November 27th

Good morning. Have a good writing day, and here's a Message to start you off:


Once upon a time there was a little box with nothing in it, but it didn’t like being empty and light and wished it could be fuller and heavier. And as the little box grew into a medium-size box, and then into a big box, more and more things collected inside. But the box began to feel so heavy and full it was frightened it would be stuck in one place and unable to move an inch. Then the box began to wish it could be a little box again with none of the weight and clutter inside, light enough to skim across the floor if someone nudged it with a foot, maybe light enough to lift in a wind.

So, the box wished. And wished. And wished. And nothing happened. It carried on wishing so hard that its sides ached but still nothing happened.

Then the box had an idea – it tried opening its lid wide. At first this was very difficult, it was stiff from being closed up for such a long time and its cardboard flaps groaned as they stretched and tried to close back down, but after a while they became more flexible and stayed open.

When the first things started to leave, the box felt sad. They had been there for a very long time and it had become used to their shape, the way they fitted snugly against everything else. But as more and more things left the box became excited – it felt lighter and started to move its flaps. It believed it would become so light that it might fly.

But it didn’t. And after a while the box began to feel empty and light and it wished it could be fuller and heavier. And it wished. And wished. And wished.

Silly box.


  1. There’s a scar on Pauline’s leg. It’s about two and a half inches long, set diagonally on the outer side of her thigh, about half way down. She had thrown away the jeans that bore the corresponding rip about eighteen years ago not only because they were bloodstained but because ripped clothes in the eighties weren’t really in.

    For Pauline – and probably a lot of others – the eighties were about climbing the property ladder. It wasn’t so much the ladder itself which had ripped into her leg but one of the packing cases in the garage as she brushed past it. Actually, that was a bit of a euphemism; she didn’t brush past it, she was humping wildly in the garage whilst her husband was at work, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his wife had someone helping her to sort out the garage. For Pauline, it was another last fling before moving on. Her lover was strong with thick, sweaty muscles, an absolutely bare chest and an amazing smile but he was a little too short when standing. When you’re moving, there is always going to be an element of compromise.

    Moving house had become as much of a ritual for Pauline as the village’s summer fete. It was tiresome having to go through the whole rigmarole of selling each home (she would have preferred to burn them) but she loved the promise of new decor, new neighbours and a whole new pool of local talent to dip into. She loved the fact that every time they moved, the house was grander and that her standing in the local communities was raised with each improved address.

    The trouble was that the garage man gave her an STD and now she’s living in a cardboard box and wearing ripped clothes.

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  3. Jewellery can be just a work of art. Did I say just? No. If it’s design, it needs to have some practical purpose. But your practicality, she thought is perhaps my serendipity. That had always been the way with him and he never gave up. But all that was now in the past, and she was firmly in the present with a project to complete.

    It’s not just rings on your fingers and bells round your neck, she thought as she took two pieces of aluminium. She cut and filed tiny leaf holes all over them until her fingers and thumbs were coated in silvery dust; here and there thin scratches stopped just short of blood. She shaped the two pieces into the form of praying hands: not ones that were pressed together, those that let life still breathe in.

    The silvery grey of the metal was cold, so she enamelled the pieces in ruby red. She dried them on their backs like open palms, and then on their fronts, humped like twin turtles.

    She took his love letter and ripped it into scraps. The tears lacerated the words “I”, “love” and “you”. There were so many of them. She piled them into one of the halves and quickly trapped them with the other. With a thin white silk ribbon she laced the two humps of her life together. She wanted to tie a long flowing bow, but the ribbon was too short. There was only enough for a tight little knot.

    The humps now resembled a heart: not the Valentine sort, the one shaped like a fist. She cupped it in both hands and shook it about. The love scraps danced and whichever way she stopped the three little words peeked out at her from within her memory box.

  4. Our ma woke up one morning and reckoned she was old. I made her a cup of tea, she said it made no difference. I watched as she took the dressmaking scissors from her sacred lavender box and hacked into her hair. I ran upstairs to wake our Marcus cause he could make her laugh. He wouldn't budge. I filled a cup with ice cold water and tipped it all over his head. By the time we got downstairs ma was standing inside a white circle of hair.

    I turned to see Marcus's chin hitting his chest. I followed him to the fridge. He poured tomato sauce all over his head and grabbed the mop. The thick redness trickled down his temple, cheek; chin and neck: He began:
    "All across Rome people are rioting. In an effort to find out who did this." He points at the hair. "We Romans are trying to give poor people jobs, especially in hairdressing, while some take it upon themselves to do people out of work. The Roman Army will have no alternative but to rush such brutes out of Rome. They have already killed the fifteen wannabe hairdressers that tried to attack Caesar's mop. We will stop at nothing..." Our ma stopped cutting and pointed the scissors menacingly at Marcus, who continued: "If you want to stand in the circle of trust and win Caesar's dagger, all you have to do is tell us how many times he was stabbed..."
    Our ma`s eyes blazed, "I`ll stab you in a minute if you don't fuck off." He hammered the mop into the floor, "Threats against the Roman Army will not be tolerated..."

    I pushed Marcus out of the room and told him to run and wake our aunty Jean who lived two doors away.

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  6. Whatever gave Box the notion it could be like Treasure Chest (TC), the darling trove of ‘Treasure Alcove’? Now c’mon, get a grip on that card brain, Box, geez…face up to the hard crunching ‘de facto’ ‘mundo’ seizure of delusions of grandeur, nunca extra, just an ever decreasing container, disturbingly left on the side as the days drift into weeks then months. Foraged, yes, packaged no.

    Being abandoned by the telly aggravates your degenerative condition, no less. TC’s increasing usage boosts the ego, nil times over. Whatever made the plastic pea-hardened brain munched Digital TV insist you stood by in case DVDs should replenish your weakened stomach? Stripped of dignity when they leave you for shelves in some bottom drawer, elsewhere? Reducing your self esteem even further as TC gets more replete when contestants find missing treasures in the star chest’s bosom. How absurb! What could be worse than seeing the smiling faces of two treasure seekers beaming over a chest? Where’s the logistics in that? Box, aren’t you the looser in all this? Not even a loser; More degrading than a bio degradable container! Losers get to go with TC on an island to discover the meaning of increasing responsibilities as their survival instincts strengthen.

    Rampage the set Box and start a box strike against the misrepresentation of Boxes on the grounds of misclaims that boxes deteriorate more rapidly when re-used. Says who? Says the Box Makers? Says the show’s Container Retention Scouts? Get your Box Adviser on the case now. Don’t just sit on a chest slaughter mission then later admit doing it on the grounds of diminished responsibilities! Be the box that pulled TC down to a dwindling chest, reduced in size, weakened and humbled to a rusting crust.

