#23 Jelly Jar by Tace Halliday

Held in one hand, in the other, a butter knife. Arthritis swells her knuckles. Stabbing and scraping, the jar is emptied; the last of the raspberry jam spread out on her toast. The jar then soaks in the sink, warm water, and with ease, she peels away the sodden label—paper and glue. The toast is forgotten.

She really doesn’t need the jar, although, holding it up, the water trickling away over the factory-pressed facets, she does desire it. How silly. I have so many. A recycle bin waits by the back kitchen door as she holds the jar for a moment. So hard to let it go. But finally she moves to set it atop tin cans and properly crushed cardboard boxes. The jar quavers on its perch, a threat to tumble to the floor, then settles, and she knows that it is for the best.

Now for my chores: she turns to the few dishes, some dusting, the sorting of mail. But when it’s time to do the laundry, she has to pass the bin. When she goes to the garage to retrieve a package from her car, she has to pass the bin. Whenever she forgets where she has placed something like her purse, her keys, or the bill for Huntington Hospital that needs to be posted, she wanders the house from room to room, searching and muttering…wearying, and she often passes the bin.

Each time, at each casual meeting, she sees the jar. She’s not looking for it, but out of the corner of her eye, it keeps winking at her, calling her for succor, and her neck stiffens in stages at its each insistent prayer.

When on the counter she discovers her abandoned toast, stiff and dry, she scrapes it from the stoneware plate into the trash. Oh! Such a waste. And her resolve disintegrates. Before so tired—how draining to the body are lost things—now her step is light as she goes to the bin, bends down and rescues the jar, clean and small, and just right.

Four steps away is the pantry where one section rises from the floor to the highest shelf near the ceiling. It is full of sparkling jelly jars that are waiting for their next life—to be filled with pecans or pine nuts, harvest snacks or pretzels, gifts she will give to adult children, nieces, a few remaining friends of her youth. The new jar is wedged within the others, and as she closes the door, her shoulders soften as she sighs.

© Copyright 2009 Stacey Smith. All rights reserved.


Tace Halliday doesn’t know why she writes things, but she does know she feels compelled to do so. She lives in South Texas with her husband who is determined to bring back the Garden of Eden. They have three sons who all seem to like one another.


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