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The Cupboard

A short story

The maker removed a small cup from the pottery wheel and then attached a finger loop near the edge of the rim. He moved without hesitation to rub the imperfections from the surface. He placed the small mug inside the hot kiln to shore its foundation.

            The other cups and saucers sitting in a nearby cupboard watched as the maker painted a
bright design in cherry red and bright blue swirls over its surface. Some cups envied his handiwork when they looked at themselves, while others cheered him on.

            “Oh, this is good, very good,” said the maker when he removed the little pottery from the
kiln. “I will call you Clay.”

            The little cup opened its eyes and looked at his maker. “Who are you?” asked Clay.

            “I am your master. I will fill you and use you as I please.” The potter placed the
cup on the counter and cleaned the work area. His face saddened when he lifted the waste bin to his table and looked inside. “Such a shame, dear friends.” The cup watched as the maker removed a mushy item from the tin can and added powder and sand to it. In a back and forth, over and around method, he wedged the mound and worked it until it was ready for the wheel.

Clay held his breath as the maker lifted the ball into the air and threw it down on the wheel. To his surprise, the mound fastened to the platform. The maker washed his hands and then doused the mound of earthenware with water. He pressed his thumbs on top with remarkable
precision and created a deep well. When a medium-size hole opened, he placed one hand inside the vessel and steadied the pottery with his other hand. The maker continued to work until he formed a lovely vase.

            The cup marveled as the maker pinched and smoothed a spout into shape. Clay noticed two
eyes forming between the maker’s fingers. How could that be? Clay inched forward and watched him form a handle and affix it to the side. “There you go. You’re as good as new.” The maker smiled as he reached for an empty spool of thread but found it empty. “Remain here. I’ll return soon.” He whispered. The maker hurried to the storeroom and shifted several boxes.

Clay caught the pitcher, twisting her neck towards him and winking. “Hello,” she said.

“What have you done?” whispered Clay. “You have ruined your neck.”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter. The maker can fix it. Besides, I can see myself in the mirror behind you.”

Clay turned to look at his reflection. “Yikes!”

The pitcher giggled. “Don’t be frightened. It’s your reflection. That’s what you look like.”

“Well, it makes me uncomfortable.” Clay turned his back.

“I can sit for hours and look at myself.” The pitcher stretched and turned her head from side to side. “Would you mind moving about a half-inch to your left?”

Clay scooted over.

“Oh, there I am! Wow, the maker has outdone himself this time.”

“This time?” Clay frowned. “You were a mangled lump. I watched the master take you from that bin.”  

“Oh, that thing.” The pitcher glanced at the bin and sighed. “That’s where the maker puts the rebellious pottery.”

“Why are you rebellious?” Clay leaned his finger loop against the wall.

“I don’t like the heat, so I run away.” The pitcher looked at the hot kiln and shuddered.

“The fire makes you strong,” said a saucer in the cupboard.

“Yes, it also breaks you if you fall!” said the pitcher.

“But it makes you whole,” said the vase, nudging the cupboard door open.

“Have all of you come through the fire?” Clay asked.

“Yes!” they all shouted.

“And so did you, Clay.” the vase pushed the cupboard door open and exposed all the shiny objects surrounding her.

“I did?” asked Clay.

“Yes. What was the first thing you saw when you opened your eyes?” asked the saucer.

Clay thought for a moment. “Well, I saw the Master.”

“You saw whom?” asked the pitcher.

“The Master. He made us.” Clay turned towards the storeroom.

“That old man? No, he squeezes us into the shape he wants, then leaves us to fend for ourselves.” everyone turned to see a bowl crawling out of the waste bin and resting on the edge. A dim light shone through the gash that started at its head and ended at his middle.

The pitcher glanced down at him. “Hey, Bowlie, you’re awake.”

            “Yo. I’m up.”

The pitcher tried to straighten, but her neck stiffened.

“What you are saying isn’t true,” said an old saucer. “The Master is with me every day. He never abandons me.”

