The Ball Mason Jar

700 words –

Butch was sick and homeless. The 70-year old looked bad for his age, bending over a dipsy dumpster looking for scraps of food or something he could sell.

No luck. He shambled along for a couple of blocks until he came to the old Ball Glass factory. The fenced-in yard behind the now shuttered business was a dumping ground for the hundred years that the plant operated. He once found two antique Ball Mason jars buried in the yard and was able to sell them for $20.00. But that was a year ago.

He was a poor man’s picker with a good eye, when he wasn’t drinking cheap booze. He’d dropped out of “the system” after fighting for a year in Vietnam, in 1970. The streets were his home by choice. He counted on extra floor space in the old mission during really harsh weather.

All three pawn shops in town knew Butch. Each tolerated his eccentricities and weekly visits. Ninety-nine percent of the time, Butch brought worthless junk in and the pawnshop would end up giving him a small donation for it. He blended in with the street people of Titusville, but had no friends to hang around with. It was the way he wanted it.

Taking his vintage military entrenching tool from his backpack, Butch picked an area and began digging. He didn’t know what else to do. He had to keep trying. No one was going to come along and rescue his 70-year old ass anytime soon.

When he struck glass he was afraid it was a broken piece, but after carefully probing with his K-bar knife he uncovered a Ball Mason Jar in excellent condition. When he saw the lettering was upside down his heart skipped a beat. This was certainly unusual. He had a good feeling about it as he carefully wrapped it in his extra black scarf.

Jack Owens, the owner of Owen’s Pawn Shop, watched Butch shuffle by his display window and open the door. A bell greeted his entrance as he nodded at Jack and took off his OD green military backpack and set it on the floor. He carefully opened it and took out the glass jar still wrapped in the black scarf.

Interest crossed Jack’s features when he set the Mason Ball jar down on the glass counter. It was unique. As an expert on both Ball and Kerr Mason jars, Jack quickly noticed the lettering was upside down. He pulled out a book off the shelf behind the counter and flipped through it. Then he got on his cell phone and went into his office.

As the minutes passed Butch got uneasy. He was starting to re-wrap the jar when Jack returned.

Hold on, Butch!” he said. “I’m sorry I took so long, but I wanted to confirm how much your jar was worth.”

“And….?”

“Believe it or not, you found a really rare jar that was made in the very early 1900’s. Your jar was made in limited quantities, which is desirable to serious collectors. At auction, you probably could get $1,000, or more, for it!”

Butch’s eyes opened wide in surprise.

“What would you offer for it?” Butch bluntly asked.

“It’s a nice piece,” Jack said as he examined it. “The most I could offer is $500. It might take me years to sell it, and it takes up space meanwhile.

Five hundred dollars. It was the most money he saw in one place since he was in the Army.

“Any chance you’d give me $600 for it?” Butch wheedled.

Jack smiled. “You drive a hard bargain Butch. How about $550.00?

“Sold!

“How do you want the money? In hundreds, or twenties?” Jack asked as he opened the cash register.

His voice sounded funny to him, a little on the high side, as Butch replied, “Twenties.”

Later, after renting a motel room, eating at a fast food restaurant, and buying two bottles of good Irish whiskey, Butch stretched out on a bed and opened one. He took a big gulp and grinned. The last thought in his head was, “It don’t mean nuthin.

The next day at checkout time, a maid found Butch dead in the bed, still clutching a bottle.

Author: Dave Stancliff

Retired newspaper editor/publisher, veteran, freelance writer, blogger. Married 44 years. Independent thinker. A sense of humor. Defender of truth. Give my poems, essays and short stories a try. I look forward to meeting you.

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