. Regenerated. She knows how to make beautiful things out of broken pieces.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This story won first place in a local short story competition, with the theme ‘crisis’.
I ‘found’ the idea when I was making a mosaic for an old piece of furniture –
no dancing girls or orange number twelves in my mosaic either!

picture of red mosaiced heart, with the caption Using Hobbies to Write Short Stories: Broken Plates

22 thoughts on “Broken Plates: a short story

  1. This is beautiful. I love that it lets us into her mind enough to see the growth and change over the timeline that we see here. Honestly, I think mosaics are a great example of how we should look at life – a lesson that we can all take out of this and apply to our own lives. Especially right now in light of the craziness that is the world today, turning everything we once knew upside down.

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    1. I keep hearing people say they wish we could get back to normal, and I was thinking but this IS our normal now, and we have to adapt. So that thinking did underpin this story. I’m glad you got so much out of it.

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  2. It’s like making art from another piece of art. I love how you got the inspiration to write this short story. For me, short stories can be a little tricky to make but I love how you draw inspo from a personal experience. This story is definitely a piece of art as well.

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    1. Writing is kind of a mosaic too – drawing from experience and imagination, and other art

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  3. This was simply beautiful. I loved the way the story progressed with a bit of mystery, but quite straightforward as well. My favorite phrasing was “a perpetual dance of welcome”. Well done!

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  4. I can see why this piece won awards, Trish! I am always in awe of writers who can capture a story and keep my attention with such few words. It certainly takes talent, and you have a lot! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you Erica. I think short short stories have to keep a very tight focus, instead of ranging far and wide. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  5. very nice read. You definitely nail the short genre and I can’t possibly understand how you can make such a deep and interesting read with so few words.

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    1. Thank you. You have to choose words with particular care in a short short story – and keep a tight focus. Pleased you liked it.

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  6. Brilliant piece! I read it twice, and I felt like I could totally relate to Laura. It stung, but it felt good at the end to see she’s regenerated. I want to know what happens next though. Sometimes I feel regenerated and independent but on other days, I fall back into the trap of nostalgia from simple reminders like the grout color…

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  7. I loved the ending of this short story, –Today, she smiles. Regenerated. She knows how to make beautiful things out of broken pieces. I feel like this is something we should all remember! Thank you for sharing this short story with us.

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  8. I loved this short story. It was a nice break in my day. Congratulations on winning the local short story competition!

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