Sunlight sparkled on the glass jar that lay on its side in white sand. Inside it, Itsy opened her bright blue eyes, yawned, and stretched. The jar was long enough for her to comfortably touch the air holes poked into the tin lid with her outstretched fingers, while simultaneously reaching the bottom with the end of her toes. She rolled onto her back and gazed up at the cotton ball-like clouds that slowly drifted across the early morning sky. A mixture of sounds filtered in through the air holes; tides gently lapping at the shore, the screeching of seagulls, breezes rustling the sunburnt blades of scrub grass.
Itsy lowered her arms and slid up closer to the lid. She put her open mouth on one of the holes and inhaled, filling her lungs with warm, salty sea air. When there was a tapping on the lid, she put her eye to a hole and peered out.
Carrying a gray and white seashell on its back, a hermit crab pushed sand aside with its legs. Its two black eyes mounted on small appendages became fixed on her.
“Excuse me,” Itsy said through a hole, “Can you help me?”
The crab reared back and began chirping like a hyperactive cricket. Its antenna waved about frenziedly.
“I’m afraid I was dropped here by mistake,” Itsy continued. “Please, help me.”
The crab quickly turned around and ambled off through the sand.
Itsy slid back from the lid, reached into her tunic pocket, and pulled out a piece of cracker. Fred had given her water and crackers when he put her in his backpack before taking a stroll on the beach. It was the first time she had been out in the world. She jolted, falling from the backpack. Luckily, she wasn’t hurt, and the jar was undamaged.
She nibbled on the cracker and thought about Fred. Surely, he knows I’m missing. She put what remained of the cracker back in her pocket.
In that instant, the yellow, webbed feet of a fat black and white seagull spread across the glass. The jar rocked slightly back and forth. The gull lowered, tilting its head sideways with one eye gazed at Itsy.
Itsy tapped on the glass. “Can you help me out of here?” she said.
The bird tilted its head to the opposite side, staring at her with the other eye for a moment, then it tapped on the glass with its long yellow bill.
“If you break the glass you might hurt me,” Itsy said. “Maybe, you could find Mason and tell him I want out of his jar.”
The gull raised its head and walked up and down the length of the jar, struggling to keep its balance on the slippery surface. It did one last hard tap on the glass, spread its wings, and lifted into the air and flew off toward the ocean.
Itsy scooted back to the lid and put her mouth to a hole and hollered for help. When no one came to her rescue, she laid back and stared up at the sky. She never imagined that such a large open space existed.
By late afternoon, the sun-heated jar became a glass oven. Itsy stayed as close to the lid as possible, seeking relief in the ocean breeze seeping through the holes. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. She awoke a short time later when she the jar moved.
“Itsy Bitsy, I thought I’d lost you forever,” Fred said as he lifted the jar out of the sand and brought it to his face.
Itsy smiled wanly.
“Let’s get you back home where you belong,” he said, stuffing the jar in his backpack.
In the darkness, surrounded by a pair of Fred’s unwashed socks, an empty water bottle, and a musty-smelling book, Itsy sat on the bottom of her jar and thought about the sky.
She knew they had arrived home by the sound of the garage door rising, and then a few moments later, lowering. Lifted out of the backpack by Fred, she was placed in her usual spot on a shelf crowded with other Mason jars.
As soon as Fred left the garage and went into the house, Mini Mary in the jar next to Itsy’s, said, “We thought you were never coming back.”
“I wish, but I couldn’t get out of my jar,” Itsy said.
“What’s the outside world like?” Tiny Teri in another jar asked.
“It has creatures that carry their jars on their back and creatures with big feet that fly,” Itsy said. “But most amazing, the ceiling isn’t like the one in here at all. It’s blue with floating balls of vanilla ice cream and it goes on forever.”
“Did you get to meet Mason?” Mini said.
“No, but after being outside and seeing all there is to see, I’m sure Mason didn’t intend for us to be trapped in this glass our entire lives.”
Steve Carr, from Richmond, Virginia, has had over 400 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews and anthologies since June, 2016. He has had six collections of his short stories, Sand, Rain, Heat, The Tales of Talker Knock and 50 Short Stories: The Very Best of Steve Carr, and LGBTQ: 33 Stories, published. His paranormal/horror novel, Redbird, was released in November, 2019.
- Twitter: @carrsteven960