A couple years ago, I realized that I am disturbed by broken things. The revelation came as I recounted the tale of some broken Christmas ornaments to a professional set of ears I’d been paying to listen to me. The tale started with some poorly chosen screws, some marginally weighted storage totes, and a set of collapsed shelves in my garage. In my house, there are several small tragedies that involve collapsed shelves. Turns out, in addition to being disturbed by broken things, I carry an equal propensity toward causing things to break.
I heard the crash during the quiet hours of the night. To avoid the requirement to rise and investigate, I told myself that the noise was a dream, and I promptly went back to sleep. Next morning, Ms. Christmas called me at work. She didn’t notice it right away, not until she heard glass popping beneath her tires as she backed her car out of the garage. That crash in the night – the one I’d told myself was just a dream – it was the impact of several storage totes striking cold, hard slab; it was much worse than dream; it was nightmare, the sort which does not vanish during waking hours.
Ms. Christmas has accumulated her ornament collection over many years – each a sparkling memory on a thin, wire hook; collectively, they are her most cherished possession. Four moves – two of them across state lines – and we’d managed to lose only a couple. Now, while sitting undisturbed in a fixed location, the delicate treasures fell victim to my own shoddy shelvesmanship.
Several days after the great collapse, Ms. Christmas asked if I could do something with the partly detached shelf bracketing that still jutted from the garage wall. In an outburst of rage, I ripped the remaining shelf components from the wall, destroying them beyond the ability to reuse, leaving vast craters in the sheetrock. I can’t say for sure, but I think the broken pieces of shelving remain scattered somewhere in the back recesses of the garage.
I do not like it when things break. It disturbs me. And when I am disturbed, I am more likely to break a thing further than to try and fix it. That is, unless the thing happens to be a kite.
The ocean wind was perfect; it was that steady sort of wind, when all you need to do is hold the kite above your head and allow the blessed, elemental forces to do the rest. But I couldn’t understand why our kite sporting the image of Lightning McQueen was riding high, while our Batman kite would fly just high enough to get my six-year-old’s pulse running, before it would whip into rapid, counter-clockwise circles on a grinding kamikaze course with the hot sand. After a half-dozen failed attempts to get the Caped Crusader aloft, I spotted the problem. Batman had a broken wing.
Dollar store kites aren’t made of much – a thin sheet of plastic, a couple fiber rods, and some invisible tape – four strips of tape, to be exact. It was the failure of one of these strips of tape that kept Batman grounded. I took quick mental inventory of materials at my disposal – some beach towels, camera, sand toys, folding chairs, sunglasses, flip-flops…no tape. Of all the cargo we’d lugged to the beach, there was nothing that resembled tape – nothing sticky. Only one choice remained – I was forced to attempt an invisible tape transplant.
The secret to a successful tape transplant lies in locating a suitable bit of donor tape. If you pick a strip that is not substantial enough, you run the risk of binding one wing, while disabling the other. Once a proper donor tape is chosen, it’s important to remove only the amount necessary to secure the broken portion. Remove too much, and you run the risk of broken wing transference – a disastrous condition from which few dollar store kites will ever recover.
Three transplants was what it took – a sliver of tape from each of Batman’s healthy corners. It was touch and go there for a time – the trickiest part was keeping sand off the operating table – but once finished, the Dark Knight was ready to rise again.
I don’t know why broken things disturb me; the professional ears and I never figured it out. Nor do I understand why a broken set of shelves brought me to a volcanic fit, while a broken dollar store kite drew me into a forty-five minute, obsession-fueled operation. I do know that the only one happier than my boy to see Batman soar high on the winds of the Pacific, was that boy’s daddy.
I’m named after a guy who wrote a couple books in the Bible. Actually, he only wrote one book, but some scholarly boys must have thought his book was too long, because they eventually split it in two. If they were smarter scholars, they would have split it into three, so it would translate more readily into a movie trilogy. Aside from being a writer of too-long books, this guy was also a doctor. I was a much younger man when a pastor prayed for me, and he told me there was a reason that my name is Luke. He said I’m sort of like a doctor, just like the guy who wrote those Bible books. I’ve always figured he told me those things because he didn’t know what else to tell me – like he prayed for me, and he couldn’t come up with any profound insight, so he went the easy route and said, “Say, you know that guy with your same name? You’re kinda like him!” Sure, pal.
I don’t know why, but this whole saga of mending Batman’s broken wing makes me think of what that pastor told me. I don’t know much about the Bible Luke, other than he was a pretty good writer, but I wonder if he was disturbed by broken things, as I am. He once wrote an account of a ship he was aboard with some friends, and the ship was caught up in a terrible storm, and it wrecked. There was something of a miracle involved, because everybody on the boat survived. I wonder if, while the other survivors were thanking their gods they were still alive, old Luke was busy ripping apart the remains of the ship, disturbed by its brokenness.
Or just maybe, he was trapped in thoughtful strategy, obsessing over how he would make that boat sail again.