Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Box

It slid slowly down the street, moving in fits and starts along the concrete curb, pushed by the rising waters of a late summer rain. It was unsightly, a white and brown blob skittering past the rows of once-fine houses. Its original shape was undiscernible, this soggy mass of fibrous material. Next week a street sweeper would gather up its dried carcass and it would take its final journey, to the city dump where it would be covered by the flotsam of modern society, compacted along with the other junk of the world back into the soil where it would decompose and never be seen again.

But it wasn’t always a misshapen mass of fibers floating in the gutter. It once had a form, it once had a purpose. It once was new and pristine, with sharp edges, tight corners and neat creases.  It was born in a Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Washington State, created out of recycled paper, corrugated pieces glued to flat surfaces, trimmed, creased, scored, cut, printed and packaged. Sold in a plastic-wrapped package of ten at a Staples office supply in Southern California to the recently widowed Ruth Carlyle.

It was kept flat, wrapped in its plastic packaging for two weeks in the Carlyle garage till Karen Sorenson, Ruth’s eldest, had come to help pack up the belongings of the man whose death had left a hole in her heart. The box was pushed in at the sides to form a rectangle, then flaps were folded this way and that to form the sturdy bottom and double-thick ends. It was a perfect empty box.

The first things it held were three teardrops, shed by Karen as she had attempted to pack up her father’s holiday ties. Instead she had broken down in a blubbering mass as she recalled the years of Christmas mornings, St. Patrick’s Days and Fourth of Julys that were the fabric of her childhood.  The ties were imbued with the odor of her father’s cologne, and when the scent had hit her senses, Karen was bathed in the memories of being held in her father’s strong arms, snuggled into the nape of his neck.

Eventually, the holiday ties made their way into the box, followed by nine leather belts and three cedar shoetrees. All were unharmed by Karen’s dried tears.  

How could something that held the precious memories of a woman’s childhood become just another fragment of societies’ debris? Time. The box had been packed into the back of Karen’s SUV and taken to the nearby Goodwill, emptied of its cargo and thrown into a dumpster, where it sat for two days till a March wind had caught the box and blown it across the parking lot and out into an empty field, where time took its toll. It took six years for the box to make its way across the field to the street beyond.

Then the August skies had opened up and the box’s final journey had begun. 

Copyright 2014 Barry Keller. All rights reserved.

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