New Year’s Eve the Urban Farmer broke her favorite cup. The cup was thin-walled porcelain, graceful and lithe. Tiny pink roses garlanded it top and bottom. The cup had good posture. It was straight-sided and didn’t take up unnecessary room. It was never loud or embarrassing. It never made a spectacle of itself and was never ridiculous. It held its own in the cupboard with the more rotund, thicker-walled, and taller cups.
The cup often looked on from its perch on the wrought-iron stool in the sunny southwest corner of the living room while the Urban Farmer sat in the big black chair making scribbles to the pages in her lap.
The cup flew off the stool Wednesday afternoon. It hit the floor hard. The cup quivered ever so slightly—one final intact moment—, then broke into pieces. Water gushed.
The Urban Farmer didn’t have time to rue; to cry or berate herself for carelessness. It was time; these things happen; there was more space in the cupboard for the rose cup’s wide-topped, thicker-sided colleagues.
She rushed to rescue the cardboard box squatting beneath the legs of the big black chair. Within the box lay pages and pages of manuscript. The Urban Farmer’s manuscript. The culmination of years of toil.
A lakelet threatened; its assault on the cardboard box had already begun. The Urban Farmer shoved aside the Naugahyde-covered portfolios (also containing precious papers), snatched up the box, wrested off the lid, and looked inside. The papers were unharmed.
Then the Urban Farmer was on her knees, sopping up the spill with a bath towel, filling with an aching disappointment and questioning her resolve. Is this how her manuscripts will end? What happens when she becomes rickety and can no longer fall quickly to her knees with bath towel to sop up spills threatening her stories, her manuscripts, her pages and pages? She has a small contingent of dedicated supporters, but ultimately she is her manuscripts’ guardian, their primary advocate.
She searched about the room for somewhere safe to put her pages, indignant and angry that her work hasn’t found a more dignified home, that dust is slowly infiltrating and insinuating its way between the pages; fearful that the spill is just a tease of the destruction to come—the fire that burns the house down, the rats that chew their way out from the attic crawl space and find their way to the pages. To think that this could be the end of the Urban Farmer’s toil. To not even go up in dignified flame, but to simply become a sodden, unreadable mess.
Over the course of the night, as cardboard dried and 2014 gave way to 2015, she turned over the shards of the day many times, examining them for meaning and portent. Was the broken cup a sign? Should it inspire her to write with greater attention, to reform Emma Mulberry’s Whole Story, the novel on which she currently toils; to find a way through all the disjointedness, the less than inspiring passages, the parts that don’t seem to be going anywhere or saying anything? Or should she chuck Emma for a canine protagonist?
When morning dawned she cast off the covers, filled with renewed determination. The broken cup was a sign, a positive sign. She will not write a dog story. She will rededicate herself to Emma. She will sit with Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9—all the pesky and muddled chapters that come her way. She will break what needs to be broken, fix what needs to be fixed. She will move, purpose-driven, into 2015.
And sitting alongside her while she toils and stumbles her way to greatness in the big black chair will be a new companion. This one a bit taller, wider, and thicker, but just as dedicated to the Urban Farmer’s success.