Inside the Old Box

You are at the neighborhood garage sale, looking for nothing in particular. Something inside an old, wooden box catches your eye. The old woman who is running the sale comes over to say something about the object. What is it? What did she say and why?

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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218 thoughts on “Inside the Old Box

  1. Icabu

    Jim wandered the cluttered block where Mrs. Kazimir gathered everyone’s junk to sell it to anyone who hasn’t had it yet. He put in an appearance every year now. Skipping the first one had brought on a deluge of neighbor nosiness that made the trip through the mess the lesser of the evils. He’d buy something just to quell the inevitable onslaught if he didn’t. He’d never used or kept whatever he’d bought and had no doubts of the same happening this year.

    Nearing the end of the block, Jim began to panic a little as he had not found even one item that he was willing to part with his hard-earned money for. This was definitely the worst year ever for recycled junk. The last tables belonged to the newest members of the block. Jim didn’t remember their names as he didn’t rush over as they moved in like many of his neighbors had. He figured he meet them eventually, like at this silly block yard sale.

    A handsomely carved wooden box caught Jim’s eye. It seemed out of place amid the rest of the block’s garbage. Picking it up, he found it had decent heft. The craftsmanship made it immediately obvious it had considerable age, making Jim wonder why it was still available. He studied the box for a long time before opening it. The design had subtle and bold components that captured the eye and led the viewer along as if it were telling a story.

    Opening the box made Jim smile for the first time all afternoon. The beauty and age continued to hold his interest – intensely. Unlike the rest of the junk on display, this item wore it age with elegance and grace. He ran his fingers over shiny worn areas and complex knurled sections, fascinated with the artist’s marrying the varied toolings and methods into this final masterpiece.

    “I see you’ve found it.”

    Jerked away from his consuming inspection, Jim started at Mrs. Kazi’s voice.

    “Found what?” he asked.

    “What you’ve been looking for, of course,” she said.

    “What do you mean?” Jim asked, confused.

    Mrs. Kazimir nodded at the box still clutched in Jim’s hands. “It wouldn’t still be here if it were for anyone else.”

    “It’s beautiful,” Jim said, turning from her possessively.

    Shrugging, Mrs. Kazimir said, “To you.” She smiled. “My parents brought it with them from the old country when they moved here a few months ago.”

    Ah, Jim thought, the new neighbors were her parents. He didn’t think anyone was older than Mrs. Kazi. Her parents must be ancient. He hadn’t seen anyone like that in the neighborhood at all. Maybe they stayed inside.

    Looking down, he found himself clutching the gorgeous box as if his life depended on it. Glancing at Mrs. Kazi’s oddly grinning face made him wonder if that wasn’t the absolute truth.

  2. thowes4

    I meandered alongside the curb on autopilot, my thoughts heavy with emotions.

    “It’s your decision to make.”

    Somehow, I managed to continue forward, one foot in front of the other.

    “Here are some pamphlets. Think about it.”

    I’d been too scared to say a word; fearful that it would make everything real. It was easier to feel the candy sweet taste of a lie on my tongue, than the bitter taste of reality.

    “We’ve been seeing each other for a while now. Have you made any decisions?”

    One foot in front of the other.

    “The deadline is coming up.”

    A flash of colour caught my eye, and I turned to see a row of tables in a driveway, covered with knick knacks. Abruptly jolted out of my thoughts, I travelled closer to the yard sale

    The woman I assumed was in charge, an elderly woman with greying hair, was perched on the front steps of the house, watching everything with eyes that were simultaneously happy and sad.

    I could relate. In welcoming something new, we always have to let things go.

    As I got closer to one of the tables, my eyes landed on an old wooden box, small enough to be a jewellery chest. However, it had no decorations. I found myself reaching for the lid, fingers gently prying the box open to reveal a small ballerina.

    “It’s a music box.”

    The voice startled me, and I dropped the lid with a harsh thud, turning to see the old lady standing beside me, a soft smile on her face.

    “Here,” she said, her hands-wrinkled with age, but fingers still precise and gentle- opening it once more to reveal the little ballerina. She reached around the back, and all of a sudden music, soft and relaxing, started to blossom from the box. I felt a smile tug at the corners of my lips.

    “My parents used it when we were young. Neither of them could carry a tune to save their life, but we wouldn’t fall asleep without music.”

    I could hear the memories in her voice.

    “It must be hard to part with.” My voice emerged quietly. The music box had finished it’s tune, and the silence seemed sadder without its music.

    The older lady closed it gently.

    “It is. But with something this beautiful, it’s impossible to keep it to yourself.” She looked at me, at the way my fingers continued to trail reverently over the wood.

    “You keep it.”

    “But I don’t have any money,” I said, frowning.

    The old lady smiled at me again, and said, “Your appreciation of it is worth more than I could ever ask.” She walked away, leaving me to cradle the music box to my chest, and begin my journey home.

    Halfway there, I stopped to sit on the curb, the music box in my lap. I pulled my phone out, and dialed with trembling but sure fingers.

    It rang twice.

    “Planned Parenthood. How may I help you?”

  3. Pattypans

    Sorry, I meant to put this note at the top of my post, which is immediately below this: This is the first time I’ve posted in response to a writing prompt, and I know I’m a little late, but if anyone cares to give feedback, I’d love it, and won’t be sensitive about constructive criticism. Promise! I wrote this before reading anyone else’s response, by the way; I mention this because I noticed some similarities.

  4. Pattypans

    The twinkle in that little woman’s sky-blue eyes made her look like a leprechaun. Loose strands of wispy white hair, the remainder of which was done up in a low bun, framed pale, wrinkled skin. I had been looking at the ornate little cherrywood chest for only a few seconds when she made her way over to me with firm, determined steps.

    “A beauty, ‘tisn’t it? Open it up.” She made me feel like a child on my birthday at Grandma’s house instead of an accidental garage sale customer. It was then that I looked at her more closely, though it was the box she wanted me to look at.

    How can it be that I’ve never seen her before? I’ve lived on the same block for years, and thought I knew all the neighbors! I started thinking what a shame it was I had never seen her, because maybe she needed help sometimes unloading her groceries, and I could have helped her … Her gaze dropped to the ancient trunk in my hands, commanding me wordlessly to open it. But the more I knew she wanted me to open it, the more I wanted to figure out who she was– never mind the trunk, intriguing as it was.

    “Aren’t you curious to see inside it?” The twinkle was still in her eye, but not in her voice, replaced there by a wee bit of impatience.

    “Oh, I am curious, yes,” I answered, wondering if she could tell that she, not the trunk, was the object of my curiosity. She lifted her fuzzy white eyebrows as if to repeat her question.

    The lid made no sound as I lifted it. Its sturdy metal hinges were not rusty, but not shiny either. Plush vermilion velvet lined the entire casket. On that soft cushion lay…but it couldn’t be! Two months before she died in her sleep, my great grandmother Agnes showed me her wedding ring, which had belonged to her own grandmother. I was only 5 years old, but the image of that ring was engraved flawlessly on the eye of my mind. How could it be lying before my eyes now in an inexplicably unknown neighbor’s back yard?

    I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath until I let it out audibly as I picked up the platinum band. Inlaid emeralds alternated with rubies, spaced evenly around the front semi-circle of it. I read the names engraved on the inside: Caoimin agus Aingeal. My maternal great-great-great grandparents’ names. Who brought this heirloom from the old country to a generic Houston suburb, and why did this woman have it instead of my mother?

    An inscrutable smile washed over the face of the ring’s apparent owner. Questions stumbled over each other in my mind. “Who are you?” I whispered.

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