TEARS IN A BOX • by DJ Barber

She cried. It came naturally. At an early age she became sure that she might run out of tears and so she got a small box–a cast-off from her mother’s cosmetics drawer. Her small hands grasped the porcelain casing and tucked it away into her pocket. Alone in her room she’d sit on the bed, or sometimes on the floor in the corner, and hold the smooth, cool porcelain to her cheek as her tears flowed.

Six years later she put the box away in the drawer by her bed. She needed it no longer–her happiness secure. And through the years of marriage, raising children, and the death of her husband of fifty-two good years, she was happy. But happiness is such a fleeting thing. Here one day–missing the next.


The old woman smiled as the girl entered the cold, sterile hospital room. “Grandma,” the girl said. “I’m so afraid that you’re going to die.”

“There-there,” cooed the old woman. “Shh,” she comforted, as the girl cried on her shoulder. “Now, dear, I have a present for you.”

The girl watched in anticipation as the old woman pulled a small paper bag from the bedside drawer and handed it to her.

“That’s for you, dear girl. It’s a gift–a place to store all your most secret fears and dreams–and a place to store your tears, too.”

The girl eagerly opened the bag and within was a small porcelain box. She opened it and saw it was empty.

“What’s wrong, child?”

“It’s empty.”

“Oh, no, dear girl. Nothing could be further from the truth. That little box is chock full of dreams and hopes and fears. All you need do is pour yours in–and they’ll be safely stored there for you always and forever. It has always been so reassuring to me. Many years ago, when your grandfather and I met, all my hopes and dreams came true. And through the years I never had a fear with him by my side. Now that I am again alone–his strength remains with me. I’ve always kept this small treasure near and dear. But now I see a kindred spirit in you, dear child, and can see the same worry and fear I once held. So I’m presenting you with this gift. Put your worry and fear inside. And remember–never allow your dreams to fly away. Keep them close and secure.”

The girl put the small gift away in her purse. Hours later she received a call from the hospital. Her grandmother had peacefully passed into the next life while asleep.

She cried. It came naturally. She remembered what her grandmother had said about the porcelain box. Later that night she sat on her bed; the open box pressed to her cheek felt smooth and cool as her tears flowed.

DJ Barber  waits for the muse and sometimes even writes a word or two.

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Joseph Kaufman