daughter was prone, rump up, on her living room floor. Bubbles escaped her
mouth. In one chubby fist was a purple crayon. In another, a red one. Dorothy
slumped on the sofa with Withersmith, the doxie, on half her lap and
Rutherford, the furze-pig, on the other half. Mr. Henry, the moggy, batted at
shadows on the wall behind Dorothys head. Dorothy kept snoring.
Chet packed his
laptop and sack lunch, softly kissed his wife and daughters brows, patted
the familys pets, and left. His new job demanded that he begin his
commute at six in the morning to beat the parkway traffic that often unsettled
him as he rode to the train station.
Besides, he meant to
arrive early at work since his new boss had offered the sales department a
challenge. If someone could sell plain boxes to Acme, that someone would be
promoted to department manager.
Chet sighed as he
avoided a pothole. His supervisor was a nincompoop. On balance,
surprisingly, sales commissions paid better than technical writing gigs, and
Dorothys ongoing therapy was not fully covered by insurance. So, it was
to his fiduciary advantage to appreciate his situation. Whats more,
Dorothy kept insisting that she not return to her former, full-time hours at
the law firm.
Her community mommy
group, her newfound love of cooking Ukrainian food, and her part-time work
perusing legal documents satisfactorily filled her days. Plus, her
psychoanalyst had encouraged her to neither increase her workload nor give up
therapy. Rather, that expert had insisted that Dorothy and Chet add a new
expense, marriage counseling, to their budget.
was on time. Rather than plug in his earbuds, he closed his eyes to meditate on
the essence of stiff paper cartons. Their child, Addison, liked it when Dorothy
plopped her inside one and then gave her crayons. That talented child would
decorate her entire surrounds. Whats more, Dorothy insisted that the
activity kept Addison occupied for at least half the time that it took Dorothy
to make stuffed cabbage rolls or potato pancakes (his wife likewise insisted
that white rice and white potatoes didnt count on her doctors list
of the carbohydrates that she had to avoid.)
Maybe, in the
future, when Dorothys new belly bulge became Addisons sibling,
Addison would enjoy other diversions. It would be four more months more,
however, until Chet and Dorothy found out. In the interim, used delivery
vessels would continue to be repurposed for Addisons amusement.
Before Chet climbed
up from the subway, he tossed his coffee cup into a heavy-duty, paper-based
receptacle designated for recyclables. At street level, he exhaled a gratitude
that a doughnut chain had bought property near the main train station. He
regularly relied on that bakery to furnish the solid component of his breakfast
after he disembarked.
Once in his office,
he greeted Romi, Maylee and Aryeh. Their sundry manners of dress made his
costumes seem modest. Romi had multiple facial piercings as well as hair
tinted, simultaneously, in lemon, pineapple, and canary hues. Maylees
skirts featured higher and higher slits and were always predominantly cerulean
or lapis in tone. Aryeh experimented with mahogany, merlot, garnet, and crimson
ensembles, claiming that artistic fluidity arose from his soul, not from his
secondary sexual features. Once in a while, though, Aryeh owned that his
rigouts helped him with his identity.
As per Chet, neither
his ruffled shirts nor his plaid ties elicited as much as a notice from his
peers. So, he began to emulate his boss by making khakis with button-downs his
work uniform. Only Dorothy appeared to have perceived his change in style.
At the time, she was
puking up the previous nights meal, so she gave her beloved a thumbs up
while she vomited. Not only the first trimester of pregnancy, but all of the
months that followed, were unusually hard for her.
Chet walked into the agency, he observed that his officemates were quietly
working. Hush was an aberration among his peers. Chet expected to daily don his
noise cancelling headphones. More exactly, Romi liked technopunk, Maylee
favored Victorian tunes, Aryeh was keen about Pride music, and their boss
insisted on playing pop. The office was a cacophony of notes and lyrics.
Chet glanced over
his peers cubby walls to see if any of them were trying to prize the
management position away from him. To his consternation, not only were all of
his mates halcyon, but all of them were all working on the box project.
Shaking his head,
Chet regarded his desk. A stack of storyboards and a tenth generation script
for voice actors for the next Tell Bell commercial awaited him. That Internet
Provider had been one of his first clients and as such needed to be his
Though Chet was
supposed to be laboring over smartphones and wearable technology, all he could
think about was the box project. He called to mind how Nancy Lynn, the
familys young neighbor, liked to build forts and castles out of boxes.
Mr. Henry appreciated Nancy Lynns architecture, but Rutherford, who once
had been caught by an avalanche of falling cardboard, did not. Given his mental
distractions, it was only half of an hour before Chet was due to leave for home
that he passed a twelfth generation voice actor script to Aryeh and then asked
Maylee to check his latest rendition of Tell Bells storyboards.
Sometime during the
day, UPS has delivered a package to his cubicle. It was probably a prototype of
Gee Whizs latest party hat. Chet sighed as he again eyed the box. It
would have to wait until the next day. At least, he was building a client
roster. At least, the marriage counselor had praised him for increasing his
Upon descending the
subway stairs, Chet noticed that graffiti had been sprayed over his favorite
insurance ad. He frowned; as a youngster, geckos were only found on sunny rocks
or in science books. A few years later, as a young man, he had found that
campaign enthralling. These days, remaining posters were far and few and now
someone had defaced the one he had most often viewed.
