Here’s another excerpt1, from a story called ‘Annabelle’ or, perhaps, ‘Annabelle and The Attack of the Blue Box.’ Or something. This blue box has appeared in other stories I’ve written.
I wrote this particular story some two years ago while living in Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as some still say). The story needed some tending to, and so, this week I’m shaking it about and putting it back together.
In one bit of shaking, a dead bird fell out. That was sad. But also right, as sometimes sadness is.
I’m happy, in anycase, to have found the poor thing rather than it staying there, dead and unnoticed.
Annabelle shook the box again. Nothing. What was the point of discovering a strange box if there was nothing inside it? She pressed it closer to her ear and shook harder. Silence. Presuming it was probably impossible to guess what might be inside the box if the thing inside the box made no sound and possessed no weight–and refusing, still, to believe that a box like this might contain nothing–Annabelle held the box in front of her. She pushed down on the front clasp with her thumb until the thing released with a satisfying clunk. She raised the latch from of its locked position. A car drove by. Annabelle looked up. Staring at her, and her new, ridiculous glasses, and the unlatched box pressed against her chest, was Emilio Graves, Annabelle’s one and only one-time friend who had, very recently, confessed his undying love for her and succeeding in kissing her on the mouth. She could still taste his tongue–like peanut butter smeared across the bottom of a shoe. She frowned at the car, and at him, as hard as she could–the way her mom frowned at waiters that lingered too long near the table. Emilio looked out the passenger side window with a look like she was tearing the arms off one of his beloved action figures.
Annabelle waited until the car disappeared around the corner.
She turned back to the box, surprised to feel how right it felt, cradled so close to her heart, as though, if it were possible, the best thing would be to never open it, but to slide it under her skin and keep it there, warm and shut and safe.
Goosebumps covered her arms. The autumn air was cold, but not that cold. It was silly, Annabelle thought, to feel so connected to something so small, so strange. She held the box away from her and opened it slowly.
A whisper of smoke escaped. Maybe it was dust, or dried leaves. It smelled like rotten bananas.
Inside the box, there was nothing.
Or, at least, nothing that Annabelle could see, even after turning the box upside down and shaking it.
Annabelle did not generally curse much, beyond the occasional shit or crap, but, at this moment, she could not think of anything better to say than, Fuck you, box. She said this directly into the box.
A blue bird fell dead at her feet, a bright still thing among the fallen leaves.
Annabelle closed the box. She thought about throwing the box away. But, she did not. She was not sure why she did not except that she had been the one to find the box and so now it seemed to belong to her through some unspoken universal law about finding and owning. Besides, maybe she could put stuff in it. Maybe dumb stuff she didn’t want like Walgreens glasses. The dead bird didn’t mean anything.
Happy Thursday, readers.