    Hey Box, wise up. Don’t back down now!


  7. I climbed the ladder to the loft. It had to be up here somewhere; it was the only place it could be, I’d looked everywhere else. I stared at the boxes, not knowing where to start. Mum’s voice came back to me start with something small she’d say when you finish that, start with the next thing. She tended to be right about this sort of thing.

    I pulled the nearest box towards me and ripped it open. Smiling children and screaming babies spilled towards me. I could see myself on my first bike, with my dog Pepper, on my first day at school. All those snapshots that show a life, but don’t tell the whole story. This box was my past through rose-tinted glasses; I needed to find the rest of it. I put the box to one side, marking it with a big X (another one of mum’s tips).

    I waded through boxes of children’s books (saved for the kids I’d hoped to have one day). I remembered the excitement when I was nine and Mum produced a box of her childhood books. I inhaled titles like Black Beauty and Huckleberry Finn; the yellowed pages and faded inscriptions adding to the magic.

    There were boxes of old toys (again saved for future generations), Christmas decorations, mismatched plates and chipped cups (they really will get used for something one day), old newspapers, a broken coffee table, several lamps, and a suitcase full of old towels .

    Finally I found it. The small green leather box. I fished the tiny key from my pocket and turned it in the lock. Inside was a bundle of letters tied with a red ribbon. I undid the bow, unfolded the first letter and started to read.

    Now perhaps I would find the truth.

  8. They had been placed squarely in the middle of the table, identical except for their size. Two sealed, unmarked cardboard boxes, one roughly a foot square and the other half that size. The larger one was to the right, further away from the window, so that the smaller one cast a diagonal shadow onto its left side.

    The longer she looked at them, the harder the decision became.

    “Take either of the boxes,” he’d said.

    “What’s inside them?” she’d asked, though she’d known he wouldn’t tell her.

    “Just one,” he’d said.

    Was that an answer? Was there a puzzle to solve? A riddle? And what was riding on her choice, anyway? A gift, a task, a judgment?

    She tried to remember stories about boxes. The Merchant of Venice, for example: three caskets, gold, silver and lead, one containing a portrait of Portia, and the suitor who chose the right one would win her hand. But hadn’t those caskets had inscriptions on, clues to interpret?

    There was that irritating saying, “the best things come in small packages”. But it was surely no less simplistic to choose the smaller box because it might be paradoxically more valuable, or more useful, or more worthy, than to choose the bigger box because it was bigger and might hold more. Both approaches were equally greedy.

    She realised she was wrong to have thought the little one was half the size. It was half the height, half the width, half the depth, and therefore one eighth the volume. Eight times more chocolate, she thought. Eight times more bank notes, or books, or pairs of tights.

    She ripped the parcel tape off the big box before she could change her mind. Inside, padded with bubble wrap, was the identical twin of the small box she had rejected.

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  10. These are the things I never leave the house without:

    I carry my keys and my guilt, rattling in my pockets. It is a comfort to know they are there, though I admit that I forget what some of them are for. Sometimes, unexpectedly, they dig sharply into my skin, an awkward and uncomfortable reminder of their presence. At other times I look for them and can’t find them. I know they were there but I can’t put my hands on them. I begin to panic.

    I carry my diary and my regrets. I’d be lost without their constant prompts and reminders. I’m always so busy but, if ever I forget something, they’re close to hand, with all the details clearly inscribed and neatly ordered, with the important things highlighted and underlined. In an instant, I know the exact date and time, the place, and the names of everyone involved. There are even records of the things I’ve missed.

    I carry my credit cards and my insecurities, carefully protected. Wherever I am they can be relied upon to keep their value. They are transferable and recognised all over the world. I sometimes wonder that things so insignificant-looking account for so much. Most of the time I try to keep them hidden, but I still worry that someone may steal my identity.

    I carry my driving licence and my longings, though I haven’t driven in years. There is always that thought that I may suddenly have to get somewhere important at a moment’s notice. I can just hire a car and head off, with no need to pack. Tomorrow – tonight, even – I could be there, checking into a small hotel in a strange town, making the Big Deal or meeting a lover. It’s best to be prepared.

    I carry small change.

  11. She had been waiting for the box to come in the mail for days. Finally, on Friday, it arrived. She signed the form the postman gave her, smiled to him and retreated into the kitchen to open the package. She lovingly stroked the new books, imagining how she would delve into them.

    Two weeks later another box came, and then another. The postman handed them to her with a special reverence and a smile. The fourth time she invited him in for a coffee. He was delighted, admitting that he had been curious as to what was in those precious boxes. Sheepishly, she explained it was just books. He loved to read too. War novels and history books, mainly. Indeed? Her favourite were biographies and contemporary fiction. Murakami? Ondaatje? No, he wasn’t familiar with them.

    Their discussions lengthened, the coffees sometimes extended into snacks after his shift.

    She was waiting for the box to come with the next mail. It was late this time. Nine o’clock and the door bell rang. She hurried to open the door and there he was with her box. She invited him in.

    “Well, won’t you open it?” he said.

    She shook her head and blushed.

    “Why not?”

    She was silent a long moment before she whispered, “I know what’s in it.”

    He was perplexed. “What do you mean?”

    Another awkward silence. Another furious blush. “I sent it,” she finally admitted, eyes averted. “I sent it, so you’d bring it to me.”

    His eyes widened, first with surprise, then with comprehension, the sweet comprehension.

    She busied herself with taking the cups out of the cupboard, pouring the freshly-made coffee and placing a slice of cake on a plate. He watched her move around the kitchen and realized he loved bringing her those nicely wrapped boxes.


  12. Once, life revolved around things like family and job.
    Sport for a time: cricket; football; golf;, squash.. Home, garden, politics, writing, reading, art, religion, money, lack of money, children, parents. Not necessarily in that order

    Then came the three R’s.
    Reduce. Re-use. Re-cycle.
    Now everything else is background.

    Each alternate Tuesday I drag an assortment of containers into the street. The largest carries false wheels and a smiley face decal with a speech bubble:
    “Don’t dump it. Bump it.”

    Some local authorities have taken powers to fine citizens (council tax payers) who fill bin liners without first separating and sorting the contents. Pay up or go to jail. No exceptions.

    Between collections, there is a choice.
    Keep the piles of milk bottles, cans, cardboard, newspapers and magazines in the conservatory where they grow without tending or watering - the only things that do. Or make a pile in the back yard which will get wet and yuckey.
    No, we never have a fortnight without rain.
    Do you?

