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The Forgotten Jam

By Gillian A. Corsiatto

By Gillian CorsiattoPublished about a year ago 12 min read
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The Forgotten Jam
Photo by Valentin Antonini on Unsplash

With only days left until summer vacation and the impending ending of elementary school, Violet, a meek and quiet fifth grader, was anxious to get on with what was yet to come. Middle school was a big deal! First, however, was a bright and sunny two months free of all school stress. Violet was especially looking forward to running barefoot in the grass, eating cotton candy at the circus, catching frogs in the river, and, most of all, reading. A day spent in a shaded porch chair reading a new novel sounded like the perfect day to Violet. Quieter and more mature than her brothers and sisters, she knew she would be content to simply slip away from all of the commotion. Furtively, she’d find a reading nook, and she would be completely undisturbed while her imagination let her feed unicorns and fly with superheros.

She couldn’t get ahead of herself. Dreaming of all the free time brought by the lenience of summer vacation was fun and all, but reality dictated that she attend school for the remaining few days.

“Class,” said Mrs. Lockhart, “tomorrow, there will be a special event put on for all of the grade fives.”

A special event? And only for the grade fives? Some sort of treat too exclusive for the younger kids?

The students murmured to each other in hushed tones. Excitement in the classroom was building. Was it a big party? A mock graduation ceremony?

Violet set her pencil on her desk, ready to listen to Mrs. Lockhart’s exciting announcement. Being shy and subdued, she wistfully hoped that the event wouldn’t involve too much socializing. Maybe the teachers had baked muffin baskets for all the departing grade fives. The special event could be the gifting of the baskets. Under her chair, Violet crossed her fingers and hoped for chocolate chip.

“Bring a little spending cash and empty out your backpacks, because tomorrow, the school is holding one last book fair for all of you soon-to-be-middle-schoolers!” announced Mrs. Lockhart. There was a gleam in her eye.

Another book fair? This was great news! This was eons better than a muffin basket! Violet would empty out her piggy bank and stock up on all new books to read over the summer. She uncrossed her fingers so she could join in with the class, applauding and cheering while Mrs. Lockhart smiled, satisfied by the reaction. Violet noticed that even the kids who didn’t read were clapping. Everyone was just as equally excited. Plus, the book fairs didn’t always just sell books. Other stationery supplies like erasers, pencils, markers, and stickers were always on sale as well. In her mind, she tried to design her perfect pencil. How would it feel? What colour would it be? Would it have a pattern?

When the bell rang, all of the students pushed their desks forward and stood up. Violet gathered her belongings from below her desk and prepared to head out for the day.

“Don’t forget some money for the book fair!” Mrs. Lockhart called after her students.

She was largely unheard by the majority of them, but Violet shot her teacher a thumbs-up as she hustled out of the room. She sprinted as fast as a hurricane onto the school bus. During the short bus ride, she jittered anxiously as she awaited to get home and pour out her piggy bank. Having not spent any money for the last few weeks, she was sure she would be greeted by riches she could barely comprehend. King Tut would pity himself if he could get even a glimpse at the mountains of coins that would pour out, seemingly endlessly, like a river flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. When the bus stopped at her house, Violet, in a haste, forgot to thank the bus driver as she got off. Her mind was far too busy.

Inside the house, four grocery bags sat on the table, still fully packed. With her mother being elsewhere, probably on the phone, Violet began to unpack. She unpacked the carrots and the celery. She put the ham in the fridge and the crackers in the cupboard. The bread would stay out on the table. While she finished up her unpacking, she dug around in the bags, sure that she had neglected to get out the jam. Mom had bought bread this week, so it was expected that she’d get some jam too. Violet searched. She held the bags upside down. No jam. Just bread. Mom must have forgotten.

“Thanks for putting those away, Vi,” said mom when she entered the kitchen. Violet considered bringing up the absence of the jam, but mom had the infant twins in her arms and they were wailing. Following close behind was a trail of toddlers, one who appeared to have purple paint splattered all over his naked body. Being the oldest sibling was such a chore. Especially when there were five younger siblings. And all under the age of ten.

Mom shushed and rocked the twins. Toddlers pulled at her shirt begging for her attention. Mom snapped at them to quiet down, and that’s when Violet snuck away into her bedroom. She shared the room with two other siblings so she had a special hiding place for her piggy bank. No one would ever know that it was inside a shoebox under her bed. She glanced around and when the coast was clear, she unearthed the box, and then the piggy bank. The dust made her sneeze when she brushed it off.

Next step, the cork was pulled. Then, the piggy bank was dumped out.

