Breaking Bricks

Breaking Bricks

By Richard M.O’Donnell. 

One day while working in my study, I happened to look out the window to discover my five-year-old son, Sean, hitting bricks with a hammer in the driveway. By his diligence, I could tell he was into this project; however, smashing bricks was dangerous. A chip could fly up and injure his eyes. So, I retrieved my safety goggles from my toolbox in the garage. When I walked out in driveway to give them to Sean, he did not even look up from his pounding. “What ya doing?” I asked.

“Busting bricks with a hammer,” he answered. Sean tended to be very literal.

I scanned the gravel driveway and found there were many bare spots and more than a few clumps of grass. It certainly needed more gravel, so I said, “Sean, do you see all these bare spots in the driveway?” He nodded his head, yes. “It would help me out a lot if you would fill those spots in with the brick chips you’re making. Can you do that?”

“Sure!” he said.

“But I’m worried you might hurt your eyes.” I explained to him the reason to wear safety goggles as I helped him to put them on. He seemed to get a kick out of wearing the glasses while he wheedled the hammer, and my little blue-eyed towhead was certainly cute with them on. That’s when I noticed he was almost out of bricks. I took him to the side of the house and showed him a line of cinder blocks that had been sitting there for years. “When you’re done with the bricks,” I said, “you can break up as many of these blocks as you want.”

He grinned from ear to ear.

I figured that would keep him busy and out of his mother’s hair for a while, but when I turned to leave, I stopped short. I suddenly realized that the entire house rested on cinder blocks. Sean was a very literal boy. In fact, his mother and I referred to his thinking as Sean Logic. He might not see the difference between the extra cinder blocks and the ones holding up the house. In my mind, I could see numerous holes dotting the foundation.

I went back and clarified my instructions to Sean.

“Sean, you can only break up the cinder blocks NOT ATTACHED TO THE HOUSE. Repeat the instructions.”

“Only the blocks NOT ATTACHED TO THE HOUSE,” he answered.

I returned to my study, and frankly, I forgot about Sean and his project. It wasn’t until dinnertime that I wondered how many blocks he actually smashed. He was only five-years-old after all. How many could he break?

I opened the back door to call him inside when I almost fell flat on my face. I caught myself on the door frame just in time. The back steps were gone! Just gone! Someone had pulverized them into a thousand pieces. I followed the trail of broken rubble from the steps to the driveway. Sean had demolished every single block. Then when he had reached the sandstone steps, he had simply kept on going.

I had to laugh, and I could not punish Sean. He hadn’t put holes in the foundation, and the back steps were “NOT ATTACHED TO THE HOUSE”.


RICHARD M. O’DONNELL’s works have appeared in many venues including Long Short Story, Sniplits audio stories, Everyday Poets, Everyday Fiction, the North Coast Review and MicroHorror, to name a few. He is the co-founder and facilitator of The Oberlin Writers Group. His online publications and YouTube films links are available at

Photo by James Lee.

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