GUESS HOW MANY • by Sabrina Brennan

“You…really think I’m holding… 231 gumballs?” The Jar said, her voice trembling, tears starting to stream onto her ‘GUESS HOW MANY’ sign.

“No, it’s not, well, yeah, I guess I do.”

“You really think I’m that… big?”

I had dug myself into a deep hole.

“They’re small gumballs–”

“Nice try. They’re standard, I SAW the bag.”

She had me there. And of course, I felt bad. I mean, look at her. The only Jar in the office, forced to sit at the reception desk all day, while everyone gawks her and guesses how many gumballs big she is… the whole thing is pretty messed up to be honest. But, at the same time, the winner of the contest DOES get a $25 Dunkin Donuts gift card, and that’s not nothing.

So what did she expect me to do? Throw the contest? Not to mention, I’m the company’s TOP accountant. Imagine how bad it would it look if I guessed poorly, no one would trust me with our numbers ever again! Still, maybe there was a way to reason with her.

“Well, how many did you WANT me to say?”

“I don’t know, like 23, 24…” Okay, this jar was delusional.

“Did anybody guess tha—”

“Of course they didn’t.”

“I’m sorry. I bet someone will.”

“But YOU won’t.”

“It’s 25 dollars for Dunkin Do—”

“Oh, I’m sure DUNKIN’S jars are nice and slim. How many gumballs can THEY hold?”

“Dunkin doesn’t really do glass jars—”

“That’s not the point!”

The Jar went silent. Defeated. For a moment, she was just a regular Jar, not the sentient one Pam bought to “liven up the office.”

I could have walked away right then and there, but I was frozen on the spot, watching her, deep in thought. There must have been something I could have said to her, but I was sure the ‘every jar is perfect in their own special way’ speech was something she’d heard a million times.

“It’s just sad…” she spoke up, “that that’s how people see me…”

I don’t know what came over me. Adrenaline? Empathy? All I knew was that in this moment there was nothing more important than making this jar happy. I crumpled up my guess and threw it onto the ground.

“You know you’re more than just the gumballs you hold, right? You’re so…” It was in that moment I realized I’d never given a Jar a pep talk before, but there was no stopping now. “So… clean! I can actually SEE my own reflection in your glass! Wow! And let’s not forget the fact that you can READ? I mean, C’MON! That’s amazing!”

The Jar blushed. That, or all the red gumballs just kind of fell in a way that it looked like she was blushing.

“HHHEEMEMMEMM!!!”

A spastic throat-clearing noise like that could only belong to one person: Pam.

“Are you done guessing? There’s a line, you know!” There was literally no one behind her.

This was it. It was time to make a choice. Dunkin or Jar. I took out a new slip of paper, wrote down my truth and put it in the guessing bowl.

***

Three days later, my boss, Mr. Deskworth, called me into his office. The Jar sat on his desk. I couldn’t tell if she was happy to see me.

I didn’t even sit down before Mr. Deskworth started talking. He was the type of businessman who was, you guessed it, all about business.

“Well, congratulations,” Mr. Deskwork handed me an envelope and my slip of paper. “You’re the laughing stock of the company.”

I looked at back at the guess I had written, “beautiful.”

I opened the envelope. It was…

“A letter of resignation. All you need to do is sign it.” I couldn’t believe it.

“B-but, I’m the top accountant—”

“You WERE the top accountant. Now you think ‘beautiful’ is a number?”

“I was trying to make the jar feel—”

“FEEL? Jars don’t have feelings. We bought an anthropomorphic jar to greet clients and hold gumballs for us to guess, and that’s it!”

The Jar didn’t say a word. The scary businessman had won. Or maybe…

“4,410.” I said.

“Excuse me?”

“That’s how many gumballs would fit inside you.”

“But how could you—”

“A one-gallon glass jar can hold roughly 231 gumballs. Upon jumping into a pool or tub, the average person would displace roughly 17.5 gallons of water. Meaning you could fit approximately 4,024 gumballs in the average person. And considering you’re roughly six inches taller than the average person, 5 foot 6, you could hold an extra 386. Giving us a grand total of 4,410 gumballs.”

“R-really? That much?”

“Doesn’t feel so good being guessed at, does it?”

“I gues—I suppose not.” Mr. Deskworth blushed, but there’s no way it was from red gumballs, unless… no that’d be ridiculous… right? No, yeah, for sure.

“I QUIT!” said a small voice I didn’t recognize as my own. It was… the Jar.

She hopped off Mr. Deskworth’s desk, and rolled to the door. She looked back at me, beautiful as ever.

“Thanks.”

“It was no biggie—”

“No. Thanks is how many gumballs I think would fit inside YOU.”

And just like that, she winked and rolled out of my life.

Forever.

It was Mr. Deskworth who finally broke the heart-wrenching silence.

“So… I guess we just go back to work now, huh.”

“Yeah… I guess we do.”


Sabrina Brennan is a writer and comedian in Los Angeles. Her work has previously received recognition as a finalist at the Austin Film Festival and as a finalist for a Humanitas Prize for Comedy Teleplay.


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