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By Peter McMillan
Nathalie walked in with a box. Said it was for me. Didn't say who it was from, just that it was left for me.
I asked her to open it since my arthritis was acting up real bad and I was liable to drop it and break or scatter whatever was inside.
She said she'd have to do it later, 'cause she had to go look after Miss Emily down the hall. Miss Emily had fallen again.
Nathalie put the box on my bedside table, within sight but just out of reach in case I tried to get it and pushed it over by accident.
It was a pretty good size box. Not a moving box or anything close to that size. More like a hat box, for women's hats. I never wore a hat, but my late wife, Lizzie, did.
A hat box. Square. Two of them that size would have been a perfect cube. Seemed kinda old to me. Not that it was scratched or damaged in any way. It just looked old, like it couldn't be from today's stores. But then I'm not exactly up-to-date anymore.
Something to think about...this box. I had to figure who could have sent it and what was inside it. Couldn't imagine. Hadn't seen or talked to any friends or family in I don't know how long. Course, most of our friends were on the West Coast and both Lizzie and me were only children and our two boys died young. Their wives remarried and we lost touch.
What could be in there? Didn't look heavy when Nathalie moved it. Didn't rattle around either. Maybe a blanket, an afghan, or whatever they call them, donated by some organization or other in town. That would be nice. Thoughtful. It does get pretty chilly in here some nights and that would feel good on my legs.
Nathalie was back. She started to take my vitals, and I shook my head with as much force as I could muster and said I had to know what was in the box. She asked if I'd been worrying about that all this time. I nodded.
She moved the box close to my bedside and took off the lid. Inside was was a framed photograph of me and Lizzie—must have been in our twenties—and another of me and Lizzie and the boys at the Grand Canyon. There was a commencement program for our oldest who graduated first in his class in college. There were letters from our youngest from when he was overseas. His boyhood stamp collection was neatly tucked away. A copy of our first mortgage was in there, partly burned because we changed our minds and decided to stamp it "Paid in Full" and keep it as a souvenir. The dog tags from Tag, Sparky, Pal, and Roxie were carefully wrapped in a kerchief that Roxie used to wear on special occasions. Christmas cards from our closest friends and our grownup boys were carefully bundled. The pocket watch from her grandfather—on her mother's side—that got returned…twice.
I stopped her. "Nathalie, take it away! Please! It's too much. Please take it away."
She did. That evening I begged her for an extra pain killer or sedative or something...just for one night, I said.
The next day I realized that Lizzie had sent the box, sort of. She had kept a box of memorabilia like that in our attic. I never looked in it. After Lizzie passed, I never thought about the box again, so it must have been sitting there until the new owners came across it and pieced together who it belonged to. That was real thoughtful of them.
The author is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers. He has published two anthologies of his reprinted stories: Flash! Fiction and Flash! Fiction 2.
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