    It IS great for junk mail.
    A dedicated bumper positioned directly under the letter box, also takes care of unwanted invoices, overdraft reminders and credit card statements.

    My early morning dog walking neighbours can now discourse authoritatively on my passion for cranberry juice, what toilet tissue I use, how crap I am at crosswords, who supplied my TV, and how much Mangers cider I consume.
    Every fortnight. My whole life. There for all to see.

    One R no longer allowed is Refuse.
    Nounal refuse is permitted: waste, garbage, trash, as in Corporation Refuse Disposal Facility.
    We may not do Verbal refuse – no declining, demurring or dissenting.

    Accepting the inevitable, I’ve made a will instructing my executors to leave me in a bumper box, with council permission, naturally.
    At the end of the road.

  13. People make boxes in the world for other people to live in. Builders make boxy rooms in boxy houses, boxy sheds for gardens with box-side fences like boxes with no tops. There are boxes with no sides to shelter cars. People buy things in shop boxes, use public toilet boxes, some of these boxes are even called boxes – like telephone boxes – even though they're not box-shaped any more.

    People make boxes for other people in their heads. Some of these boxes have labels like 'friend', 'parent', 'ex-lover', 'colleague', and 'woman who serves behind the counter in the corner shop'. Others have labels like 'narrow-minded', 'generous', 'intelligent', 'smelly', and 'good in a crisis'. People can exist in several boxes in one head.

    People explore these boxes in conversation.
    'Shall we put immigrants in the scrounger box?'
    'No, I keep mine in a victim box.'
    'Right, you're going in my do-gooder box.'

    People also make head boxes for themselves. The 'I'm too fat' box, the 'I'm not good enough' box, the 'I'm better than him' box. They explore these in conversation, too.
    'I couldn't do a degree, I live in a "she's not very clever" box.'
    'Yes you could, in my head you live in a "she might not have achieved academically up to now but she's got great potential" box.'
    'I can't move into that box, though; it's in your head. I haven't got a box with that label in my head.'
    'Here, I'll take mine out of my head and put it in yours.'
    'Get off! Yuk! Scary!'

    Some boxes are helpful for keeping things in. Others are hard to get things out of. People try to put whole countries in boxes, to keep some people in and other people out, but it doesn't work. Countries don't have straight sides.

  14. His perfect silence filled a box of emptiness. She needed silence. Not the silence that says nothing. The silence that says everything. The silence that says everything with eyes that smile. The silence that says I love you, or I’m sorry.

    It was an empty box that echoed with surprises, lined with the velvet, full of tenderness. A box that listened and understood. Until one day, the box was nearly full, but not quite. There was something missing from the box.

    I don’t like the way everything touches other things in the box he said. I don’t like being touched he said. My father was the same he said.
    But his box was even emptier than her box. So she filled his box with the most precious thing she could find. Until one day she realised that his box was brimming over, flowing over, glowing as if full of expensive gifts. Everyone said how wonderful he looked, and still he took and she gave and kept filling the box.
    He kept taking the precious gift until his box was so full it weighed her down.
    You’re stupid he said. No she said, but she started emptying his box.

    Tenderly she removed each of the layers of the precious gift. She took each layer and looked at them. She took them apart, recalling the memories that lay inside her bones. Inside each breath. She laid them gently beside him. He took each layer, dismantled them and told her what he thought of each gift. He said she was stupid.
    She emptied her box herself, slowly, like grief. Save for the velvet lining, still soft and gentle and the empty fragile silence.

    His box is now full to the brim again. Someone’s filled it. Someone touches him. Someone holds him. Someone silly.

    Chris Hoskins

  15. There’s a box up in the loft that contains treasure. Nothing a pirate would want, to be sure, but treasure all the same. It used to be a smaller box, then it grew, and grew again. It’s time to go through it.

    As the years pass, things which were important to me become less so. As each relationship has ended I have systematically cut the person from my past and my present. Of the seven years of marriage I have one single photograph of the man I married, and I have that only because it was used as a bookmark in an old novel deemed worthy of keeping.

    The box contains smaller boxes. Individual packets of memories stored in easy-to-control capsules. I open the topmost one, a balsawood cigar box. Debbie is inside. She was an old fling; a woman who dabbled with bisexuality before marrying a mutual friend. Her box contains a book – Virginia Woolf’s Orlando – two ticket stubs to a production of “Richard III” (we missed the whole of the second act because we were shagging in the dress circle toilets) and a cigarette that had been dropped in a lavatory and dried. The idea behind that was if either of us was ever desperate enough for a cigarette to contemplate smoking it we would seek help.

    I took the book out and added it to a small pile of things to be transferred down the ladder and put away. The cigar box and its remaining contents went into the black dustbin liner of eradicated memories. The cardboard box seemed a little smaller and much lighter without the weight of two years of my life inside it. I sat back against the hot water tank, picked up Orlando and began to read.

    Tell me who Debbie was again?

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  17. Letter to the Editor:

    Dear Sir, This morning I read your editorial and other articles relating to me with dismay and I hope you will print this reply in order to redress the balance. I feel your readers have a right to know the truth.

    As you are aware, I am a celebrity and therefore very busy. This year alone I am hoping to star in a set of exercise videos which will be distributed worldwide; get married, which will be of great interest to all the media including yourself; and train for the forthcoming Olympics - a feat which will enable me to highlight our country's devotion to sport.

    Friday's are always my busiest days. Unfortunately the auditions for the filming were held on a Friday, and although I requested a change of date, it would seem that my communication did not reach the studios in time.

    Our wedding ceremony was, admittedly, booked for a Friday, the date of which happened to be free at the time of booking, but as I have already mentioned I am a celebrity and therefore other matters occasionally take precedence.

    There were mitigating circumstances for my inability to attend the three drug tests for the Olympics, all arranged on Fridays without my consultation. I would have thought it good manners to enquire as to my availability before booking the dates. I am, of course, appealing against the imposed ban.

    I found your comment regarding 'being late for my own funeral' extrememly insulting and I am looking to you for a public apology. I can assure you that when I am finally laid to rest in my box I will have no hesitation in arriving at the funeral on time providing it is held between Monday and Thursday, preferably in the afternoon.

    Yours in heartfelt sincerity,

  18. Once upon a time there was a little bra with very little in it. It didn't like being so empty and light and wished it could be fuller and heavier. There was no chance of its cups ever overflowing all by themselves. Mother Nature was often miraculous but this sort of miracle was outside her remit. She needed help. Fortunately help was at hand in the shape of a 'flexible friend', a willing patient and a very enthusiastic plastic surgeon.

    In short, plastic meets plastic.

