by Steve Carr
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 and at the same time touch 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 eye.
“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. “If only I could get you to help me remove the lid, then my situation would be much improved.”
The crab quickly turned around and ambled off through the sand.
Itsy slid back from the lid and reached into her tunic pocket and pulled out a piece of cracker. Fred had given her water and crackers before he put her in his backpack before taking a stroll on the beach the evening before. It was the first time she had been out in the world. The fall from the backpack was a jolt, but she wasn't hurt and the jar hadn't been damaged. As she nibbled on the cracker, she thought about Fred. Surely he knows I'm missing.
She put what remained of the cracker back in the 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 and tilted its head sideways and with one eye gazed at Itsy.
Itsy tapped on the glass. “Can you get me out of here?” she said.
The bird tilted its head the to the opposite side and stared at her with the other eye for a moment, then tapped on the glass with its long yellow bill.
“If you break the glass you might hurt me,” Itsy said. “Maybe you could contact Mason and tell him I want out of his jar.”
The gull raised its head, then 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, then 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, “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 ever 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 breezes seeping through the holes. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. She was awoken a short time later when she felt the jar move.
“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. He stuffed 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 wouldn't have, but I couldn't get out of my jar,” Itsy said.
“What's the outside world like?” Tiny Teri in another jar asked.
“It's 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.
Forlornly, Itsy 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, a gay writer from Richmond, Virginia, has had over 570 short stories, new and reprints, published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews and anthologies since June, 2016. He has had seven collections of short stories published. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice.