Jeremy Jar

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

A young girl has a strange, unforgettable experience with her grandparents.


Jeremy Jar

When I was a girl I stayed with my grandparents for a summer. It was a long time ago and a lot of things have faded in my memory – but not this.

My grandparents lived on a skinny strip of land that was squeezed together by high rock walls. It was as if somebody pried the ridge apart and left this strip of green in the middle. There was a shining creek and a long road back to the house.

This caused great anger to my father who often said, “Eli, a sensible man, would have built the house on the main road beside the mailbox – but not your grandpa. He put the house at the end of the road right up to the cliffs.”

The cliffs weren’t farmable. They were rocky and steep with a few scraggly trees, but the center was rich and green, and they grew corn and grazed cattle. So, there were cattle fences and gates across the road. The summer I stayed there were five cattle gates; so, that if you were driving you had to stop and haul the gate open, drive through, get out and close the gate behind you. Five different times, unless you were lucky enough to have some kid who’d ride the bumper and do it for you.

Needless to say, not many people went back there. Not even their eleven children who were scattered all over the place, nor their thirty-eight grandchildren of whom I was the youngest. At fourteen I wasn’t old enough, yet, to have a steady job, so it was decided that I’d stay with my grandparents for the summer. Grandpa had a few heart spells and they worried about them up in their eighties, refusing to leave.

“What’s wrong with wanting to die here?” Grandpa told me. “What’s wrong with wanting to live like you always lived and not be bothered?” I sort of agreed with him and while it was an isolated place, it wasn’t lonely. There was always something to do. And there was a radiant light from the limestone walls, especially in the evenings when the sun set – a golden glow.

It was a crack in the earth that held light and sound. You could hear the cattle calling along the stream. The breeze lazing the corn. When the corn tasseled the bees would come and you could hear them buzzing the cornrows.

My grandparents had two dogs. Buck was scruffy and old and fiercely protective of my grandfather. I never saw Buck actually bite anyone, but he got right to the edge. His eyes got mean and his lips curled back in a snarl.

One Sunday Grandpa and I were sitting on the porch and Buck stood up and growled. His eyes searched down the road and he never relaxed. “Someone’s at the first gate,” Grandpa said and twenty minutes later my uncle rolled up in his truck.

Baby was a curly headed dog who lived in Grandma’s lap. She wanted Grandma to rock her to sleep in the rocking chair and sing, especially in the evenings. Then Buck, who’d been kept outside most of his life, would saunter in sheepish and stretch out across the living room. So, we’d all be there. The sun would glow on the limestone walls and there was this peaceful haze.

They didn’t have tv, but they had a radio. We got Radio City Music Hall, the Grand Ole Opry. We even got London. I thought maybe the rock walls held the signals better because the reception was crystal clear. Outside the chickens settled into sleep as the crickets throbbed and the breeze blew in the screen door.

The evening it happened I sat cross legged on the floor playing solitaire on the coffee table. Grandpa had lazed back in his recliner while Grandma rocked Baby and sang. Buck was stretched full length across the rug when, suddenly, somebody pounded on the door.

“Hello, hello,” a man cried. “I’m Jeremy Jar, camping up on the ridge and saw your lights and heard the music and I’ve come down here to introduce myself.” He peered in through the screen all big eyed. He wasn’t five feet tall and peering up in that light he looked like a little elf.

Grandpa shot straight out of his chair and stood dumbfounded in front of the door. He threw up his hand in defense and cracked the door just wide enough for Jeremy to stick his boot in. Then Jeremy’s chubby fingers slid around the door and he came on grinning and inching the door wider and gazing up at Grandpa with joyous hope. Before we knew it, he was inside shaking Grandpa’s hand.

“I’m Jeremy Jar,” he said. “So nice of you to invite me in.” Then Jeremy walked over and sat in Grandpa’s chair.

“I’m camping up on the ridge, you know,” he explained as he wiggled back in the seat. His tiny boots lifted off the floor and there was the smell of deep woods with a hint of skunk. His grey hair flopped across his collar while his dark eyes looked all around. Then he leaned toward Grandma with a grin that melted her heart. “I hope it’s alright that I’ve come to visit you – I saw your lights and heard the music and so wanted to meet you.”

Grandma looked at Jeremy like a little lost child. “Are you up there all by yourself?”

“Well, I am and I’m not. The trees keep me company, sometimes we shoot the breeze. Of course, the rocks are solid companions, but they don’t talk much.” He jiggled all over with laughter and Grandma laughed, too. Grandpa looked wide-eyed as he inched on the sofa. “You folks must be thrilled to live in a crack in the earth where everything grows. It’s amazing.” Jeremy’s fingers patted the arm of the chair and Buck nudged his nose up under his hand.

“Well hello, to you,” Jeremy cooed and scratched all around Buck’s ears. “It’s nice to see you, old boy, my goodness, oh yes, it is.” Jeremy proceeded to gush and goo inches away from Buck’s sharp teeth, but Buck looked utterly in love.

“I used to fly over here in my hot air balloon,” Jeremy waved his hand to the ceiling. “I traveled around with the fair for a while, and we set up all over. I’d take people for rides and we’d look down on this place and from the air it’s a long green strip and I’d think to myself – someday I’ll go down there for a visit and – here I am.” His grin jollied up the whole room.