    The operation was a roaring success and the big bra celebrated with lots of black and red lace under skimpy tops. But, it soon came to pass, that it was tiring at times. Shoulders which used to be invisible and were never given as much as a second thought were now prone to redness and a touch tender. It was debilitating at times. It now proved difficult to carry out the simplest of tasks, like running for the bus in the morning. Sometimes, the big bra would puff and pant and have to wait for the next bus - and be late for work. And most distressing of all was the revealing fact that it was far too stressful. Suddenly, it had lots of unwanted attention from colleagues and even strangers in the street. Friends were simply envious, or so they said.

    The bra wished desperately to be small again. It would be a great weight off its mind. But the bank balance was light. Very light. It was whistle-in-the-wind light. It was also you've-made-your-bed-now-you-can-damn-well-lie-in-it light. The bra was distraught.

    It wished and wished with all its (cross your) heart that it could be that little bra once again. But for all its wishing, it remained a big burdensome bra for the rest of its life.

    Louise Laurie

  19. The first Christmas the box was decorated with gold rings to celebrate our marriage.
    The second year it was covered in pink ribbons for our new baby girl.
    The third year it was painted black, in mourning for her Grandma.
    The fourth year we took it to the Maldives and covered it with shells.
    The fifth year we wrapped it in shiny blue paper for our bonnie boy.
    The sixth year we attached red ribbons for the loss of Uncle Danny’s partner.
    The seventh year the ribbons stayed on for Danny.
    The eighth year you got your PhD and we made the lid a mortar board.
    The ninth year I went back to work and we covered it with gold chocolate coins.
    The tenth year you gave up smoking and we covered the box with your unwanted cigarettes.
    The eleventh year the pink ribbons came out again for Aunt Daisy, diagnosed with breast cancer.
    The twelfth year we celebrated her recovery with the labels from the champagne bottles.
    The thirteenth year our daughter won a scholarship to dance school and we stuck her ballet shoes on top.
    The fourteenth year, she dropped out and became a goth; we covered the box in dark make-up.
    The fifteenth year we got a new puppy and festooned the box with bones.
    The sixteenth year our son Send, the graffiti artist, tagged the box.
    The seventeenth year we photocopied Send’s ASBO and plastered it over the box.
    The eighteenth year we forgot all about the box.
    The nineteenth year I found the box but it had fallen apart.
    I sellotaped the sides together, packed it with my memories.
    And left.
    No longer a thing of beauty or humour, there was nothing left to treasure.
    Our marriage was just as empty as the box itself.


  20. She wished and wished and wished.

    She found herself doing this a lot lately. Every time she found a penny, she would make sure to walk by the big fountain on her way to work. The fountain was made of old stone coloured grey from the weather. It had a gargoyle that sat perched on its top, water pouring out of it’s head.

    She threw a penny in and closed her eyes, saying her wish silently to herself: I wish for a better job. She threw a penny in and closed her eyes: I wish that I was more beautiful. She threw a penny in and closed her eyes, saying her wish silently to herself: I wish I made more money.

    One day, after throwing her penny into the water, she made a new wish: I wish for something magical to happen.

    Her life had been lacking in magic, in things that were wondrous. She felt a void in her where magic used to sit when she was a little girl.

    She hadn’t felt that thrill in a long time, hadn’t felt the unknown come into her life. It had only been dull and grey and boring.

    After her wish, she didn’t expect anything to happen. When she heard the breaking of stone, that hard sound of crumbling rock, she looked up and saw something magical. Something to take her breath away and fill that void inside her.

    The gargoyle at the top of the fountain was stretching its wings slowly, gently. It turned its head towards her with more crumbling bits of rock and she felt its eyes on her. She did not know what to say. “Hello,” she said.

    And was shocked when the gargoyle responded in a deep baritone. “I have been waiting for you to believe.”

    Jamieson Wolf

  21. Fill your mind with things of beauty. The David Hockney canvas in this year’s Summer Exhibition where you felt you could walk through the trees; the view from the balcony running around the Oxo Tower where you met him for a meal in late summer; the ballet of Romeo and Juliet you didn’t want to end. Be immersed in such things so that when you lie awake at night, they will flood into your spirit and revitalise you.

    The extent of your memory is phenomenal. How many times have things from the past surprised you by being on the very edge of your thoughts? You don’t have to think that hard, they just appear at the right moment when you seem lost for words or don’t know the answer to a question. There they are, poised on your lips ready to be poured out, a waterfall of wisdom that spills over and rescues you. Like the time your boss asked you if you had any knowledge of outer space that could help him compile a paper on global warming and you are able to reel off so much that you are astounded and the look on his face tells you that he is in awe, too. And that’s great to know because you need to impress him and you have.

    Omit all negative incidents. The times when you were so unhappy that another day would be too much; your cousin drowning in the family pool as everyone downed Pimms; the occasion when the door of the plane fell out just as you were about to leave on the holiday of a life-time.

    Your memory is a golden box of treasure. The formula for keeping it so is simple: hone in on the positive; reject the negative. Simple!

    Think beautiful thoughts.

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  23. Never, ever satisfied, wanting to be older, wanting to be younger, wanting to be taller, wanting to be shorter. That is why the ideal age is 18 month’s old. The littlest thing satisfies and you don’t know that there is more to be wanting. When watching commercials for pretty things that’s all they are pretty things - not pretty things that I don’t have and would want – just pretty things.
    Looking for that magic moment, that handsome prince, that special place, that happily ever after if I could just have what someone else has. The faster car, the sweeter man, the bigger house would all satisfy for a moment until I see a faster car, a more caring lover, a prettier yard.
    But wait, there it is right there in that pretty brochure with the beautiful sails or the swimming pool in the back. Why, oh why, oh why can’t I stop looking at what there isn’t and see what there is? In a house full of new furniture I long for antiques. If I had antiques why would I want this old stuff when there are such pretty colors, softer fabrics, glass and trim?
    I have found one place that I am satisfied, right in the middle of time amongst friends and family. The joy of a shared meal, a time around the fire, or a quick game (ok who am I kidding there are no quick games) of Scrabble with coffee and Chris Rice in the background. A day in the park with Elli playing on the swings and slides, one more round of peek-a-boo around the tree. If I could live my life right there … that might work. Maybe I should try that and see if I could remain content, at least until the weather changes.

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  25. John’s office was ten paces by ten.

    At least it had been last week. This morning he walked the perimeter as usual and could swear it had shrunk by one step on the west side. It wasn’t the first time someone had stolen his space. At the beginning of the year, he had had two square metres more, and now it was happening again. Maybe he should demand an explanation from the facilities manager.

    He stood in the corner and looked out: floor to ceiling external glass formed a perfect L-shape to his left and right, riveted steel ties the only visible means of stopping him falling forward through the window – or was it technically a wall? Visitors to the office, admittedly fewer of them these days, would inevitably ask: “Doesn’t it make you feel ill?”

    The height didn’t bother him. The real problem was the transparent internal partitioning. The fact that every file he opened, every coffee he drank, each scratch of his ear or tug at the crotch of his suit was public knowledge. Workspace should have boundaries; it should fulfil an ancient need for protection and safety like a cave or a burrow. The only time he felt really at peace was in the dark, the lights turned off in his perfect cube, framed by the fluorescence and the halogens.

    Placing both hands on the glass he leant forwards. Suspended between sky and workers in the square below he felt more strongly than ever the presence of an unseen force, a superior power for whom monstrous office blocks were just empty boxes. Of course! It wasn’t the facilities manager he needed to leave a message for. He exhaled deeply on the glass and in a sure hand wrote in large letters in the condensation: “THIS WAY UP”.

  26. Pandora cursed the day her parents named her. Why couldn’t she just have been Jane, or Mary or something normal that didn’t invite comment at every turn? It was such a name to have to live up to. It wouldn’t have mattered so much except that as she grew into a young woman she found she rather liked the idea of being a Pandora, however much she fought against it. She even went as far as signing up for Greek classes, convinced that the prospectus falling open on that particular page was a sign. She felt herself to be a myth in the making.

    OK, so she was no good at needlework, but she knew how to lead men on and loved to dress up in the type of clothes she knew would reel them in. She was a flirt and there wasn’t much she wouldn’t do to seduce them, including being deceitful if it got her what she wanted. And what she really wanted was Theo Badstock. She wanted him, so she stole him right out from under her best friend Chloe’s nose. It hadn’t seemed to matter much at first. She’d won her man and what was more she knew she looked good on Theo’s arm.

    The trouble was it all backfired and now she was miserable. When Theo realised what she was really like, he coughed her up and spat her out without a thought and went running back to Chloe who was more than happy to take him back. Pandora on the other hand had lost her friend, and most of the men she knew steered clear of her, knowing her reputation and not wanting to go there.

    She hoped her parents were satisfied with themselves, for hope was all she had left to her now.

  27. A life in boxes.

    Boxes packed into the attic of your parents’ home. They used to contain school work, dolls and books by A.A. Milne, but when you left home your mother opened the boxes and brought the toys and books downstairs again.

    That attic also contains some of the boxes you brought home from university, crammed with dissertation notes, text books and love letters you once couldn’t bear to look at again. You hope your mother has not found the ribbon-tied envelopes and thrown them away, but you dare not ask.

    Boxes full of clothes and books which you have taken to the charity shop. Garments you outgrew, volumes you couldn’t get into, yet sometimes find yourself buying again now you are older, if not wiser. You always support the hospice shops, as you cherish far too many people whose loved ones have passed away in the care of those special places.

    Now your life appears to have come full circle. The attic of your marital home contains boxes of photos and memories of your own children. Tiny premature-sized baby sleep suits and designer dungarees, special gifts from a foreign godmother. The toys, however, were mostly broken years ago and the children have all left home.

    Boxes of well-thumbed study manuals. You worked hard for your first career, now you are studying for a change of direction. It is never too late to follow your true journey, you tell yourself as you finger the trinkets in your jewellery box; treasures collected from all over the world, whose sentimental value far exceeds their monetary worth.

    Then there is your special box. A secret inbox concealing the emails from your lover, the man who is patiently waiting for you to once more pack up your life into boxes and move on.

  28. Were we all misled over this wishing business, just a waste of perfectly good wishes, achieving nothing? Stirring the Christmas pudding, wishing on a star. But it was the time I wished with all my strength, pulling so hard on my half of the wishbone, getting the knobbly bit, that I felt sure it was all a terrific con.

    That is - until a few months ago. I answered the door to find a courier with a parcel. I signed for it; no name or address of sender, but my own correct. I sat down with eager anticipation to open my parcel. Surely too early for Christmas? I tried to guess what it could be, until my curiosity won and I had to find out. I removed the thick brown paper and the inner layer of protective cardboard.

    Inside was a box skilfully decorated in marquetry. A single word ‘XOBGNIHSIW’ engraved on one side. It was locked but had no keyhole, lid or fastening. It rattled when shaken. I examined the box each day until, after it had been in my possession for a week, frustration drove me to give it a violent shake, exclaiming aloud “I wish you’d just let me see inside!”

    Slowly a crack appeared, gradually opening. I could see a tarnished metal key resting on a bed of red velvet. My fingers touched but could not release the key. Suddenly, as slowly as it had opened, the crack closed. The box rattled again when I shook it.; Something impelled me to look more closely at the inscription. How stupid of me not to have seen it. ‘Wishingbox’.

    I keep it in case some selfless need should arise, where the granting of a wish might be life-saving. I believe this is the reason for the box’s existence.

  29. Once upon a time there was a little birthday boy. All his gifts were opened, but the one from his parents. He saved that for last, but now he picked it up. It felt very light. He shook it. Nothing rattled. The boy nudged it with his foot and it shot across the floor. He got worried. He began to wish that the box was fuller, heavier. He closed his eyes. He wished so hard his hair began to itch. Then the little box grew into a medium-size box, and then a big box. Soon, it was so heavy and so full the boy couldn’t move it at all. He began to wish the box could become a little box again. Or better, that he could become bigger.
    The boy wished again. He wished so hard his sides ached. But nothing happened.
    He had an idea. The boy walked into the kitchen. He drank a big glass of milk. He pumped his arms like a prizefighter, bent his knees like a gymnast. He felt himself grow stronger.
    Now when he gave the box a nudge, it moved. When he crouched down and tried to lift it up, he could. Inside, he heard something slide. One big, heavy thing. Again he felt sad. What big, heavy thing had his parents given him? Was he really strong enough to carry it? It was his birthday, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to be that big, that strong.
    The boy closed his eyes. He wished again and soon the box felt empty and light. He could throw it with one hand. Nothing inside shook. Now it seemed too small, too light and again he grew sad. Maybe he didn’t want the box at all. Maybe he would open the box tomorrow.

    Silly boy.

  30. My Husband

    You hoard things. Letters, theatre tickets, boarding passes. A lot of people do this. They have an old shoe box under the bed or on top of the wardrobe and they keep special things.

    You are not this kind of hoarder. You keep old string that were tied round birthday gifts, elastic bands, egg cartons, jam pots because the ‘might come in useful one day’. You keep carrier bags, envelopes, bubble wrap so you can use them again. You have bottles, cans, cardboard stacked in boxes under the stairs. This isn’t so bad. Once in a while you pack them into the car and take them to the tip. This seems sensible.

