Mar 03  |  T. R. Healy

Kidwell, a glazier, set the new window into the frame to make sure it fit. It did, as he expected it would, since this was the fourth window he had replaced at the tobacco shop, which featured imported cigarettes and cigars. Indeed, he had replaced the windows of several businesses along Rafferty Street in the past three months. There were a lot of angry people roaming the streets downtown these days who liked to smash storefront windows late at night when no one could identify them. Kidwell knew what they were doing was outrageous, but he could not deny they had been good for his business. Some store owners had to wait close to a month before he had time to replace their windows, he was so busy.

“Degenerates,” Hechter, the owner of the tobacco shop, called them as he watched Kidwell apply a bead of caulk along the top of the frame. “They’ve got nothing better to do than damage other people’s property.”

Kidwell, nodding in agreement, applied another bead of caulk along the sides of the exterior stops.

“I just don’t know when it’s ever going to end. I mean, if they ever get arrested, they’re released after a couple of hours because the jail doesn’t have room for the bastards.”

Slowly exhaling, the glazier slipped the bottom of the window onto the sill then tipped its top into place and pressed it against the exterior stops. He pressed firmly for a couple of minutes before he drove a screw through an upper side jamb.

“I just don’t get it,” Hechter continued. “I’ve got iron bars behind my window so there’s no way they can get inside my shop but still they break it.”

Suddenly a skateboarder rushed past them, deftly negotiating around some of the shattered glass still on the sidewalk.

“Well, I hope I don’t have to see you again for a good long while,” Hechter remarked, after Kidwell secured the window with several more screws.

“I’m sure you don’t, sir.”

“But I will. I know I will.”

* * *

On the way to his next job, Kidwell drove by one business after another with boarded-up windows and doors. He could not believe how busy he had been the past three months. Some days he worked late into the night. He was not alone, either. Glass repair trucks were now almost as prevalent downtown as taxi cabs.

Years ago, as a youngster, he remembered breaking some windows in an abandoned tire warehouse. He was ten years old, maybe eleven. He played third base on his Little League team and thought throwing rocks at the windows might be a way to improve his accuracy, because he tended to be a little wild when he threw over to first base. For almost a week, after dinner, he rode his bicycle over to the warehouse and gathered a handful of rocks and threw them at the smeared windows. Most of the time he missed, but whenever he did break a window, he howled in jubilation. He wondered if any of the people breaking store windows downtown felt a similar feeling of exhilaration. Perhaps, he thought, but it seemed unlikely. All they were interested in was making others share their pain.