Haris was coming out of work. He wanted to get out of there, but he knew what waited for him at home. Just as he approached his car door, his cell phone began to ring. It was his wife, Jenna. It was her nature not to have a set order in which to call. She just called.
It wasn't her fault. Female hormones are thrown out of whack during pregnancy. Haris had managed to survive seven of them without too much trouble, but her wild demands had gotten much stranger as the days went by. He had to answer it. Not doing so would lead to repercussions of such a magnitude that he didn't want to comprehend it, so he answered the phone. "Hi honey."
"No time for the small talk, Haris," Jenna said. "I need some jelly."
"We were at the supermarket yesterday," he reminded her. "I asked you if we had any jelly at home. You never did answer me. You just prattled on about how you don't even like it. Now you're telling me you have a craving for jelly?"
"Not just jelly," she explained. "It's an essential ingredient for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I have all the other components. I just need jelly. It shouldn't be too hard."
Haris thought about that last sentence. In the past few weeks, Haris had gone trekking through streets and alleyways he never new existed just to get the odd cravings she had been having. In comparison, jelly appeared to be a modest request. Why would he want to argue about that? "Okay. There's a convenience store around the corner. Maybe they have some jelly. I'll be home in about ten minutes." Haris hung up the phone and looked at the car keys in his hands before despondently pocketing them and heading over to the convenience store around the corner.
Haris entered, and he didn't want to waste time looking through the shelves for something they might not have even had in stock. He went straight for the cashier, a middle-aged man with a clean, freshly shaven face and eyes hidden tightly behind dark sunglasses. "I need some jelly."
"What kind of jelly?"
"Jelly jelly. You know, edible jelly."
"I don't understand."
"The only type of jelly you could possibly have here."
"Do you mean 'the jelly'?"
"I mean jelly!" Haris yelled. "You're worse than Jenna! I just need some damn jelly!"
"Is she the boss?"
"You could say that. Now do you have jelly or not?"
The man smiled and reached under the counter. Pulling out a jar of what appeared to be grape jelly, he told him, "This is very dangerous stuff. I don't know what Jenna has planned for it, but make sure you know what you're doing."
"It's jelly," Haris pointed out as he laid a five-dollar bill on the counter.
The man eyed the bill oddly as Haris left the convenience store with jar of jelly tucked safely into his bag. As Haris walked back to his car, he felt as if he was being watched. Haris began to move quicker until his jog turned into a sprint. Numerous people could then be seen following Haris down the street and around the corner.
He reached his car and began to fumble around for his car keys. "Hold it right there!" a female voice commanded him from across the parking lot. "Drop those keys and put your hands in the air!" Haris obeyed.
"What did you get from the store!?"
She whispered into her shirtsleeve, but loud enough for Haris to hear; "He has the jelly. Keep him in your sights."
"Sights?" he asked, an octave higher than the previous question. "Sights? Whose sights? Who sight am I in?"
"He's becoming anxious," she said. "Prepare for anything."
"I'm not doing anything!"
"He's becoming agitated. I'm going to try and talk him down." Haris groaned. "Sir! I'm agent Templeton with the FBI. I need you to be perfectly honest with what's in that bag."
"Sir! There's no need for anger."
"You have a gun pointed at me!"
"You have the jelly in your bag!"
"No I don't have 'the jelly'! I have jelly! Just jelly. There's no 'the'. It's just jelly. Its probably pretty damn good jelly, but it's just jelly. It's for Jenna!"
"She's my wife," he explained. "She wants to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!
"This is worse than we thought," she said loudly to her sleeve. "They have the peanut butter and the bread in their possession, too."
"No!" Haris corrected. "It's peanut butter. Not 'the' peanut butter. Peanut butter! Peanut butter! We have a whole pantry full of the stuff!"
"Call the deputy director," she told her sleeve. "They're mass producing the peanut putter. If they have that technology, how long will it be before they begin to mass produce the jelly, too?"
"Stop saying 'the'!"
"Don't take him out just yet. He could be wired."