“Why are you in the waste bin?” Clay said before hopping to the counter’s edge to get a better look below.

Bowlie sighed. “I haven’t learned to yield to the maker’s will. Every time the maker places something slimy or hot in me, I turn over and spill it out. I don’t want it. Those things hurt me.” The bowl allowed his shard to fall over the edge of the bucket and to the ground. “One day, I
fought the maker. I spit out the oil on my face, and he slipped on it and fell to the ground. I broke into several pieces. He tried to glue me back together, but I didn’t want it. I’d prefer he makes me into something better.”

“How long have you lived in the waste bin?” Clay asked.

“It’s been a few years,” Bowlie whispered. “I guess I’m not ready.”

“Oh, pish-posh,” said pitcher. “I’ve been in the bin three times. Once, I sat in there for four years. It smelled, and I thought I saw something moving, but I remained unchanged. As long as I looked within, things will turn around for me. And look at me now. I’m a beauty.” pitcher
gasped for air as she twisted her neck tighter to glance into the mirror again. “Well, this is a sticky wicket,” she gasped. Pitcher closed her eyes and tried to concentrate, but her neck hardened.

The maker whistled as he returned to his workstation.

“Hurry, run! He’s coming back!” yelled Bowlie.

But it was too late. The maker returned to the wheel and sat down. “Tsk, tsk. Now, what have you done?” The maker dropped his hands into the water bucket and saturated the pitcher with cleansing water to soften her.

“Ack, you’re drowning me!” she yelled.  

The maker looked at her with compassion. “When will you learn that what I do for you is for your good? Only with the ebbs and flows of my desire will you become a perfect product.” The maker waved his hands, and the cupboard lights flickered.

Clay tipped back to see the items above him. As he leaned back, his base slipped, and Clay fell. “Help me! Master! Help me!” The maker stretched out his hand and caught his little cup in the palm of his hand.

“Got you.” The maker smoothed out a minor scratch with his thumb. “There you go.” But instead of returning Clay to the counter, the master lifted him high enough to look into the cupboards. “These are my prize possessions.”

Clay blinked his eyes. “They look funny.”

“What’s wrong with them?” Bowlie fell back and lay at the base of the bucket.

“Well, the saucer has a chip in it, the vase looks burned, and that plate has no color!” Clay turned to look at the maker, who smiled at him.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” said the maker.

“Beautiful?” Pitcher rolled her eyes. “I think the old guy’s snapped,” she said.

Bowlie groaned in agreement.

Clay looked again. “I can’t see that well. Your reflection is blocking my view.”

The maker burst into laughter. “You silly thing. My reflection makes them beautiful. I made each item perfect, but their life’s journey created imperfections.”

Chip looked down at the pitcher and the bowl and back at the cupboard. “Will you throw them into the waste bin with Bowlie and the pitcher?”

“No, although they have chips, burns, and scratches, they remained strong and faithful to me. I will never do away with them.” The master placed Clay on a shelf near the sink.

“Don’t you guys want to come up here with me?” Clay asked Bowlie and Pitcher.

“Nah, I’ve got big dreams!” yelled Bowlie.

“Someday, I’ll make something of myself and do it my way!” he laughed.
“Pitcher? What about you?”

“Hmm? I think I’ll hang out here with Bowlie for a while. The pitcher tried to move her neck again, but she gasped for air.

Clay noticed his master’s shoulders slump. His joyful demeanor saddened. To Clay’s surprise, he tore the pitcher from the wheel and threw it into the can with Bowlie. He slammed the lid and hurried outside. “Your rebellion has hardened both of you. So now, I will return you to the
earth forever.”

“Hey, get off me!” Bowlie yelled. “Where’s he taking us?”

“I don’t know. I can’t see. Hey maker, will you fix my neck?” asked the pitcher.

The master secured the lid with several clamps and threw the bucket into the garbage container in the alleyway. He waited a few minutes, but Pitcher and Bowlie remained silent and made no pleas for salvation. The master shook his head and returned to his studio.