And all of the contents inside came to a total of $3.75.

Violet froze up in shock. Surely she had been robbed! A vacant stare came over her face. Within moments, she couldn’t even stand to look at her pitiful haul anymore. What could she buy for $3.75? Maybe a single colour pen and two stickers if she was lucky. The books were all going to be $4.00 at the very least. Near distraught, she scooped up the coins and dropped them back inside the shoebox. She completely bypassed putting them back in the piggy bank. Quite frankly, she was mad at the piggy bank and didn’t want to see any more of it right now.

The following day, grade five kids on the bus nattered about the book fair. They did this partly because they were excited and partly because they wanted to subtly boast to the younger grades about their special, exclusive, grade-five-only-event. Violet kept her head down. She didn’t participate in the nattering. If there was ever a time to label her as the strange, shy kid with no friends, this was it. She was incredibly self-conscious over the fact that she kept so silent during the book fair conversing, but the disappointment she felt was immeasurable. Even if she decided to speak up, she knew her throat would close up and her eyes would get watery. It was much safer for her to stick to herself.

She thought back to last night. She thought of the measly coin pile she came home to. She thought of how mom hadn’t bought any jam for the bread. She thought of how mom cursed when Violet brought up the fact that no jam was brought home. Lastly, she thought of how she gave her mom $3.75 to go back to the store and get one jar of jam. Mom worked so hard. It was evident that she felt bad about her mistake. Violet knew that mom may have needed that jam money for something else. What if one of her brothers needed a box of bandaids? What if the babies needed milk and diapers? What if her sisters needed new shoes without gaping holes down the seam?

The bus ride felt like it took ages upon ages longer than it did every other day of the year preceding the special book fair day. When Violet and her classmates entered the school, the book fair was already set up in one of the main hallways. There were ribbons, balloons, and farewell signs. It was an elaborate set-up. The jealousy held by the younger students was made apparent by their sullen looks. They balled up their fists as they walked by, angry at not having been born sooner.

A quick attendance was taken before the students were let loose to do as much book shopping as their little hearts desired. Everyone in Violet’s class was in attendance that day. No one wanted to miss out on the special event! Violet, however, wished that perhaps, she would’ve feigned a cough or a fever that day.

While the students browsed, the hallway seemed to come to life. No teachers were shushing at the kids or telling them to stop running. The teachers just watched the joyous chaos ensue. They smiled fondly. The students had worked hard all year. Elementary school was very shortly coming to a close. The teachers knew that these kids deserved this last bit of fun before the seriousness of middle school hit home.

Violet walked silently and solemnly through the book shelves set up only for today. There were chapter books, dictionaries, encyclopedias, science fiction novels, poetry collections, and anything a bookworm eleven-year-old could ever dream of. Each time she accidentally caught a glimpse of the prices, she felt her spine stiffen. How she would have loved to join in the chaos. How she would have loved to throw the books off the shelves and kick down all the display stands. She imagined herself ripping pages out of the books and then balling them up and eating them like a rabid dog. Still, she looked so small amidst all that was happening. No one was even the slightest bit aware of Violet’s violent thoughts.

At the end of the hallway nearing the cafeteria, three cash registers were in place, manned by parent volunteers. Directly following the last shelf was the small area dedicated to the stationery supplies. With not even a penny to spend, Violet tried as hard as she could not to look too closely. A table was dedicated to stickers, five cents each. Bins of pencils and pens, twenty five cents each, stood next to the sticker table. Then, markers, pencil crayons, and highlighters of all colours had their own designated area as well. After that, the very last thing to look at were the tubs of erasers. Ten cents each.

The vibrance of the eraser tubs drew her in like a siren calling to a pirate on a ship, dooming the oblivious pirate to perish in a watery grave. Most students were still browsing through the freightage of books for sale and hadn’t made it to the stationery supplies yet. In a way, it was nice that she got to sort through the eraser tubs without a bunch of other hands digging in there at the same time. She had complete freedom. She occasionally picked up an eraser that she liked. She would roll them around in her palms, sometimes even giving them a subtle sniff to see if they were scented. Some were, some weren’t.

She picked up a dozen erasers shaped like apples, far more than that shaped like hearts, a few in the shape of jungle animals, and then she picked up a sturdy, multicoloured eraser shaped like a stack of books. It even had a hole in it so it could be used as a pencil topper. Violet held this specific eraser in one hand while she sorted through using her other hand. As far as she could tell, there were no others like it. It was one of a kind and she was the very first to find it.

On TV, Violet had seen cartoons where a character was trying to make a tough decision and there would be a little angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other. Now, standing here facing the eraser tubs still clutching the unparalleled stack of books shaped eraser, her very own angel and devil appeared.