“You flew over here in a balloon?” Grandpa shook his head.

“Well, it’s been quite a while ago. I had to give it up. Hot air got so expensive. But camping up on the ridge I heard your music and saw your lights. I sense so much of life here.” Jeremy’s head went all around the walls. “It’s like the walls are shaking with laughter.”

“We raised eleven children here,” Grandma said proudly. “Eli’s our youngest grandchild.”

“Such good times in this house, oh, I can feel it.” He leaned forward to me, “Eli, you’re lucky to have this time with them.”

“Of course, the others moved off to get work,” Grandpa said. “But Eli’s come for the summer.”

“Summer!” Jeremy expanded his tiny chest. “There’s a golden light on the ridge. It hangs around the evenings after supper . . .”

“Oh, Jeremy, have you eaten?” Grandma gasped.

“Yes, ma’am, cold beans from a can. Camping out, that’s what you do.”

“Well, how about a piece of pie?” She set Baby straight off her lap.

“Is it apple?” Jeremy said.

“Why yes, it is,” she shuffled toward the kitchen.

Jeremy put his hand on his heart and his face got rapturous. “I thought it might be because apple is my favorite.” And soon he had a huge slice and a glass of milk and milk all around his mouth like a child. “Oh, my goodness,” he groaned with pleasure. “How do you make it so wondrous?” And Baby jumped right in his lap. “And when I get my balloon up and ready, I’ll take you folks for a ride and you can look down and wave to your cows. I’ve got to pay you back for this wonderful pie.” Grandpa rolled his eyes as Jeremy wiped his mouth with his shirtsleeve.

“Jeremy Jar is a curious name,” I said.

“I’m most curious about it myself,” he said. “Because there’re all kinds of jars. Pickle jars, jam jars, honey jars, money jars. And I’ve been called every one of them, but what’s a jar but something you put something in. Right now, I’m a stuffed full of pie jar and that’s the best kind.” Then he set Baby down and put his empty plate on the coffee table. He wriggled out of his seat and bowed kindly to Grandma, “I want to thank you, ma’am. That’s the best pie I ever ate.” Then he bowed to Grandpa, “It’s been a real delight to get to meet you.” Then he put his hand on my head, “Eli, I see good things ahead.”

“You’re not going?” Grandma said stricken.

“I have to get back to my campsite, but I take you with me.” He patted his rounded stomach.

“You’ll come back,” Grandma said.

“Oh, yes,” he put his hand on his heart, “I always come back to a house that has love. You’ve done such a fine job.” He patted Buck’s head and then he walked out the screen door as we all sat stunned. No one spoke; we just looked at each other. All the energy had left the room and I wondered if we imagined him.

Grandpa and I went out on the porch and looked down the long dark lane. The crickets throbbed. The wind breezed along the corn and the cliffs shone blue in the moonlight. It seemed that just as the setting sun had brought Jeremy in to us, the night had swallowed him up.

***

Grandpa and I spent the rest of the summer looking for Jeremy Jar. We drove the long road with me on the bumper opening the gates and Grandpa telling me stories about how it was when my dad was growing up there. We walked the fields and sat by the creek. “Did I tell you the time your daddy ran away to join the circus?” I heard that story twenty-five times.

We drove all over that upper ridge, always looking for a tent stake or a burnt-out campfire. “There’s no way that little man could have gotten up and down those cliffs,” Grandpa said. “Oh, sure if he was a rock climber and had ropes and all.” The only thing we ever came up with was that Jeremy walked the long road in, and then he walked out.

Grandma spent the rest of the summer baking apple pies and letting the smell float up the ridge. She set so many pies on the window ledge she couldn’t squeeze anymore on. “Why didn’t I wrap up the rest of that pie so he could take it?” Oh, it worried her. In the evenings, she’d rock Baby and stoke her mop ears. “Maybe he’ll come tonight.”

When summer ended, I went back home again, feeling the long, sweet days and their dear old hugs. “I’ll come again next summer,” I promised.

Grandpa always said if he lived through March, he’d last out the year, but he died March 4th.  Then Buck died, then Grandma. They all died in March and Baby – she came to live with me. I’d sing and stroke her head in the evenings. “We’re the only ones who know that Jeremy Jar was real,” I said, and Baby agreed.

***

The next summer my dad and I were clearing out the kind old house, getting it ready to sell. The sun was setting on the limestone walls when Baby and I walked into the cornfield. A breeze rustled along the corn, and everything glowed. The clouds were golden. Then the sky lit up with a glorious light as a gigantic hot air balloon floated towards us. Shimmering and bright and I put my hand across my eyes to shield the brilliance and there was Grandma, and Grandpa, and Buck and Jeremy Jar all waving and smiling down.

Baby jumped up and barked, and I waved and laughed and ran after them until they floated out of sight.

And we never told anyone. I’ve kept the secret till now.



Submitted: May 31, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Suzanne Mays. All rights reserved.

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Comments

D Mays

What a joyous, uplifting story. Totally enjoyed it. Well done. More Please!

Sun, May 31st, 2020 12:37pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for reading. I had a wonderful grandmother, I can close my eyes and see her singing to this day. All the best to you in writing, Suzanne

Sun, May 31st, 2020 10:33am

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