Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Handout (04/14/11)
TITLE: Mourning Boxes
By Seema Bagai
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More boxes. Great.
One by one, I lugged boxes into the overstuffed room. Previously delivered cartons towered toward the ceiling. Near the bottom of a stack, a couple boxes trembled. Several emitted a strange odor. Muffled sobs seeped from another. My slippers squished across the carpet as I searched for an empty spot to place the packages. Near the window I knelt to examine the latest arrivals.
“This one looks promising,” I announced to nobody. Tanya’s address swirled across the peach-tinted wrapping. I bit my lip, and lifted the lid. Inside I found a hardback book. Ronald’s Stroke. I hurled the book at the wall where it left a dent.
She of all people should know I don’t have time to read this.
Familiar names covered the next three boxes. My heart thumped with anticipation. “Maybe today they sent something.” The boxes were empty. With a sigh, I added them to the largest tower.
The last package felt heavier. I scowled at the return address and unknotted the twine. Before I could finish, the lid burst open and wailing emitted from within. After several minutes of struggling, I managed to secure the box shut and tuck it away behind the TV, my tears dotting the dented cardboard.
Enough already. Why do people keep sending me this stuff?
Since last Monday, these boxes have arrived on my doorstep. Some individually, others in groups. Sometimes, I’d find something useful. Katie’s daily packages contained dark chocolate and a calling card. Uncle Marc and Aunt Rowena mailed a train ticket (“For whenever you’re ready”). Amber sent a dozen origami cranes. Unfolding each one released a flutter of love and comfort.
Most boxes, however, contained things I really didn’t need. The larger and heavier the box, the more useless the contents. Instructional manuals tended to be stuffed into cumbersome containers. The clock and watch boxes ticked steadily. Being dumped behind the sofa stifled them, but at night, the sound intensified.
The baskets of strawberries smelled delicious at first. However, each one was covered with sheets of paper with doves and clouds painted on them. Underneath, each berry had rotted. Soon, the stench made me gag and I heaped other boxes on top of the berries, hoping to not become too nauseous by them.
Like every morning this week, Audrey arrived with tissues and enveloped me in her arms. After the tears tumbled, she listened as I described the latest delivery. “If I get one more autobiography or box of bereavement berries, I’m going to scream.”
“Go for it. How about tossing some of these boxes into the dumpster while you yell? I’ll help.”
“Help toss or yell?”
“Both,” Audrey replied and we chuckled.
Through the afternoon, Audrey listened as I pored over the boxes and poured out my emotions. With her help, I managed to dump some boxes. After the fifth trip to the dumpster, I found another box on the doorstep. I slapped my palm against my forehead while Audrey scooped up the package.
“Just dump it,” I snapped and stomped inside.
Audrey followed and joined me on the sofa. “It’s from Rose,” she whispered, and set the box between us.
“Whatever,” I braced for Audrey’s argument. Instead, she shrugged and slid the parcel closer to me.
I snatched the box and raised it over my head to heave at the wall. The carton felt empty, but I heard something shift inside so I lowered my arms and unwrapped the small container. Inside I found a small sheet of paper.
“I know what you’re going through,” the note began. Before I could crumple the letter, a phrase caught my eye and I gasped. I read the note several times, alternating between sorrow and consolation. The letter closed with “Grieving with you.”
I showed Audrey the note. “I have to make her a box.”
“Don’t you think she’ll have more than enough, too?”
I scanned the room, trying to imagine Rose unwrapping her packages. How many of her boxes would become burdens rather than blessings?
“How about I pick you up tomorrow at 11, and we go visit Rose?” Audrey handed back the letter.
I nodded and gave Audrey a hug. “Bring extra tissues.”
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