October 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

Choices are on my mind his morning, as I sip my coffee and feel the synapses begin to fire. It’s chilly in the house, but summer is staging another strike. I just ducked outside to look at a passing airplane, and it’s wonderfully warm; the perfect day for riding rollercoasters, which I will be doing with my wife and friends today, before we costume and go to a Halloween/birthday party tonight.

But choices. We make choices in almost every moment, and each choice alters the course of our life in some way.

Some choices are so small we don’t even notice we made them, yet they have a butterfly effect nonetheless: turn left instead of right, and avoid an accident; choose one word over another and cause a misunderstanding that damages a relationship.

Others are larger, more gut-wrenching decisions: to leave a job, or keep a difficult secret, or say goodbye to a beloved pet, or end a friendship that you realize is no longer a friendship.

One right choice can push your life in an amazing new direction; one wrong choice—no matter how small—can bring it all crashing down. Choose well.

A dear friend reminded reminded me this morning of a very short story I wrote back in 2007. It eventually became part of a novel, which got all the way through the first draft before I put it aside. The story is about choices, sorta, and I’m surprised at how much I like it; usually, I hate my old work. So since this blog is supposed to be about writing, here you go:

The Box Man in the Heart of the World

Before the World existed, before Time began, there was the Box Man.

The Box Man lived in a box made out of something hard and rough and dull black, and it was filled with small, crude boxes, with simple latches set into rough faces. The big box and all of the small boxes had been made by the Box Man. The Box Man had started making boxes when Time began.

When the Four Sisters created the World, they asked the Box Man to move his box of boxes.

“I will not move,” said the Box Man. “I have been here since before Time began. This is my place.”

The Four Sisters asked again and again, for they were patient and kind and determined to build the World where they wished. Again and again, the Box Man refused.

When the Sisters tired of asking, they built the World around the Box Man, making his box the center of it. The Box Man didn’t mind; he never left the box.

The Box Man built thousands upon thousands of doors and hatches into the walls, floor, and ceiling of his box. At first, the Box Man would simply look out of these windows and watch what was going on in the World above him. He watched the Game the Four Sisters played (for that is why they built the World) and he watched the People as they lived and laughed and cried and worked and played and fought and aged and died. The Box Man watched through the hatches in his box for a very, very long time.

Then the Box Man began to reach out through the hatches and take little things from the World and hide them away in his boxes. He liked socks hot from the dryer and dull coins and mislaid tools. He liked toys and scraps of paper with notes scribbled on them and gemstones that came loose from their fittings. He liked rings forgotten by the sink and teeth left under pillows and tiny bits of tin foil. The Box Man liked all of these things, and he stored them away in his boxes in the heart of the World.

As the Box Man watched and took, a longing began to grow within him to leave his box and walk among the People and laugh and cry and work and play and fight and live. So the Box Man opened a secret door and left his box and swam to the surface of the World. The Box Man broke through the surface and joined the People, but he found out that laughing and crying and working and playing and fighting and living was much more difficult than it looked. It hurt him and it wearied him and it made him wish he had never left his box.

The Box Man tried to escape the World and return to his box, but so rushed was he to leave his box and so secret was his secret door that he could not find his way back.

Anytime something goes missing, now you can blame the Box Man. He never found his way back and lives in our world now, still building boxes and collecting things and storing them in a junk shop that few people ever visit, and none ever find a second time.

Enjoy your weekend. Make good choices.

Pandora and something crafted by the Box Man. (Photo credit: Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)



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