    But, I worry about you sometimes. I find piles of magazines and comic books in the attic, that you keep because you might want to read them again one day. There are boxes and bags filled with old toys and stuffed animals even though the children are long since grown up. You keep their school books, your school books, backed with wallpaper and scrawled with your name on the front. First blankets, first teeth, first hair curls, bell bottoms, platforms.

    You keep wallpaper that no longer hangs on our walls, scraps of cloth from curtains that have long been ripped up to use as dishrags, and the dog’s old basket, chewed round the edges.

    I wonder where it might lead, what you might start hoarding next. We could down-scale if we had a clearout, might move on, travel, enjoy ourselves more. Who knows?

    But then, this morning, you showed me the leftover butts of cigarettes from when you used to smoke, nail clippings, a used handkerchief from when we were dating that you’ve never washed.

    I thought I knew you. Perhaps I know too much.

    Annie Clarkson

  31. ‘Now here’s something really special,’ said the man, pointing to an exquisite gold and enamel box displayed alone in a brilliantly lit showcase.

    ‘That box, ‘said the jeweller, ‘contains the last of the Fabergé eggs which the Tsar intended to give his wife. It’s had an interesting history for two reasons. First, it was the only egg made with its own matching box, and second, although it was finished in 1916, it was never given to the Tsarina because the Tsar abdicated before Easter in 1917.’

    The jeweller took the box out of the showcase. It was covered in oyster enamel and criss-crossed into squares by fine patterns of woven gold wire adorned with pearls. Inside each square was a cabochon ruby, emerald, or sapphire. He pressed the side and the lid rose revealing a bed of gold satin in which lay cocooned a matching egg.

    ‘Can you tell me its history?’ asked the man. ‘Not many of these around now, I imagine.’

    ‘Fabergé left St. Petersburg in October 1918 on the last diplomatic train,’ said the jeweller. ‘He had given his wife this box and egg and other valuable pieces before he left and she, with her eldest son Eugène, escaped to Finland. The family were not reunited, but eventually Eugène and one of his brothers settled in Paris. It was the sale of this box and egg to the Comte de Tourville-Landevin that enabled them to set up as jewellers.’

    ‘I would like to buy it,’ said the man, ‘as long as your price is not too preposterous,’ he added, smiling. ‘I’ve done pretty well over the years in California and feel I can reclaim some of my past.’

    ‘How so?’ asked the jeweller.

    ‘My great-great-grandfather was trained as a goldsmith in the Fabergé workshop.’ replied the man.

  32. I have a storage box. It is quite large (about ninety-two square metres), triangular in cross-section, and it sits on top of my house. Like every other box I own, it is full of stuff. Spare stuff. Kids’ stuff. Husband’s stuff. Camping stuff. Junk stuff. Sentimental stuff. Some of it is even my stuff.

    Originally, I had a much bigger storage box, which belonged to my parents (theirs was underneath the house), but I wasn’t really interested in boxes then. I had my own little living box, and I didn’t have much stuff. It was only when I married, and got my own house of boxes, that I first realised the potential of storage. Immediately, I started filling it with our stuff. Since then we have increased the size of our various boxes, and have delighted in moving all our stuff from one to the other (often without unpacking it in-between).

    Now we’re settled. It is a long time since I could get all my stuff into the back of my little box on wheels and move it from box to box. It’s a long time since I had my own living box too. We used to have lots of spare boxes, but we’ve filled them all with children now. My husband can escape to the box in the garden, but I cannot. I no longer have a box to call my own.

    Now, I am standing in my ninety-two square metres of triangular-cross-sectioned storage box, and dreaming. I am very excited. I am going to take out all the other people’s stuff, and make it my box. I am even going to cut a hole in the side, so I can see out. My box. My space. Just for me.

    (And my stuff.)


  33. Daddy box said to mummy box: "It is funny how you never seem to get ill as often as the rest of us, and when you do, it never seems to effect you as badly. It must be immunities that you built up when you were a teacher.

    Mummy box woke up feeling achy and feverish. "I really don't feel very well." She said to daddy box.

    Mummy box thought back to when daddy box didn't feel very well. She'd carefully set up the bedroom so that he could sit in bed and watch old war films. She'd taken the children out whenever daddy box needed to sleep, and tried to ensure that all the little jobs that daddy box did, such as the washing up and putting out the bins, were done. Daddy box needed his rest to get better.

    When baby box was ill mummy box sat up in the night, rocking and renewing the medications. She was woken three or four times and had to give extra feeds where necessary. Grotty bedclothes were changed and the older children comforted when the wails of the youngest disturbed them.

    When mummy box's brother was ill she took her nephew to that place with the balls and the climbing frames and kept him away until bath time.

    Daddy box looked at his watch, kissed the little boes on the head and said: "Yes dear. Now you've got what everyone else has had. But if you can survive until after my meeting at 2pm?" And left without a backward glance.

    When everybody else had had the fever and the aches, mummy box had tried her best to make it easy for them. Mummy box had thought that now she was ill she might have reaped some of what she had sown.

    Silly box!

  34. Oops done it again.
    Daddy box said to mummy box.....

  35. It was one of those moments that nearly didn't happen. The deconstruction of the box was a gradual elimination of fullness and heaviness, of lightness and vacuity. The box had sat on the shelf for what seemed a long enough time for it to gain personality. It seemed sentient. Its initial perfection was gradually marred by slight dents at the corners, a side where the lid slightly projected outward because too many bank statements slightly wider than the width of the box, crammed inside. Shifting left edge and right, the contents would fit with a quick shut of the lid. What eventually started to occur was the the box lost its perfect shape. One side bowed out a bit, along with a lid that looked like a distorted lip, almost ready to espouse an idea, but left silent, wondering.

    The cat sat in it when someone left the lid ajar. He could nudge it open with his nose. It was perfect for curling into a cee-shape inside. Sometimes he could clean himself in it, leaving a few limbs exposed as he licked. The catnip mouse lay limp and saliva covered in a corner along with bits of fur. It even served as a cat carrier to the vet and was peed in. Then the cat turned in such a way that the box bowed and took on the form of a hat box rather than a square box. One side collapsed.

    No one heard the box's wish to be larger or smaller fuller or lighter. The sides were flattened. It no longer bore the identity of box when the box cutter disassembled it. No one cared that dampened sides were tears when placed in the recycle bin. No one would recognize it when it returned as a designer shopping bag.

  36. oops.. I told you mummy box wasn't feeling well. This is my entry again, with all of the mistakes removed this time. Well hopefully.

