The Girl-Shaped Jar
Sammi’s sister sent her a funny email. A funny, funny email, showing crazy Japanese inventions to make things into other crazy things, other crazy shapes they weren’t. All crazy and stuff stuff, like watermelons grown in tempered glass jars, square right off the vine.
She clicked a picture of square watermelons, followed link to link to link from the chainletter her sister forwarded from a forwarded forward to her until it was junked up with blue boxes and sideways carets around names and addresses of everyone who’d sent this thing ever. Forward this email to three friends, the email told her at its nether-end, and you will know happiness the rest of your life.
Staring at the screenful of square watermelons, Sammi wondered if she had three friends. She couldn’t forward to sender, and was a sister a friend, anyway? She had a boyfriend, but wasn’t sure he could properly be called a friend friend. Boy-mate, man-mate, man-meat, whatever he was. If he was whatever, what did that make her?
Deciding to count him as one friend, Sammi clicked: Forward to:.
Good job, yes. Job well done. Happiness will now find Sammi, now stick to her forever like toilet paper to the heel of her shoe.
That evening at supper her manfriend of too many years to count grunted at his computer screen. She glanced up briefly from her lemon-peppered edamame and inbox to watch the light of his laptop screen flicker in his glasses as he shoveled spaghetti between his lips. “Good,” he said. “That’s good.”
Blinking, Sammi said, “The pasta? It’s from the box you like. With the dinosaurs on it. With the organic vegetable in a little circle with the red line through it.”
He licked his lips, frowned. “No. Square watermelons. Smart. Fit easier on shelves. Much more convenient.”
Late into the night, Sammi lay looking a the ceiling, thinking about convenient watermelons and glass jars to make things the perfect size. Next morning, she dug through her emails, clicking link to link to other links, until she found the page selling square jars to grow square watermelons to fit easily onto shelves. She clicked more links, and shopping carts in modern pictography, and entered credit card numbers, and scarcely had shut down her computer for lunch when the doorbell rang.
After the deliveryman left, Sammi sat staring at the enormous box in her small livingroom. Fragile, it read, and listed a return address someplace in Idaho.
She slit the tape from top to bottom, ignoring the sharp edge of the knife where it shone. Packing foam in small shapes like mangled snails tumbled from box slits, little styrofoam avalanches. The jar itself was surprisingly light, surprisingly easy to handle. It is convenient, she thought.
Thanks to excellent foreign design and mediocre American engineering, the jar stood easily by itself. Sunlight streamed through glass patio doors, only slightly muted by the fraying screen, glancing off rounded surfaces, shining through hollow interior spaces the perfect shape and size of a real, perfect girl.
I will know happiness the rest of my life, she told herself, stripping off her clothes and folding them neatly in small like piles on the arm of the sofa she wouldn’t pay off until 2610. She climbed up onto the sofa, then up onto the arm, placing one hand on the neck of the girl-shaped jar. She eased into the jar one leg at a time, her body sliding into its spaces, filling its hollows. First one leg, then the other, then her torso slipping in like slipping into a tight swimming pool, her arms flowing into the proper cavities of a jar designed for just such a thing.
Breathing was difficult, what with the need for expansion and contraction of the diaphragm and the lungs and whatnot; but never had Sammi felt so perfectly shaped. She’d always been rather too slender here, too full there, concave where she should’ve been rounded and vice versa. But with the firm glass edges of the jar holding her in place everything felt the way it should for what seemed to Sammi like the first time in her life.
She smiled. I’ll know happiness the rest of my life, she thought, glancing at the clock to see how long before her man-person-boy came home from work, ignoring the increasing difficulty of drawing breath within the confines of the girl-shaped jar; Yes... The rest... of my... life.
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About the Author
When not visiting ten wooded acres near Austin, Texas, Camille Alexa lives in Portland, Oregon in an Edwardian house with some very crooked windows. Her first collection, Push of the Sky, received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was a finalist for the 2010 Endeavour Award. More info at camillealexa.com.
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Copyright © 2011, Camille Alexa.