All things being
unequal, Chet gifted a panhandler with some coins and then passed through the
turnstile. He noted that the vagrant was using an old-fashioned bandage box for
The aroma of borscht
and of garlic fritters wafted to the front door. It was odd that Chets
wife could eat alliums by the bucket, but not keep down coffee or eggs.
Nonetheless, nausea and all, she glowed. Accordingly, Chet reached to kiss
Dorothy frowned. She
had propped up her cookbook against an empty biscuit tin and was muttering
about onions versus shallots. Chet had encouraged her to use her cellphone
instead of relying on bound sets of recipes, but Dorothy hadnt wanted to
get her screen dirty. So, she continued to use her cookbooks.
Addison toddled into
the kitchen, sat in front of the cabinet beneath the sink and began to pull out
cat food cans. Babbling all the while, she stacked them.
Dorothy laughed at
Chet sighed. It had
been a long time since Dorothy had laughed at his cuteness. He had never
imagined hed miss her cackles. He missed them. Inhaling the lovely
cooking smells was small compensation. He headed for their bedroom.
As he changed into
more leisurely clothing, he thought about how, postpartum, he and his darling,
together, had overcome her newfound aversion to his chewing sounds. Rather than
anger and disgust,
as guided by her therapist, Dorothy had confronted Chet with descriptive words.
For his part, Chet had learned to take smaller mouthfuls.
Another change they
had weathered had been Dorothys agreement to participate in the local
ladies coffee klatch. Prior, Chets wife had been isolating. Baby
blues had proved to be an unexpected watershed for the couple.
back, Chet mused over how marrying Dorothy had meant adopting her critter
companions. Not every newlywed man provided sanctuary for a wiener dog, a cat,
and a hedgehog. Not every almost-newlywed man sheltered a prelingual toddler,
either. At least Addison was grasping rudimentary spatial relations. Living
proof was Dorothys insistence that cannisters of wet cat food be removed
from their bundle before being stored beneath the sink so that Addison could
build with them.
The next day, when
traveling to his office, Chet contemplated Old CDs stored in recycled tennis
shoe boxes, donated clothing chockablock in secondhand stores crates (he
had thrifted for his tuxedo shirts), loose disposable cutlery safely ensconced
in kitchen drawers within the squares that other plastic utensils had been
packaged, his fathers coffin, and the enthusiasm with which Mr. Henry had
claimed the crate from Dorothys new computer screen. If only Chet could
isolate the common denominator in those pasteboard cubes, he might get
Then, again, boxes
could be made from metal as evidenced by footlockers, stuff boxes, and junction
boxes, or from plastic as made manifest by modular and stackable storage boxes,
bins for fabric, and Vanlife carryalls. Perhaps, the answer was not what a box
could hold, but when a box could be considered a holder. Maybe, he still had a
shot at winning.
fiberboard, the advertiser thought about wooden chess boxes, wine crates, and
pallet-styled containers. He mused over ammunition boxes, international
shipping containers, and safes. Additionally, Chet brought to mind jewelry
boxes, cigar boxes, cigarette packs, braille cartons, five-panel wraps, and
trinket boxes made from blown glass. He was so absorbed in his mentations that
he missed his stop, had to deboard, to reboard and then reapproach his
In the office, he
deconstructed his visualizations but remembered that his boss had said plain
boxes. Plain would have to be his pivot. Chet responded to a few
emails in his inbox, opened yesterdays UPS box, which did, indeed contain
a prototype of Gee Whizs latest party hat and then tapped some keys that
enabled him to research the Acme Corporation. Laughing, he wondered why he
hadnt thought of investigating the organization earlier.
Pet carriers! His
submission would have to include small, portable cages used for ferrets, guinea
pigs and more common pets. Afterall, Acme advertised on its website that
quality is our number one dream and bringing small critters to
their medical appointments while remaining unscathed was a fantasy. Chet had
the scars to prove it.
He shook his head.
Short weeks earlier, he had been so worried about Rutherford when the wee
hedgie had caught a virus that he could think of nothing else. Now that the
episode was behind him, he had dismissed all thoughts of animal transport. Yet,
conveying creatures with spiney protuberances, with claws, and with teeth was
exactly the sort of plain, yet necessary, use for a box that might win him a
promotion. Ignoring the rest of his email, his binging smartphone, and the
ongoing, odd silence in the office, he wrote up a campaign for Acme.
At home, Chet
watched Dorothy fold Addisons pants and shirts on their dining room
table. Usually, his wife just towered their daughters miniature socks on
his nightstand and stashed their fading bath towels on a sheet on their living
room floor. Their pets appreciated those temporary nest of warm, soft fabric.
Essentially, it was abnormal for her to be operating on a clean, raised surface
when sorting clothing.
Dorothy was neither complaining about nausea nor throwing verbal grenades at
him. Contrariwise, she was humming some riffs and strumming them on her
up, Chet tendered. He shrugged his shoulders toward his chest and was
about to raise his arm to block his head when he noticed his spouses
beatific smile. Dorothy might lob more than words.
Nancy Lynns mom and Nancy Lynn took Addison to the park. Mr. Henry
coughed up three hairballs. Rutherfords sleeping under the refrigerator
and Withersmith is under our bed. I made varenikis and okrashka for dinner. Oh,
and your boss called and said something about giving you a promotion.