The Box

by Mike McHugh

I can’t figure how we survived twenty-seven years of marriage before The Box.

The Box is a must-have for every married couple. It could send every divorce lawyer outside of Hollywood looking for a new line of work. The words “child support” would no longer have anything to do with money. Rather, they might conjure an image of you in the school auditorium, listening as your child played the same tune on clarinet that he’d driven you mad with the entire semester.

Like all of history’s great inventions, The Box was born of necessity. It started one day when my keys went missing, followed soon after by a book that I’d been reading. I knew I’d left both of these out in the open somewhere, in a place where they wouldn’t escape my notice. I asked my wife what she’d done with them, and like The Secretary on “Mission Impossible!”, she denied all knowledge. A couple of days went by like this, to the point where I began to seriously consider water-boarding, but I knew it would have been of no use.

That’s because she honestly didn’t remember what she’d done with the things. It’s not that she doesn’t have a logic behind where she puts my stuff when she finds it. She does; it’s just that her logic is fluid. What makes perfect sense to her on Monday seems insane on Thursday. Meanwhile, I’m operating on the only spare set of keys, with in our house is a danger. I’d have better luck getting lost on the streets of New Orleans at night without another pair of clean underwear.

The book finally turned up in the bottom of my dresser drawer, underneath my gym clothes. “What’s it doing here?” I asked. “I could understand if the book was about sports, but this is a sci fi novel.”

That’s how we came up with The Box. “Here,” I said to her, holding up a shipping carton that I’d fetched from the garage. “From now on, whenever you see anything of mine laying around, put it in this here box. That way, I’ll always know where to find it.”

My wife, seeing an opening, embraced the new system. Every loose item that she came across went right into The Box, down to and including the occasional half sandwich left over from lunch. But no matter; I was happy for once to see my wife’s actions take on a sense of predictability.

It didn’t take long, however, for the bugs in the system to start showing up. “What did you do with the box?” I asked her one day while I was looking for something.

“It’s where it always is,” she answered.

“Where? I don’t see it.”

“In the corner of the dining room, behind you bicycle.”

“What is my bicycle doing in the dining doom?”

“You left it in the kitchen last time you rode it. It wouldn’t fit in The Box, so I put it in front.”

“But you know the bike belongs in the garage.”

“You said to put everything in The Box.”

“Okay, fine,” I admitted. “So I don’t see the bicycle, either.”

“That’s because your dirty clothes are hanging all over it. The box was full.”

“That’s not how it’s supposed to work!” I protested.

“I agree,” she answered. “You’re supposed to empty the box once in a while and put your stuff where it belongs.”

I thought The Box was where my stuff belonged. Wasn’t that the point of it? But I had to admit; the system did need a few tweaks.

But that’s okay; I know we can make this thing work eventually. It took over a thousand tries for Edison to perfect the light bulb. Edison didn’t have his wife to deal with in that endeavor; so this one might take a little longer.

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