Jar of Hope

The Mason jar was full.

Max smiled, holding it up, admiring his collection. There was still room for more, but he didn’t want to overcrowd them. He remembered what a teacher had said last year about every living thing needing their own space. Max’s hands hummed with minute vibrations, the jar quivering lightly with whirs and pops as the insects clung to the sides, wondering how their world suddenly became infinitely smaller.

Suffused with excitement he cautiously held the jar of hope with both hands and walked as quickly as possible, careful not to jostle its contents. By the time he reached the trailer, the lilac of dusk was darkening with rapid welcome. Max’s father was sitting in his usual lawn chair nursing a silver can of beer, smoking a homemade cigarette and staring out beyond the border of their trailer park. Every so often, when the heat became unbearable, his father rolled the side of the can across his forehead, drops of condensation mixing with beads of sweat. Occasionally he’d forget which hand was which and he’d run his cigarette across his forehead instead, moistening the twisted tip with sweet tears of perspiration before taking a drag from the same end.

“That you, boy?” his father mumbled without looking.

“Got somethin’ for you, Pop,” Max placed the jar atop a tree stump. A mild grunt from his father sufficed as encouragement. “’member what Mama used to say about wishbugs? She said if you catch one and make a wish before lettin’ one go, your wish’ll come true. I got you a whole jar full.”

“Get to bed, boy. Got no time for ‘yer silly stories.”

“If your wish comes true, Pop, then maybe you could be happy again.”

“I said, get!”

Max rushed into the trailer. Through a window, he watched his father mumble to himself as he waved off insects that flew around his head, swatting them with his hands. Shouting expletives, he stomped down more bugs into the briar patch under his feet. Wishbugs flew around inside the jar lighting up with dizzying frequency, popping their wings, and crawling everywhere, their search for escape in vain.

In the morning, Max found the Mason jar on the tree stump, open and empty. On the ground, amidst a discarded array of crushed cigarette butts and empty beer cans lay the lid of the jar.


Jar of Hope was originally published by Flash Fiction Magazine.