Lying on the kitchen window sill above the sink, Clyde licked his paws as the noonday sun warmed his bright orange fur. The gentle breeze that tickled the tips of his pointed ears carried with it the aromas of the animals in the farm yard along with honeysuckle and roses.
He had his eyes on Mistress who was standing by the table and trying to get a lid off of a jar. Her face was red from exertion as she strained to twist the lid. She banged it on the table, and then stuck a knife under the rim of the lid but was still unable to open the jar. She turned on the faucet in the sink and put the jar under the flowing water, and then again tried to turn the lid and was still unable to remove it. After digging around in the utensils drawer she pulled out a can opener and tried to pry off the lid, but still had no success.
“Darn, why is it so hard to get a pickle out?” she said aloud as she slammed the jar on the table and left the kitchen.
Clyde stood and ran his paw across his whiskers. He then jumped onto the sink draining board and then leapt onto the table. Cautiously he approached the jar and patted the glass with his paw before putting his nose to it and sniffing it. Mistress’s scent was on it, but otherwise it had no discernible odor. He sat back on his haunches and gazed at the long green objects tightly bunched together inside the jar.
Those must be pickles, he thought. They’re in there so tight they can’t move.
It distressed him that Mistress had been unable to get them out. He wanted to return the kindness she always showed him. He patted the jar a few times and then pushed the jar to the edge of the table and knocked it off. It fell onto a bunched-up throw rug. He jumped down and laid on his side next to it, wrapped his paws around the jar and wrestled with it, and tried to bite it and scratch it. Unable to get to the pickles, he stood, batted it with his paws, rolling it to the screen door. He then pushed the door open and rolled the jar out of the house and into a patch of dirt.
“What you got there?” Bart said, rising from a shallow hole he had dug to lie in. He shook his head, flapping his large ears and spraying drool onto Clyde.
“Pickles,” Clyde said as he wiped the dog’s spittle from his face.
“What are pickles?” Bart said.
“They might be living things, but it’s hard to tell.” Clyde said. “Mistress wanted to get them out very badly but was unable to and neither could I.”
The dog put his nose to the jar, sniffed and then licked it.
“Move aside,” Bart said. “Let me give it a try.”
Clyde stepped aside and watched as Bart plopped his large rear end down on the jar.
The dog then raised up and looked at the glass and barked at it several times. “Maybe those pickle things are supposed to stay in there,” he said.
“No, I’m certain Mistress wants them out,” Clyde said.
Seeing Clarissa and her brood of chicks crossing the farmyard, Clyde hurriedly rolled the jar towards her as Bart followed behind. He brought the jar to a stop a few feet from her.
Startled, Clarissa quickly gathered her fluffy, bright yellow chicks around her and covered them with her wings.
“What do you want?” she said to Clyde, clucking with a mixture of bravado and fear as she puffed out her chest and raised her beak.
Clyde wound his long tail around his hind legs. “Mistress has a problem and I thought you might want to help her out.”
Clarissa looked at him with one eye, and then turned her head and gazed at him with the other one. “Mistress feeds us every morning which is most kind of her,” she said. “What is the problem?”
“Mistress wants these pickles inside this jar but can’t get them out and neither could Bart or I,” he said.
She tilted her head several times, staring at the jar, and then clucked several times. “What do they do?” she said.
“Do they sleep in her lap and keep her warm like you do, or take walks with her like Bart does, or give her eggs like I do?” she said.
“I don’t know what they do,” Clyde said. “Whatever it is that they do, Mistress must find great pleasure in it. You should have seen how hard she tried to get them out.”
“I think they’re ugly,” Clarissa said, “but if Mistress wants them out, I’ll be glad to help.”
She gently urged her chicks to stand behind her and then began pecking on the glass. When the glass didn’t break, she pecked harder and faster, until finally exhausted, she squawked and then sat down.
“Those pickle things must be of great importance if they’re so hard to get out,” she said.
Pete the box turtle sauntered to where the group was standing around the jar.
“What’s going on?” he said.
“Clyde has these pickle things that belong to Mistress, but we can’t get them out of the jar,” Bart said as he scratched at a flea.
Pete looked at the jar. “Are those the pickle things inside the jar?”
“Yes,” Clarissa clucked.
“Are they alive?” he said.
“They must be,” Clyde said. “They seem to be very fond of each other being packed in there like that. I’m sure Mistress was trying to rescue them.”
“I know all about things that are hard to get into,” Pete said. “But possibly if we wait long enough one of them will poke their heads out.”
“We can’t just sit here and wait for that,” Clyde said. “Mistress was frantic about getting them out of there. Without hands like Mistress has we wouldn’t be able to open it, and we haven’t figured out how to break the glass.”
“Mistress always makes puddles for me to sit in, so I’d like to help,” Pete said. “Not long ago I rolled down the hill behind the barn and landed against a large rock. It nearly broke my shell. Perhaps if we roll the jar down that hill it will hit the rock and break open.”
“That’s a great idea,” Clyde said excitedly.
With everyone else following behind, Clyde rolled the jar to the top of the hill behind the barn. He aligned the jar in the direction of the rock, and then pushed it. It rolled down the hill, bouncing over clumps of grass and mounds of dirt. It smashed against the rock, breaking into pieces. The pickles were scattered around the rock.
“Hooray,” everyone yelled.
They rushed down the hill.
Clyde was the first one to come upon a pickle lying in the grass. He patted at it with his paw and then sniffed it. He let out a mournful meow.
“I think we killed the pickles,” he said. “They can’t be of any value to Mistress now.”
Bart licked another pickle and then barked at it several times. “This one’s dead too.”
Shielding her chicks from the sight of the dead pickles, Clarissa clucked, “What do we do now?”
“The only thing to do is bury them,” Pete said. He then pulled his head into his shell.
“Good idea,” Clyde said.
As Bart dug holes, Clyde carried in his teeth the pickles one at a time and dropped them into the holes. Bart covered them with dirt. When all the pickles were buried everyone gathered around the pickles’ graves.
“I hope Mistress doesn’t miss the pickle things too much,” Bart said.
“I’m glad my shell didn’t break like that,” Pete said as he stuck his head out.
“I wish I had gotten to know them,” Clarissa said. “The pickles must be wonderful beings for Mistress to want to let them out of the jar so badly.”
“Long live the pickles.” Clyde said.
Steve Carr, from Richmond, Virginia, has had over 480 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews and anthologies since June, 2016. He has had seven collections of his short stories, Sand, Rain, Heat, The Tales of Talker Knock and 50 Short Stories: The Very Best of Steve Carr, and LGBTQ: 33 Stories, and The Theory of Existence: 50 Short Stories, published. His paranormal/horror novel Redbird was released in November, 2019. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice.