Jackson was overconfident that he would win the contest.
Wyatt hummed quietly to himself as he concentrated on centering the mass of clay on the wheel. Once it was centered, he began to press his fingers into the spinning gray clay, very carefully widening the base and bringing up the sides. As he was developing the contours of the vase, another student walked up behind him and bumped his elbow. The sudden movement destroyed the shape completely.
“Sorry about that!” Wyatt heard someone say, with a none-too-convincing tone. He turned to see who was speaking.
“That’s all right, don’t worry about it,” Wyatt said as he removed the crumpled clay from the wheel. “I’ve had it happen a lot of times before when I was the only one to blame.”
Jackson pulled up a chair. “You think you know something about pottery, do you?”
“My aunt owns a pottery shop in southern California where I lived until I moved here a couple of weeks ago. I spent a lot of time there helping out and also learning what I could, though I’m sure no expert. By the way, my name’s Wyatt McFarland.”
Jackson stood up and said, “Well, I’m Jackson Bennett, and all you need to know about me is that I’m the last word on pottery around here. I’ve won the City High School Art Contest three years in a row.”
“Wow! That’s really something! I’d like to see some of your work.”
As he sauntered off, Jackson called back, “Oh, you’ll be seeing it, I’m sure. It’s the only stuff worth looking at around this place.”
When he was gone, Wyatt shook his head in amazement. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like that before, he thought to himself. Talk about conceit!
That night Wyatt related the incident to his father. “Jackson sounds like a very unhappy boy to me, Son. You’re aware that pride is at the root of nearly every sin and it’s something that God hates. Do your best to befriend Jackson. He just needs to feel the love of God.”
“I’ll try, Dad,” Wyatt said with a wry grin.
In the weeks that followed, Wyatt did his best to be a friend to Jackson, but to no avail. Although they didn’t have any classes together, they both ended up spending a lot of time after school in the pottery department. When Jackson saw some of Wyatt’s pottery work, it didn’t take him long to figure out that Wyatt could offer him some pretty stiff competition. One afternoon he walked in and came directly over to Wyatt.
“You planning on entering the contest next week?” Jackson asked.
“Well, yes, I am. In fact, I hope to enter this piece that I’m working on if I can get it done in time. Last night I mixed up my matte glaze powders,” said Wyatt, as he held up a bag of carefully measured and mixed powders. In doing so, he noticed the time on his watch. “Wow! Look at the time. I’d better clean up and get out of here!” With a brief wave to Jackson, he gathered up his materials and put them together on his shelf at the other side of the room.
Jackson watched Wyatt leave. Then he glanced around to be sure no one was watching and moved over to Wyatt’s shelf. Removing the bag of mixed powders, he went to the supply cabinet and selected a blue-gray crystal powder. This stuff ought to fix up Wyatt’s glaze just fine, Jackson laughed to himself. I don’t plan on being upstaged this year after winning the last three years, he thought as he returned the doctored-up glaze mix to Wyatt’s area.
Contest night! The air was charged with excitement as the contestants awaited the judges’ ruling in the various classes. While others were viewing the entries, Jackson made it known that he wasn’t going to waste his time doing the same. Finally the judges announced that their decisions had been made. Jackson could hardly wait for the pottery winners to be announced. He rehearsed again in his mind what he would say when he accepted his first place prize.
“Jackson Bennett,” Jackson jumped to his feet at the sound of his name, “second place.”
Stunned, Jackson sank into his seat, embarrassed. Who could have beaten me? he wondered to himself.
“First place, for a finely executed piece with an extraordinarily beautiful crystal glaze—Wyatt McFarland.”
Crystal glaze? Wyatt said he was doing a matte glaze . . . oh, no! The realization that he had un-wittingly helped Wyatt win struck Jackson full force. He slowly rose to leave. Hearing his name called, he turned and to his surprise saw Wyatt beckoning for him from the platform.
“I have to insist that this first place prize be shared by Jackson Bennett. His contributions to my glaze mixture show his tremendous capabilities in the field of pottery.”
Later, Jackson found that he had been observed adding something to Wyatt’s glaze, and the student who noticed it had mentioned it to Wyatt. But Wyatt never considered that Jackson would have sabotaged his project and it wasn’t until he saw the finished product that he realized his glaze really had been tampered with.
Jackson was amazed that Wyatt was not mad. Instead he still wanted to be his friend. This guy’s got something I don’t have, he finally conceded to himself. He really is very good at pottery, even if he doesn’t go around making a big deal about it. Maybe I should get to know him a little better.