“No one would know,” said the devil, “and it’s only five cents. There are hundreds of erasers. Thousands even! Hell, maybe even millions and trillions!”

Being a practical type of thinker, Violet rolled her eyes at the devil’s gross exaggeration.

“Stealing isn’t right,” said the angel, “There’s not one instance of stealing ever being morally good. You aren’t a thief, and you don’t want to become one now.”

“Come on,” taunted the devil, “the other kids haven’t even seen it yet! They won’t know what they’re missing!”

“It would be fine if only you had the money to pay for it. You don’t. Set it down. A little eraser won’t mean this much to you in a week. You’ll forget about it completely. It’s just not worth it.” said the angel.

“My point exactly!” the devil retaliated, “It’s worth nothing! Zero! Zip! Zilch! You’re not robbing a bank, you’re only taking an eraser from a book fair! Do it quick! Put it in your pocket before anyone sees you!’

Using some kind of otherworldly evil mastermind powers, the devil conjured a crossbow out of thin air and shot the angel in the chest. The angel fell off of Violet’s shoulder and was too feeble to climb back on before the deed was done. Step one, sneak eraser into pocket. Step two, get back to the safety of the classroom. As to not look suspicious, she pretended to be absent mindedly browsing the shelves as she made her way back down the makeshift book fair hallway. She was the first one to the classroom. Even her teacher hadn’t returned yet. If anyone asked her why she didn’t buy any books, she would simply tell them that she forgot to bring money. As far as anyone else knew, her eraser didn’t exist. Violet doodled on some loose leaf paper as she waited for the rest of the class to return. By the time the last kid came in, nearly an hour and a half had gone by.

Mrs. Lockhart took her place at the front of the room. “Now,” she said, “does anyone care to show the class what they bought?”

Hands sprung up and choruses of “Me! Me! Me! Me!” rang out like church bells.

The first student to share was pudgy Jeremiah. Proudly, he stood up from his desk and made his way to the front of the room. He stood next to Mrs. Lockhart.

“Oh, wow!” Mrs. Lockhart exclaimed, “a mystery novel, it looks like! How many pages, Jeremiah?”

“Nearly two hundred fifty!” the pudgy student proclaimed, “I’m going to read it over summer break.”

Jeremiah opened the book and flipped through the pages in front of the class. Violet buried her head in her hands.

“Who else wants to show their book?” Mrs. Lockhart asked the class again.

Even with her head buried, Violet could hear that more people were entering the room. But, wasn’t the whole class already here?

“Only a minute, Mrs. Lockhart,” said the principal.

What was the principal doing here? And who was that woman with him?

“Certainly,” replied Mrs. Lockhart, “What do you need?”

The principal, tall, intimidating, wearing a fine suit as if he were attending a wedding party, turned to the woman next to him.

“Who was it?” he asked her.

The woman pointed to Violet. Violet looked up to Mrs. Lockhart for guidance. They were both confused.

“She took it,” the woman spoke.

Oh no. The eraser!

“It’s my understanding, Mrs. Lockhart, that little Miss Violet here snuck off with an eraser from the book fair without paying.”

“I was working at one of the registers. I saw the whole thing.” the woman taunted.

Violet considered at first denying it, then pretending like she took it by mistake, but when the principal walked himself right up to her desk, a primal fear overcame her.

“I think you should give that back,” said the principal with an outstretched arm and open hand.

Shaking like a leaf, Violet retrieved the eraser shaped like a stack of books and dropped it into his hand.

“Now, you won’t be trying that again, will you?” he asked.

Tears welling up in her eyes, Violet shook her head. She bit her lip to stop it from trembling,

And that was it. The principal, the woman, and the one of a kind eraser all left the room. There was a heavy silence throughout the class. Mrs. Lockhart was the one to break it.

“I would’ve expected better from you, Violet.” she said.

Violet didn’t respond. She could feel the eyes of all the other students peering down at her. Her skin flushed as red as a tomato. Then, Mrs. Lockhart spoke again.

“Okay, class. Who would like to show next?” she asked.

Again, a chorus of “Me! Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!” rang out.

Still not daring to look up, Violet could swear she heard a giggle next to her. When she pointed her eyes in its direction, there, hung in the air, was the little shoulder devil, with the most wicked smile plastered on his face that she had ever seen.

Short Story
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About the Creator

Gillian Corsiatto

Author of Duck Light and avid musical theatre lover. Love writing spooky stuff and funny stuff 😈🥸

My website is www.gilliancorsiatto.ca

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