"But remember: Karma is a bitch, as some person who didn't really understand Buddhism once said."
~~Siobhan Rosen, "The Gentleman's Guide to a One-Night Stand", GQ, April 2013
I blame the Swedes and their irresistible chewy, red fish and, for that matter, the Tootsies and their equally irresistible chewy, chocolaty Rolls. I was eleven and that dime I had snagged from my dad's top left desk drawer would get me ten Swedish fish or ten Tootsie Rolls or some ecstatic combination of the two.
We lived in a tiny town with no mail delivery so someone had to go to the post office every day for the mail. With the purloined dime in the front pocket of my jeans, I generously volunteered to make the trip.
I was still a little too short for my father's ten-speed bike, but I rode it anyway and pulled up in front of Persun's, the family-owned general store across from the post office.
To put it mildly, I did not nail the dismount. As I swung my leg over the bike, the cuff of my jeans caught on the seat and I lost my balance. The store's plate glass Sunbeam bread girl window was there to break my fall seconds before it shattered with a deafening crash.
The crash was closely followed by the shriek of the owner's mother-in-law calling out, "Jeri! Jeri! Someone's come through the goddamned window!"
I was horrified at what had happened and terrified of what might happen next and, also, I was bleeding from three cuts on my right shoulder. The cuts were small--none of them as big around as the stolen dime in my pocket--but they were deep and gushing.
The women at the store gave me wads of paper towels and extracted my promise that I would both make it home safely and confess immediately to my mother that I had broken the window. At home, walking in the door tearful and blood soaked, without the mail or any ill-gotten Swedish fish or Tootsie Rolls, I told my mother I'd fallen through Persun's window.
My mother applied three butterfly bandages she'd fashioned from medical tape and then called the store. Jeri, the owner, reported that they'd lost the window on the other side of the door in a similar way a couple of years before and she thought it might be safer (especially for her mother-in-law's heart) to just cover this new hole with plywood rather than replacement glass. She asked my mother to split the cost of the plywood. My mother gratefully accepted the offer and considered the matter resolved.
In order to explain how a trip to the post office had resulted in a broken store window, I'd had to tell my mother I had a dime in my pocket, but she hadn't asked where I'd gotten the dime and I hadn't volunteered that information. So, perhaps it's no surprise that karma wasn't quite finished with me yet.
That first shattered window ushered in an era of broken windows--three in a matter of a few months. One afternoon, I rollerskated through the upstairs of our house and into the bathroom where I put my hand through the top pane of the window. Then, while trying to throw a padlock through a missing pane in a second-floor garage window (don't ask), I managed to smash out an intact pane instead. Finally, while sitting Mork-style, upside-down with my legs draped over the back of the armchair in my room, I lacked the leverage to turn myself around so I pushed my legs against--and through--the bottom pane of the window behind the chair.
I can't say I made a connection between a pilfered dime and a quartet of broken windows at the time. But I can say that to this day, Swedish fish taste of synthetic berry sweetness laced with the slightest tang of guilt.
K is for Karma