The Jar | Teen Ink

The Jar

December 5, 2016

Amy is only so tall. Her hands fall short of the shelf by an inch, unable to reach for the jar filled to the brim with--

"Ah!"

The chair groans and wobbles, the books topple over, and Amy lands square on her sister's thick volume of algebra. A feather floats out of nowhere, landing on her skirt, a white splotch against the matted piece of fabric. Amy stands up, dusts herself (not that there is any dust to brush off), and returns the books to their rightful places as quietly as possible. The jar would have to wait.

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Later in the evening, Amy is lying on the floor, crayon pressed to her lips as she ponders over her next creation. Then, hand grabbing a different color, she produces grass, a house, a tree, and finally herself dotted with flowers. Daisies are in her hair, dandelions on her dress, and tulips on her shiny shoes. Under the tree is her sister Nancy, forehead creased in thought, glasses engulfing her face, hands somehow managing to handle a textbook and chow down a chocolate-caramel bar all at the same time.

If only I could reach the jar...

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"Oh, what a beautiful picture, Amy!"
Amy's parents croon over the drawing as she swells in pride. Her parents are in the background, somehow added between Nancy's excessively large textbook and Amy's flowered hair.
The drawing joins a collection of dozens of others already attached to the side of the fridge. The other side contains Nancy's artwork, who, though she draws a handful compared to what she used to, creates by far nicer ones than Amy does. Amy is forced to admit this, but only to herself. Even so, the little five-year-old is glad to see her parents again proud of her creation, tangled and messy, yet beginning to show forms.

Maybe I will get something from the jar...

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Counting on her fingers, Amy tries to finish the worksheet she was given to practice adding numbers. Numbers are whispered under her breath, two fish becoming three and five pencils becoming seven. Pluses thump in her mind as one finger extends after another until the tantalizingly close success is reached.

"Two plus two is four cookies. Three plus three is six pencils."

Pencils form in her brain. Amy is distracted, and begins to shade in the bright yellow of the school pencil printed onto her paper. It is no longer yellow, but coated in gray graphite.

"Five plus two is seven sheep. Seven plus two is nine horses."

The end of the worksheet is so close, so close. And now...

"Done!" Amy yells triumphantly. She can now finish shading in the pencil with no feelings of remorse. As Amy furiously colors, her gaze falls upon an arrow at the bottom of the page. Curious, she flips over the page. Pluses thump in her mind as the images of pencils and sheep bounce in front of her eyes.

I hope I get something from the jar for this...

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It is breakfast. And since it is a Saturday, it is also a pancake breakfast. Whipped cream crowns the mountain of golden goodness. As a layer of it is placed on her plate, Amy imagines she is traversing its peaks. Syrupy pathways guide her through the snowy whips of snow. Suddenly, she is sinking. The puffy snow is enveloping her. Oh no!

Plop! A red boat flies out of nowhere, landing right next to her and rowing her to safety (as well as providing her with a large supply of strawberries). Now, the boat is about to begin its first ever flight to the moon. Three, two-

"Amy, if you behave yourself, we will give you something... from the jar..."

The seemingly stern, yet truthfully humor-filled voice snapped Amy to attention. Quickly the mountain disappeared, leaving only traces of snowy depths and sticky trails.

I'm getting something from the jar!

Amy's thoughts raced. What is it this week? It was always something good and wonderful, and also something different every week. Last week was chocolates, but Amy had forfeited her chance by ripping Nancy's homework out of spite. Would this week bring something better? Worse? Just as good?

Now Amy is almost happy that she failed in reaching the jar the other day. The noise of toppling books and math worksheet had taken up the rest of her time, leaving only a wish for something sweet. The anticipation was unbearable, since Amy's father took exaggeratedly slow steps, stretching the suspense and moving Nancy and their mother to giggle at the sight of Amy's exasperated face. Finally, the jar is replaced from the top shelf, the top is removed, and...

"Pencils?!" Is this a joke? Would her dad simply pull a chocolate caramel from out of nowhere and give it to her? Weren't pencils everywhere?
"Yes, Amy. Pencils. For those who don't have as much patience as they should..."
"But... how do you?..." she clasps her hand over her mouth to stop herself from admitting.
Nancy leans in and hushes,"Algebra books generally aren't bent over and wrinkled when they're on a clean shelf."

Amy's face flushes.

"I will give you a pencil, so you will remember that cheating on a candy - on anything at all - is never worth the trouble," her father speaks up.

Then, he adds more quietly, "You know you would get it anyway had you behaved better?"

Amy accepts the pencil, thanking her dad in a shocked state. Every week? Really?

Then she remembers the day she fell off her sister's scooter, even though Nancy had asked her not to ride it. That week she tried Starburst for the first time. And then there was the day she had painted on the white tablecloth because she couldn't resist it just laying there like a canvas waiting for the tip of a brush. The very same day she learned what her favorite kind of candy was.

"We all make mistakes," her father explains,"Even big ones. But if somebody told you many, many, many times not to do something and you still do it, that is no longer a mistake because you knew about it."

And her parents had told her and Nancy many, many, many times not to touch the jar until it was Saturday, even out of curiosity.

"As for your sister..." He rummages along the bottom of the jar, then extends the sisters' favorite candy toward Nancy - a chocolate-caramel...

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The next week it was peach and mango gum.
Then it was white chocolate.
Then chocolate-caramel.

Yummy, thought Amy as she licked her fingers...
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A jar, worn by time but still bright and colorful, crowns the top shelf of a closet. Yet Lily is only so tall. Her hands fall short of the shelf by an inch, unable to reach for the jar filled to the brim with--

"Ah!"

The chair groans and wobbles, the books topple over, and Lily lands square on her brother's thick volume of arithmetic. A feather floats out of nowhere, landing on her dress, a white splotch against the matted piece of fabric. Lily stands up, dusts herself (not that there is any dust to brush off), and returns the books to their rightful places as quietly as possible. The jar would have to wait...



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