supplemental instructions


The first thing you need to learn is that you need to keep the bottle in a safe place and wait.  What you’re waiting for, I’m still not sure myself, but at some point, you’ll figure things out.  Someone in your house will tell you what to do.  With us, it was our daughter, Margo.  We didn’t believe her at first; we thought she was just talking the way kids do—making things up.  I’m telling you this so you don’t make the same kind of mistake.

We had to learn things for ourselves, but with you, that’s not possible.  It’s important that you do what the bottle wants from the get-go.  So aside from this letter, you should read the little card that’s included in the package, though at first it won’t make sense either.  Keep the card handy and look at it from time to time, though.  You’ll see it talks about the responsibility of owning the bottle and making sure it’s safe and loved at all times.  When we first got it, my wife and I laughed and thought the card was just one of those things that artisanal items sometimes come with—like the little cards that you get with lavender soap or herbal tea that talk about health and balance.  It’s not the same thing though—not the same thing at all.

Margo was the one who got it, and as she’s gotten older, she’s been better able to explain what the bottle means and what it wants.  I can’t say for sure, but I imagine you have a child, and he or she will gravitate toward the bottle and be able to understand what the bottle wants or needs at all times.  You should listen.  Another lesson we’ve learned the hard way.

When Margo was born, she was a fussy baby and she cried almost all the time, but one night while walking her around the house, she stopped crying as soon as we came into the room with the bottle in it.  We didn’t put it together at first.  But by the time she started crawling, it was all we could do to stop her from making her way to the living room where the bottle was.  As she got older and started talking, her connection became more obvious.  Margo was never one for dolls and she never seemed to want or need a blanket or night light.  As long as the bottle was in her room, she was happy.  And from what she tells us, the bottle was happy as well.

This all sounds crazy, I know.  And the truth is that it doesn’t get any less so, but I need you to hear what I’m saying.  You see, the bottle never changes the way it looks, but it lets you know if it’s happy.  This is lesson number three.  Try not to fight or be petty with people in your house.  The bottle senses that, and according to Margo, it doesn’t much like it.  After you’ve fought with someone for one of the million stupid reasons we all seem to fight each other for, you might notice that the bottle will suddenly be in a different, more precarious place in your house.  Like on the edge of a table, or on a rickety shelf.  You didn’t move it.  Neither did anyone in the house, and still, it’ll have moved somehow.  This, Margo told us, is a warning.

Keep this in mind: if you don’t pay attention to the bottle’s needs, and you ignore its warnings, it will escalate its punishment.  Right after you fight with your partner or watch the latest zombie movie or one of those CSI shows (the bottle doesn’t like violence of any kind, by the way) the bottle will disappear for a while.  It literally goes away.

So you might start to think that this is a good thing.  Then you can go back to your normal life, the way things used to be before.  That’s a huge mistake.  Consider this lesson four.  When the bottle goes away, things happen.  It’ll be subtle.  Small things at first.  The number of muggings will go up in Sao Paolo.  Or, a big explosion will cause a small window factory in Missouri to close, causing all of its employees to lose their jobs right before the holidays.  The longer the bottle stays away, the more things will happen, and the worse they’ll be: a bombing of a synagogue in Jerusalem; North Korea deciding to be a little crazier than usual.  These are just a couple of the things that happened when the bottle went away for a few weeks.

So you need to keep the bottle safe and you need to keep it happy.  But there’s something more:  the final and most important lesson, I think.  At some point you’re going to need to let it go.  Margo told us that, but we ignored her.

Kids just have a way of believing things—really believing them.  It’s absolutely amazing if you think about it.  They don’t have doubts like we do.  If something makes sense to them, they go with it and accept it for all that it’s worth, which either makes them the most honest people you’ll ever meet or the best liars.  I guess my wife and I couldn’t really tell the difference.

Please don’t let yourselves fall into the same trap.

About a year ago, Margo started getting sick, but before then—maybe a few months or so—she told us it was time to send the bottle away.  It didn’t make any sense to us.  We’d spent years trying to ignore the bottle and then once we started to believe how special it was, and how special we were that we played a role in making the world better, why then would we have to send the thing off?

Of course, Margo understood the answer.  She told us repeatedly that the bottle wasn’t ours, and it never was.  In addition to not liking violence, the bottle seems to hate ownership.  So when you start feeling like it belongs to you, start thinking about sending it off.  Don’t worry about addressing the package.  The mailman will know what to do.  The bottle found its way to us.  It found its way to you, after all.  And, when the time comes, it will find its way to the next person.

I’m writing all of this to you even though I know you’re still going to make mistakes.  You’re you and we’re who we are, so you might make new mistakes that we didn’t and maybe the bottle will be different with you somehow.  Who knows?  What I do know for sure, and what I want you to remember, is that you should believe me about the bottle, about needing to take care of it and about needing to send it off when, years from now, it wants to go and you want to keep it.  The bottle is a blessing, but it can be mean and cruel if it needs to be.

When Margo first got sick, she told us the bottle was trying to get our attention, and as she got more and more sick, she became adamant that the bottle wanted to be free.  At one point, I thought about throwing the thing away, but she sensed it and made me promise that I wouldn’t.

One night she was so sick.  Not the way you see on TV, either.  There was no screaming.  She wasn’t thrashing around or calling out to make the pain stop.  I probably could’ve dealt with that.  Instead, there was this quietness about her, like a whirlpool that was sucking up all the sound and happiness and light in the room.

I told her I’d send the bottle away, but by then, it was too late.  The bottle wouldn’t go alone.  She told us this without being mad or bitter, and then she closed her eyes.

I guess it goes without saying that we’re hopeful Margo was wrong about this. That once you’re taking care of the bottle, once it’s satisfied, for lack of a better word, that she’ll come back to us. You always have to be hopeful, right?  It’s just hard sometimes, though.  Hard to know what to think or do.  Which decisions are right, which are wrong.  I’m sure you know that already.  Just make sure you listen to the bottle.

In the end, it knows best.

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Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at www.circularrunning.wordpress.com and Tumbls at www.circularrunning.tumblr.com

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  1. my first big reading in SF…Shel Silverstein & Me… « running in circles - July 8, 2011

    […] I do not write fantasy.  If you’re interested, you can read the story for yourself.  (Click here and have your mind […]

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