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Reader to Reader

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Behind her booth at the Custer Street fair in Evanston a potter had set three bushel baskets full of pots she'd marked down. "There's nothing wrong with them," she said. "I just need to make space."

Two boys, maybe seven or eight years old, walked up and started picking through the pots. Suddenly one of them dropped the lid of a small jar, and it smashed on the sidewalk. "Oh my god," he said, staring down at the pieces. Then he saw the sticker on the side of the jar, which still showed the original price. "Forty dollars!" he exclaimed, looking panicked. He hadn't seen the sign that said it was now only $15. "It was just the lid," he pleaded, bending down to pick up the pieces but not looking at the potter. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

"That will teach you to be careful with things that are breakable," said the potter, her voice flat. "They're not toys."

The boy and his friend stood staring at the broken bits in his hand.

A man who'd been standing a few feet away said, "Well, they're not paying for it." Then, without a glance at the potter, he walked away.

The boy looked surprised, then even more embarrassed. He dropped the broken lid into the jar. "I'm sorry," he said, his head down. "I'm sorry." He carefully set the jar back in the basket and he and his friend hurried after the man.

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