Part I: ‘The Magic Box’ Christmas taleThere was really nothing special about the box. It sat by a dumpster in a back alley, its flaps propped open with some tape applied here and there as though it’d been used, discarded and then somehow fallen out of the top of the dumpster and onto the concrete below.
There was really nothing special about the box. It sat by a dumpster in a back alley, its flaps propped open with some tape applied here and there as though it’d been used, discarded and then somehow fallen out of the top of the dumpster and onto the concrete below.
Charley Wickenburg spotted it when he tossed an empty box into the dumpster himself, a glistening silver one that housed 24 empty beer cans whose contents had been slurped down by him and his buddies while playing pool and watching football on the new big screen TV he’d just bought for his pool room.
He was about to throw the opened empty box back into the dumpster, wondering how it’d fallen out in the first place, since the dumpster was not nearly that full, and then he decided that he’d unload the entire contents of a junk drawer that was in his kitchen (one that contained everything from sewing kits to pocket knives) into the box and shove it under the bed in his bedroom and be rid of the junk once and for all and yet still have access to it if need be. Because no one ever knows when they might need a tiny Phillips screwdriver or rubber band, a No. 2 lead pencil or little red clown nose or even the lens from a busted pair of sunglasses that hadn’t been worn in the last year or two or maybe even three.
He laid the box on the bed in his bedroom in the semi dark, it being Sunday night. He was about to go back into the kitchen and pull the junk drawer out to unload it when he thought he had noticed a little glow coming from inside the box as though someone had pushed up on a dimmer switch inside and then just as quickly pushed it down again.
For a second he thought there might have been an old flashlight left inside the box that flickered for a moment and then quickly flickered off. But then he remembered that the box was empty when he found it and would still have to be empty unless he was losing his mind and after another quick look inside, he realized that he was not losing his mind.
He turned around to go back into the kitchen and saw a glow on the bedroom wall and initially assumed that it was from the headlights of a passing automobile until he remembered that his apartment was on the second floor where the headlights wouldn’t be quite that bright.
Back to the box he went to once again inspect it and this time shoved his hand inside just to feel around and pushed it down deep enough so that his arm had all but disappeared all the way up to his shoulder and he still couldn’t feel the bottom so he quickly pulled it out because, based upon its size, there was no way that he should have been able to bury his arm much beyond his forearm
Sweat began to form on his brow and he backed up against the wall with his eyes popped open like they were balloons that somebody had just blown air into. He thought about digging the cellphone out of his left front jean pocket and making a call to his new month-long girlfriend Bernadette, but then thought better of it since she was too new and might think him to be some kind of kook and because he was shaking too much anyway.
Instead he slapped himself in the face like he’d often seen athletes do on TV, as if that might help him to reprogram himself like a cellphone or a computer that needed to be rebooted, knowing he could still be suffering the prolonged effects of four slowly downed cans of beer.
But the slap did little more than make him tear up in one eye since, in his angst, he’d been just a little too aggressive and aimed a little too high. He rubbed the eye and while doing so thought that he once again saw a glow coming from inside the box and this time almost opened a window and tossed it outside except that it was well below zero and he figured the window was probably frozen shut anyway.
Confused, he squatted down against the wall, wondering if the box might blow up or emit smoke or be contaminated from having held some kind of nuclear waste. Or maybe it was just a bottomless pit or the home to a black hole.
Finally, with curiosity having gotten the better of him, he stood up and stuck his hand in again, pushing it deep inside while at the same time saying that he wished he had a dollar for every time he’d been confused and the next thing he knew he felt something in his hand and pulled it out and in it was two $500 bills.
Then he stuck his hand in again and said he wished he had a new pair of cowboy boots and the next thing he knew he felt something in his hand and pulled it out and in it was a $260 gift certificate for a local western store.
Well, this was just too much so he scratched his head and walked around the room, wondered who it was that was messing with him and then stuck his hand in again and said he wished he had a big blue pickup truck, raised up with big fat tires and a killer stereo system and when he pulled his hand out in it was a set of keys. So he went to the window and looked outside and sure enough, parked across the street was the big blue beast that he’d just pictured in his mind.
“Well Charley Wickenburg,” he said to himself, “if that pickup truck is still there in the morning then you might just own the world!”
To be continued next Wednesday...
Holten is a freelance cartoonist and columnist from Dickinson.