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Guest Writer

The pickle jar
by Beth Cooper

asey's six-year-old eyes darted
Left and right through his six-year-old world,
As he skipped and ran and tripped
Through the ageless woods.
The path was well-worn, and lined with
Lilies and jack-in-the-pulpits and great green ferns
That uncurled in the springtime almost as if
They had a secret the whole world must know.
Casey's feet, in their new red and white
Sneakers, followed the path,
Which followed a little stream
Which gurgled and bubbled and probably followed nothing
Except maybe the wind.

Casey's chubby six-year-old hands clutched
Tightly to a pickle jar (not those little
Fancy pickles, but the great big ones that
Are good when you eat them
With your ham and cheese sandwich). And
The pickle jar had holes in its top. Casey's dad
Is handy with a hammer and some nails,
And did this for Casey, just as his father did it
For him. The red and white sneakers jumped
Over roots and rocks and fallen tree branches,
Through the patches of sunlight which just
Barely managed to squeak through the bright
Canopy of autumn leaves. And Casey stopped.
There, through the trees, he could see the little stream
Curved and dipped and flowed right into MacGregor's
Pond, where it swirled and mingled and left
Whatever it had carried there, and then
Became a stream once more on the other side.

Casey smiled a front toothless smile, and ran
To the edge of MacGregor's pond just as fast
As his new red and white sneakers could
Carry him. He was warm from running, and he
Panted a little, so he took off his almost-new
Navy blue winter jacket with a hood, and hung it
On a nearby tree branch. All was silent, when
A flock of geese, heading south early, honked
Overhead, insistent that winter was just
Around the corner. And then there was a
Sploosh! and a splash! and Casey knew that
He had been right; the frogs hadn't disappeared
Down into the cool mud for the winter yet.

Casey knew that his pickle jar was perfect to
Catch the year's last frogs. So he unscrewed
The hole-filled top, and knelt gingerly on the bank
Of MacGregor's pond. Casey didn't care
That his blue jeans were getting muddy, or that
The chill of late October was beginning to seep
Through the red sweater his grandmother had
Knitted him for Christmas. He only cared
That he would catch the biggest frog in the
Whole pond. And he would bring it to
School with him on Halloween, and scare
That dumb old Miss Simmons right out of
Her orthopedic oxfords. The toothless grin
Resurfaced with such a delicious thought. Then
Suddenly, out of the corner of his six-year-old
Eyes, he saw it.

It must have been the daddy,
No, the granddaddy, Casey amended, of
All the frogs in the world. There, crouched
Beneath the ferns next to the water, resting
Quietly on a carpet of moss, stood the biggest, slimiest,
Best bullfrog Casey had seen in his whole
Six-year-old life. His little hands, pink with
Cold, gripped the barely big-enough jar in one hand
And the lid in the other, ready to spring like a
Cat on a sparrow, to trap the creature and
Claim it as his own. Casey leaned forward,
Closer … closer … And all at once the frog
Sprang out of Casey's reach, but Casey lunged
For him, stretching his six-year-old arms as
Far as they would go, and the frog was gone,
Down into the deep, dark water, and then
So was Casey.

And it wasn't long before
MacGregor's pond stopped rippling, and
All was silent once again. There was not
Even a rustle from the Navy blue coat
With the hood that hung on a
Nearby tree branch, when the wind
Ruffled it gently. And then there was a
Sploosh! and a splash! and somewhere
Upstream, a mother called her six-year-old
Son to come to dinner. And somewhere
Downstream, a pickle jar (not those little
Fancy pickles, but the great big ones that
Are good when you eat them
With your ham and cheese sandwich),
Twisted and turned as it floated, until it
Smashed itself on some rocks, into
Little pieces that could only follow
The stream, which probably followed nothing
Except, maybe, the wind.

See more from Beth in our archives.

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