    Daddy box said to mummy box: "It is funny how you never seem to get ill as often as the rest of us, and when you do, it never seems to effect you as badly. It must be immunities that you built up when you were a teacher.

    Mummy box woke up feeling achy and feverish. "I don't feel well." She said to daddy box.

    Mummy box thought back to when daddy box didn't feel well. She'd carefully set up the bedroom so that he could sit in bed and watch old war films. She'd taken the little boxes out whenever daddy box needed to sleep, and tried to ensure that all the little jobs that daddy box did, such as the washing up and putting out the bins, were done. Daddy box needed his rest to get better.

    When baby box was ill, mummy box sat up in the night, rocking and renewing the medications. She was woken three or four times and had to give extra feeds. Grotty bedclothes were changed and the older boxes comforted when the wails of the youngest box disturbed them.

    When mummy box's brother box was ill she took her nephew box to that place with the balls and the climbing frames and kept him away until bath time.

    Daddy box looked at his watch, kissed the little boxes on the head and said: "Yes dear. Now you've got what everybox else has had. But can you survive until after my meeting at 2pm?" And left without a backward glance.

    When everybox else had had the fever and the aches, mummy box had tried her best to make it easy for them. Mummy box had thought that now she was ill she might have reaped some of what she'd sown.

    Silly box!


  37. Dora Pan was a dinner lady at the local primary school before she became a great and celebrated artist, by mistake. The kids adored Dora, because on Fridays she would yell out, ‘Stuff Jamie Oliver’ and dish out fish and chips followed by a choice of Manchester tart or chocolate sponge with pink custard. One day Dora was busy unpacking a large box of bananas, when Miss Turner, the art teacher, rushed into the kitchen in a terrible state. ‘Dora,’ she said, ‘help!’
    ‘What’s up luv?’ said Dora. And Miss Turner, eyes brimming with tears, yelped,
    ‘The great art critic, Beldon Blagg, who is a friend of the headmistress’s second cousin’s brother’s wife is due to arrive any minute to talk to the kids about modern art.’
    ‘Well?’ said Dora, untying her apron in anticipation.
    ‘Well, the headmistress has come over all queer after her pub lunch with the board of governors and needs to be driven home.’
    ‘The poor luv,’ said Dora, ‘she looked fine this morning, but I can’t drive.’
    ‘No, of course not, and since I’m the only teacher who didn’t attend the meeting, I’m the only one who can. So would you take charge of …?’
    Dora laid her apron and the stanley knife, she’d used to open the box, on top of the bananas.

    Miss Turner returned to her classroom just as the art critic Beldon Blagg had finished his chat on ‘Deconstruction in Art for five-year olds.’ The kids were all asleep. Dora was clapping thunderously. ‘Thank you’, she said, ‘bollocks!’ she thought. ‘Now I must get back to my own work.’
    ‘Your own work?’ replied Beldon Blagg.

    Six months later a box containing several bunches of bananas, a stanley knife, and a floral apron was exhibited at the Tate, entitled, Yellow, Hostile Domesticity.

  38. “As long as I was in the corner of the car, the moment you came out of that silk cloth emporium
    Until you reached home, until you unpacked that lovely silk sari and preserved it in the Godrej
    Iron safe, I was given much importance. Now you push me into a corner for I will be occupying
    Space, hence I am in a corner, a waste and to be discarded. Do you recognise I only carried your
    Silk sari which is going to adorn you , for the gala wedding of your sister.” The hard bound box
    Used to pack silk saris with attracting cover designs which have fascinated many, now with a
    Grumpy, yet authoritative tone assailed me. To appease that box, I picked up with condescending
    humility, stuffed all my telephone bills which were paid and gave a facelift.

    Sometime back I had to parcel a gift of a ring to my relative abroad, so much so while thanking
    he wrote back saying that it took a long time for him to negotiate the knots around the tiny box
    although bound with thick flaps. It looked as if the box was mocking at me,”you took more care
    in me for I was carrying your ornament.”

    Those boxes came to my rescue many a time. All my journals, publications and books which
    were overflowing my glass protected book shelf, were given asylum in my loft in boxes, with naphthalene spread lest moth should destroy the whole lot of books. Recently, while shifting to a new house, packing things in boxes, my best friend happened to come with a
    praise for boxes, “I have a full box of letters wrongly deposited into my mail box, hoping
    one day they may reach the right person, at times, names are repetitive”.

  39. You long to be inside the box. You think it must be a good place, warm and snug, with customised cupboards to hide in, to be alone. So, quickly when no one’s looking you rush to the box, but just on the point of jumping into it you lose your nerve. You run and stick your nose into a groove, it fits exactly. Eyebrows lift as you speed past the buffet table. Ice shivers in glasses. Murmurs disapprove. But then conversation resumes, about more amusing things.

    Hours later, you cautiously skirt the dance floor and nip into the Anti-Room. The box is the room’s main in fact only feature, not counting the door. The party people make a show of ignoring the box, they hold parties to ignore it. You heard one of them snigger as you passed, “A triumph of experience over hope”. Meaning what?

    The box! – you think. I’ll be safe inside the box, from their disdain. And everything else. I’ll be happy! Now your only wish is, to become the box’s content contents. To be a box-dweller, a boxer. Previously the box was of manageable size, easy to pop yourself into. Now it’s huge. You climb staples, negotiate a corner. Ouch! The top is closed. How to get inside? You pray for inspiration. And lo, a breath of wind catches you up, suspends you, whirls you merrily around and lets you fall into the box’s softly cushioned depths.

    Ooom bohm. Heartbeats – yours? The box’s?

    Ah, cupboards – nice ones. Tangerine Melamine. Spotlit.

    The rest of Inside is dark. As the cupboard interiors are too, presumably.

    Now what? You’re safe. Happy? Um.

    Far off in the party room, you hear a glass break, a shrill laugh and a cry of “Gotcha, my darling!” You’ve started feeling a bit queasy.

  40. Lady Lonely occupies her usual brown armchair. Worn and threadbare through age and overuse, it remains the solitary piece of furniture in the room. Several failing springs protrude randomly through its fabric; wicked tears indicate their sudden force of ejection.

    As usual for this time of day, she sits drowned within her thoughts, save for the repetition of raising an arm to place the constantly smouldering, foul smelling, rolled cigarette into her mouth. She inhales deeply every time, allowing her arm to flop limply at her side. An overflowing ashtray sits on the broken armrest, unemptied for days. Countless crushed butts and dried tobacco cinders litter the chair, cascading in a mushroom plume to the filthy carpet below.

