Boxing Day

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When your end is near, have no fear. Grab your cosiest socks, hop in the box. Hurry up, tape it up. Keep in to stay unseen - and enjoy your eternal in-between. 

 

***

 

You pull your suitcase through the yard, towards the cardboard box. The wheels jammed with plucks of grass, it hops excitedly behind you. You hum; some jingle from tv. It cheers you on. You stop at the entry flap, turn around, and gobble up the world. You refuse to forget. You cram like a student does minutes before the exam: the quiet house (house) – the dappled evening sun (evening) - the sweet stink of the bins (binstink) - the rustling leaves (rustling) - the umbrella, tied-up (umbrella) - Emma. You flinch, then smile and step into your box.

 

As the flap falls close behind you, a beam of glittering dust becomes a line on the wall, a thread, a spider’s silk fibre; then disappears with the rest of the world. You shove the suitcase in a corner. You already feel like you’ve been here forever. It’s small but cosy: a bed, the closet from your bedroom. Soft cardboard floor. A chair facing a poster fulfilling a window’s job. A big orange sun and vibrant green fields in a baroque golden frame. (How decadent. Like looking out the Versailles!) Three more posters under the bed to rotate with the seasons. Still in your summer shorts, you swap the fields for winter. Ha, you say to the snow-capped mountains, I'm mad like that! Your laughter dies out fast. You blame the cardboard walls.

 

Boxing had started about four years before. If anyone knew a revolution had started and an era ended, it had not been you. Back When Things Used To Be So Simple hobbled to an end with a largely ignored press release on some obscure theory, and the odd box erected in basements and backyards. Granny flats 2.0. You would see one pop up at your neighbour’s, and know to buy a card. But it spread faster and faster. Took over suburban backyards like a fungus. The landscape, once all green patches strung together by concrete ribbon, got dotted with square brown pixels. Swing sets had to go, barbecues and lawn chairs flooded Facebook Marketplace. Some rent out their yard, pitying the city dwellers, but not enough not to charge them an arm and a leg.

 

After driveways filled up, people's houses: man caves, guest rooms, home gyms (Oh no! The cross-trainer must go! It's sad, so very sad, but a small price to pay for grandpa's life), and that awkward space under the stairs. At one point you put the pantry up for rent. But already then, you had started to be forgetful. Out of habit you kept going in, mid-breakfast, for coffee beans or eggs, only to stub your toe on that cardboard box with some inner-city yuppie's nan. As space got scarce, the boxes shrank from the size of a shed to a shower cabin to a dishwasher. One day Emma told you Ben From Work had stored his father under his desk. She considered this somewhat ill-mannered but felt for him, so pretended not to notice him sitting sideways.

 

Boardwalks filled up. Traffic was obstructed. A law was passed as fly-tipping boxed relatives got out of hand. The government was powerless and knew it. This crisis after all was spurred by two unstoppable forces: time, and grieving families. Fighting the first one: laughable. The second, a PR nightmare.

 

The nation cheered with relief, when a mathematician discovered that a sack was in theory just a thin crinkly box. A patent and two factories later, he started selling sealable body-sized brown paper bags at five thousand percent profit margins. Better Non-Biodegradable Alternative Passing Options, “better bags” for short, made him the richest man on the planet. It was the cheapest and most space efficient option - the only one for many. For the unlucky fellas who went sudden and quick, the state installed little cabinets throughout the city that dispensed emergency bags. But the sights of piles of formless bags of plebs bothered academics and philanthropes alike.

 

A Space Management Committee was assembled. Representatives were appointed, 10-year plans drawn up. Administrators nearly nodded off their heads at the suggestion of key action items and sprained their wrists signing off on potential advisory policy-guideline suggestions. Out came a glossy campaign that rebranded emergency sacks to “Doggy Bags”, so citizens would take one home. When brought to a designated facility, you got some cash in return. The result was less sacks, but an unforeseen surge of shabbily dressed figures roaming the streets with wheelbarrows. Defeated, a 700-page report and a 34-page summary was published detailing alas, nothing more could be done.

 

But you, you had prepared. You had felt it coming, even before the theory broke: a soft fogginess in the mind, a brittleness to the thought. One day you brought home a ten by ten slab of cardboard, tied on the roof of the Volvo. Emma (typical) had raised her eyebrow: really?; you always exaggerate; isn’t it a little early?; and where do you plan on putting that; yes we need the piano; but I wanted to lay out a little kitchen garden there. (This she had said for years, and you both knew the world would come to end before that patch of yard would see a single pumpkin.) You did not tell her you felt it coming.

 

The fog got denser. Slow at first; after three years rapidly. Thoughts and faces still floated around, but when you plucked them, turned to dust and fell right through your fingers. On the seventh of August, you watched Emma quietly drag the cardboard from the garage onto the lawn.

 

***

 

When their end is near, have no fear. Rush them in the box, slam the locks. Check for slits, keep it away from the kids. If it starts to reek, someone took a peek.

 

About the Author: 
Yasmine Sfendla is a quantum physicist, studying fluids and light.
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