"Great!" Haris yelled at her. "Let me explain this you one more time." Now he was talking with his hands, which caused Templeton to raise her gun in retaliation. Haris kept frozen as he continued. "This all started when Jenna and I were trying to buy jelly from the supermarket. No, supermarket is not some super secret terrorist word for some kind of black market. I wanted to by jelly—food—but Jenna said she doesn't even like it. Now, she calls me and says that she wants some jelly."
"It's the cravings she gets because she's pregnant."
"The subject is pregnant!" she yelled wildly into her sleeve. "I repeat! The subject is pregnant. Call the President! Have him call an emergency session of Congress! We need to declare war before she gives birth! Ortiz! Take him out!"
"Take who out!?" Haris closed his eyes. He knew there was a shot coming for him, but something else blocked it, and the screeching tires blocked the sound of the shot. Haris opened his eyes. In front of him stood a black van. The side door opened and a muscle-clad man pulled him in before the driver pulled away.
"Do you have the jelly?" a man seated in the dark asked Haris.
"I have jelly."
"So you have the jelly?"
"I have jelly."
"I'm not hearing a difference," the shadowed man said. "Just give me the jelly."
"No! I have to get this to Jenna!"
"We have plenty of other kinds of jelly. You can have it free of charge. Just give me the jelly that you have."
Haris thought for a second. "Sounds fair." The muscled man pulled out a bag with numerous different types of cans and jars full of jelly.
"Hold on," he said. "I have to call Jenna and see which one she wants." He dialed the number and Jenna answered. "Okay. I'm here, but I need to know which kind you want. There's a jar of Winter Raspberry Jelly."
"I'm allergic to raspberries."
"Okay, there's summer grape."
"I hate summer. Too many sunburns."
"Autumn breeze with a hint of pineapple? Wait, that's an air freshener. How about blueberry chestnuts blend?"
"No blend. Long story, but no blends."
"What the hell? No, I just want grape jelly."
Haris shuffled through the bag, but found nothing with that label. Then, he peeked at the jar in his bag and saw that the label read: GRAPE JELLY. "Got it. See you later." He hung up the phone and turned back to the man in the shadow. "Yeah, I can't give this to you. It's for Jenna." The man tilted his head, and the muscled henchman began to move in. Haris leaned back and accidentally popped opened the door, causing him to slide out and down a hill and into a little forest. The black van stopped on the side of the street and the muscled henchman along with driver came out armed with their guns.
Haris got to his feet, eyed them for a few seconds, and ran. Haris tossed his backpack behind him, carrying only the jar of jelly. He looked back periodically to see if they were catching up to him. It looked like he had lost them.
"How did we end up this way?" He thought.
"Don't bring me into this," he could hear Jenna's thoughts say. 'I'm not there."
He kept running. He appeared to be alone until he spotted a lone girl blowing bubbles. She seemed harmless enough as he passed her, so he stopped and approached her. "See this jar?" He asked. She nodded. "Would you say this is jelly or the jelly?"
"I don't hear a difference."
Haris groaned and resumed his run through the forest. All he knew was that sounds of footsteps could now be heard coming from all different directions. He could see someone coming from the North. He turned back, but there was someone coming from the South. He stood his ground. From the East and South came the muscle-clad henchman and the driver. From the West and the North came agent Templeton and another FBI agent.
"Hand over the jelly!" they said in unison.
"Not unless you call it what it is! It's jelly!"
"That's what I said!," the said together again. "Just hand it over so we can get this over with." That unison thing was really freaking him out, and it freaked him out even more that their respective cell phones rang at the same time, and they even answered the other end with the same responses: "Come again? Huh? Are you serious? What about 'the' jelly? So it's just jelly?" The hung up their phones simultaneously.
"It's just jelly," Templeton said.
"I'm out of here," the muscled man said.
With that, Haris was left alone. He waited a few minutes to make sure he was alone before heading back to where he found the girl. She led him back to the town, where he made a call to a taxi to take him back to the parking lot where his car still was. He got in and drove home without incident. He parked outside his home and unlocked the front door. Jenna was watching television.
"I got the jelly."
"Thanks," she said as she took the jar from him, "but I meant to call you earlier because I actually found some in the pantry. Thanks anyways, though."
Haris smiled. "Okay. That fine. Two things, though. We are no longer allowed to use the word 'the' in this house, and I'm going to go right quickly and get a vasectomy. Cool? Cool."