    Cobwebs flutter in each upper corner of the room; the result of a wicked draught bludgeoning its way in, courtesy of ever weakening joints from the aged, rattling window frame. Small puffs of dust detach from gently swaying thick brown curtains, they hang limply like massed corpses of bats in a cave. Mottled water patches scud across the nicotine stained ceiling, congregating where the light shade cable connects them, pooling in a murky, frothy pattern of rusty paint flakes.

    This was once a happy house.

    Pungent odour, a deep set, rotting, damp stink, hangs menacingly in the air, smothering the murky room in waves of sinister foreboding. A slug lazily oozes across the floor, leaving its thick trail of clear slime imprinted upon the remnants of threadbare green carpet. It’s destination a likely rendezvous with its kin across the room, already having voyaged across this sea of rancid wool.

    Lady Lonely considers her memories; of a house populated by unconditional love and harmony. All wrenched away with the linear passing of time. Life, she realised, was nothing more than an empty promise.

  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

  42. He reckoned it might be time to make a change once he started getting emotionally involved with likes of Lydia from Lincolnshire.

    National Treasure Noel Edmonds had just revealed whether her box contained 50 pence or 50,000 pounds.

    “Hello?” he sniffed, annoyed by the phone’s interruption.

    “Hi hon, it’s me,” his wife said. “You catching a cold?”

    He said he was fine, blowing his nose.

    “Are you … crying?”

    Maybe, just a little. Happy tears though. No, nothing’s the matter, he was just a little overwhelmed. He’d really gotten to know Lydia over the past couple weeks, and she’s such a lovely woman (three grandkids, one deaf since birth). He was so tickled she hadn’t dealt with the banker at £17,500, and he was going to miss her now that she had to leave the show. No, he hadn’t gone off his anti-depressants and no, he hadn’t been drinking (well, not gin — maybe just a smidge of the Cabernet he’d put in the stew he was making for tea). Yes, he had spoken with the headhunters and there might be an interview or two next week.

    “Let’s get this straight,” she said a few hours later, over a steaming bowl of Beef Bourguignon (which, if she were honest, was better than anything she could have made). “You sat in front of the idiot box in this box of a flat, plucking through a box of tissues because you actually care about twenty-two people and their cardboard boxes?”

    Truthfully? He only cared about twenty-one of them. That Simon from Stoke Newington had the same sneer as their daughter’s ex-husband, so he’d taken against him. But the rest of them were delightful.

    Okay, so it was actually his wife who reckoned it might be time to make a change.

    bob [at] bobzyeruncle [dot] com

  43. Mr and Mrs Box lived in Boxton Massachusetts with their Boxer dog. Mr Box loved boxing and every year on Boxing Day he’d go to the local boxing championships held at Boxton boxing ring. Mrs Box hated boxing so she spent Boxing Day at home, boxing-up the previous day’s rubbish. Most years she managed to fill three recycling boxes with empty cardboard boxes. Afterwards Mrs Box would check her inbox for festive messages from various members of the Box family who were unable (93-yr-old Betty Box) or too lazy (45-yr-old Barry Box) to make it to the postbox. Then Mrs Box would watch a DVD as there was never anything decent on the box Boxing Day.

    When the film had finished Mrs Box would switch on their jukebox and listen to music whilst polishing off a box of chocolates before Mr Box got back. Mr Box was usually out of his box by the time he got home. Mrs Box hated it when Mr Box was drunk as he always got on his soapbox. No sooner had he finished ranting and raving than he’d be crashed out on the sofa snoring his box off. This infuriated Mrs Box and made her want to box her husband’s ears in. Normally she’d resort to making up a bed in their box room just to make a point. However this year Mrs Box decided to think outside the box. Instead of storming off to the box room in a huff, she snuck outside to the telephone box and phoned Mr Box’s brother Brian Box. Brain Box had always told her to give him a call if ever her life felt like an empty box. As she dialled the number she feared she was opening Pandora’s box. At least then there’d still be hope.

  44. The giant grasshoppers could be spotted meditating on leaves and rocks and branches wherever you looked. Their turquoise, green and yellow articulated armour glinted in the sunshine as they rested as still and controlled as samurai warriors. Above compound eyes and masks that rendered their expressions inscrutable stood sharply striped antennae, orange and black, fierce and straight as Katana swords. Half helmets protected their necks from attack while red streaks of crackle-glazed wings rested neatly on their backs.

    I just saw the beautiful colours and imagined the grasshoppers to be the bright creatures of some magic mountain kingdom. I wanted to have one.

    I needed a cage. Flushed and sticky, I loitered in the hotel games room until the coast was clear and then, with slippery fingers and a guilty heart, I emptied a Boggle box of its contents and scurried away. Back in the gardens I used a stick to punch holes into the cardboard lid and furnished the interior with grass and leaves. I added a rock for good measure and sprinkled some sugar into the corner as a treat.

    Capturing one was harder than I’d imagined. They resisted furiously, their striated jumping-legs powering them with startling speed and height. I persevered and was at last, with the aid of a pillowcase, rewarded with my magnificent, kaleidoscopic pet.

    But peeking at the grasshopper through the half opened lid was dull. The insect looked grey and lifeless in the shadows of the box. The magic was gone. It crouched in the same position for days, as dispirited as a twig.

    When we packed up to leave at the end of the week the bright creature from my magic mountain kingdom was dead. I threw the grasshopper and the box into the dustbin. It was not a noble warrior death.

  45. The trunk’s made of metal. It’s rusty and five foot long and two foot wide. When I've got guests I cover it with a tablecloth and disguise it as a coffee table. When I don't have company I pull off the tablecloth and do this thing that stops me from having nightmares. I've been doing it since I was a kid.

    I first had the nightmare after Mum died when I was nine and I moved in with Dad. I had the same nightmare every night for a month until I found the trunk at the bottom of his garden one rainy afternoon. I climbed in and shut the lid. It was quiet and warm in there and the rain made drumming noises on the lid. I curled up and had a talk with Mum; just me, telling her a few things, how I was feeling, how much I missed her, stuff like that. I didn't have the nightmare that night, or any other night (as long as I'd visited the trunk during the day).

    My new girlfriend Steph normally comes round at one o'clock to spend her lunch break with me. I do an early shift at the factory so I'm always home by eleven thirty, just enough time to grab a bit of food and jump into the trunk for a while before I make it back into a coffee table. Yesterday Steph came round early. I'd left the front door ajar because I'd burnt my food so she just let herself in. First thing I knew about it was when she opened the lid to the trunk and discovered me inside.

    I just lay there on my back, my knees hugged to my chest and stared up at her.

    "Hello," I said.

    What else could I say?

    taylor_cally [at]


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