Smashing Plates

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By Rachel Kimbrough

After my three older siblings got fed up and moved out, seventeen-year-old me was the last target standing for my mother’s infantile rage.

She was sure, had a soul-deep conviction, that I was a drug user. She said my pupils were always dilated. She said I smelled bad. She said my eyes were bloodshot. That my grades were suffering.

And she was right. About the evidence, I mean. Not about my being a drug-user. I’m a little afraid of drugs.

I was working full-time as a host at a restaurant. I buddied up with another host there, girl named Alex. We drove around every night after work, going anywhere that wasn’t home.

Like every other member of our disgruntled youth, we thought we were alone in our home-life dissatisfaction. We felt confident we needed to rebel, but we didn’t have the guts to dabble in intoxicants or fornication

One night we drove past a construction site on 119th and Black Bob road in Olathe and saw a strip mall being built there. There was a giant crane parked in the center of one kiosk and what appeared to be a clock tower in the making. There were various construction tools and paint buckets.

We went back to the restaurant and stole some plates and returned to the site.

We weren’t really sure what we wanted. We were giddy midnight schoolgirls, each of us standing there looking across a concrete expanse with plates stacked in our arms like textbooks, not sure what to do next.

I unloaded my stack of plates onto a nearby palette. I picked off the first plate, crouched like I was throwing a Frisbee, and flung the dish across the parking lot.

It skipped six or seven times like a skipping stone across a creek before shattering against the wall of the nearest building, one that was close to completion. Flakes of Stucco rained gently to the ground.

This was an early Christmas gift to Alex and me. We could not have elicited a better response from the plate or from the building. We began hurling plates. One of Alex’s plates ricocheted off a light pole and smashed into the ground, erupting in a lovely fountain of shards glistening in the yellow city light.

We lost control.

We were out of plates within a couple minutes, and so began to climb scaffolding. We reached the roof of what would eventually be the main shopping center. The city below us seemed underwater-distant, cars zipping here and there like a disrupted school of herring, a shimmering sea of shards below us indicating that we were, indeed, someplace far from Olathe. Someplace exotic, no doubt.

The next logical step was to climb the scaffolding that hugged the clock tower in progress.

Alex went before I did because she was much smaller. If she fell I could catch her. If I fell, I would just smash her and we would both fall. That was the plan, see.

So, we ascended slowly, Alex stopping occasionally when fear froze her bones. My trick was to not look around, though I nearly lost my balance several times.

We were both wearing flip flops. As we drew near the platform circling the top of the tower, Alex’s sandal caught on a nail. In theory, I was supposed to catch her, correct her, and continue ever upward.

I caught her, kind of. I gripped the scaffolding with one hand and had the other arm wrapped under one of her armpits, her face unfortunately forced against my bosom. She started laughing about that, scatterbrained at the height of terror, and kicked her feet to try to find the scaffolding. I don’t think she realized she was now dangling just outside the scaffolding, or she would have panicked and fallen.

After a few moments I notice the ladder resting against the side of the tower just a few feet to our right. It was stretched out to its full length, wobbly, bowed in the center from bearing its own weight. But it seemed the last option.

I told Alex try to swing and get her right foot over to a rung of that ladder so I could correct her position on the scaffolding. She did. I nearly dropped her—but I didn’t. She used the ladder for balance, relieving me of her weight for a few moments before I grabbed her and heaved her back onto the scaffolding.

With that, we descended, got in the car and left. For that evening, we lost our motivation to destroy…but only for that evening. Every night for the next six months we visited construction sites: housing developments, banks, strip malls, restaurants, apartment complexes. We sometimes climbed, sometimes broke things, sometimes threw equipment off the roof. We made sure to cruise from suburb to suburb to avoid the attention of local authorities.

We were out late every night. At times we didn’t bother to wash the smell of concrete mix from our hands. We gave every indication we were drug users. That was almost true.


Rachel Kimbrough was born in Kansas and raised in various parts of the state. She attends Johnson County Community College and is the culture editor of its newspaper. Contact her at rkimbrou@stumail.jccc.edu


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