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13 Jars – The Box

The Box

“Maria, would you come in here, please?” The doctor called out from his office where he was packing his personal belongings. This was his last workday before retirement.

Maria appeared in the doorway, eager to help where she was needed. She had come to work at the medical clinic as office manager two-and-a-half years ago right out of college. “What can I do for you, Doctor?”

“Oh, yes, come in please. And…would you close the door behind you?” The doctor spoke in an unusually grave manner. He turned and walked to the far corner of his office and stooped down in front of an open cabinet door below a countertop. He reached to the back of the lowest shelf and pulled out a cardboard box that had once held cartons of cotton swabs. With a groan, he heaved the box from the shelf, stood up and walked to his desk where he carefully set the box down near the edge.

“Maria, I need you to dispose of something for me.” Holding the flaps of the box down with one hand, he paused and looked searchingly into Maria’s eyes. Whatever he was going to say, he seemed extremely uncomfortable about. Struggling for the right words, he labored awkwardly through a clinical explanation of the contents of the box.

With a twinge of guilt and embarrassment, the doctor lifted the box into Maria’s arms and mumbled, “Please dispose of them discretely and do not say a word of this to anyone.”

The next thing Maria realized, she was standing alone in the hallway outside the doctor’s closed door. She just stood there for a moment trying to gain her bearings. Her mind was numb and her emotions churned inside her tossing up disbelief, anger, sadness and agony over her grim assignment. In a mental fog she moved through the maze of halls to her desk and set the box down.

Perhaps in the feeble hope that she had somehow misunderstood the doctor, she opened the box. In it, she found 13 jars. Some were pint-sized canning jars, while others were six-ounce baby food jars. She carefully lifted one of the smaller jars out of the box. On the outside of the jar was a piece of white medical tape bearing a woman’s name and a date. Suspended in the jar, presumably in formaldehyde, was the tiny body of an aborted baby.

In spite of herself, Maria studied this miniature person. She was amazed by how small, yet developed this baby was. She could see the baby’s fingers, toes, eyes, ears, nose and that this one was a boy. She pulled out another jar, and then another. Each jar cradled the petite body of a boy or girl whose life had been snatched from them.

Maria couldn’t help but imagine the life of which each child had been deprived—a little boy who would never fly a kite, bruise a knee or climb a tree—a little girl who would never hug a teddy, brush her hair or kiss her daddy. Without warning, a wave of anguish overwhelmed Maria. She let herself fall into her chair and wept.

© 2007 Rob Fischer, 13 Jars

Would you like to read more? This is the first chapter of the book 13 Jars. The chapters that follow are true accounts that represent what may have been the stories of those whose names were on the jars. You can purchase the book at the Book Store on this site.