Life in Possum Holler

Saline County, Arkansas, United States
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07 January 2005

Spring Cleaning

She placed his inert body into the box. But he was an awfully tall man, probably wouldn’t fit even into a refrigerator box. OK, a packing crate. One of those old-fashioned ones you only see in the movies, with rough pine slats. Like you’d do up a treasured objet d’art that needed to be transported across the world to a museum. She put him in the crate and surrounded him with those ubiquitous packing peanuts. No, everything would shift too easily; how about encasing him in those molded Styrofoam forms, like they ship DVD players in? They would, of course, have to be specially made to fit his exact dimensions, but she elided over that part. She laid the packet of his love letters right on top in lieu of a rose or some other traditional embellishment.

All packed up. Then she discovered it was a kind of visceral pleasure to nail the crate shut. Yes, much better than enveloping a cardboard box with strapping tape. And, for good measure, she cinched up the box in those strips of some type of dark metal, to hold the whole thing securely. And, finally, she added a sturdy padlock to secure the cargo from accidental opening.

She paused a minute as she heard the whoosh of the door open and the tread of the nurse checking on her. She laid there as naturally as she could, giving the appearance of deep sleep. Which, in actuality would have been difficult to achieve with that light from the hallway penetrating into her room. But satisfied as to her health and safety, the man left and the darkness returned.

Now what? OK—a moving company with about six burly men to cart the whole thing out to their truck. Filling out the shipping forms to . . . where? Ottawa, Canada, sounded pretty good. No—there would probably be trouble trying to get the crate through some kind of customs check. In her research, she’d come across a place called Minnetonka Mills, Minnesota. She had no idea what it was like there, but it sounded far away and like a good place to store something long-term. She visualized herself filling out the paperwork to make it so.

She heard the rattle of the meal carts approaching. Soon someone would come in and force a beginning to her day with a breakfast tray and then meds. She’d have to hurry through the rest of the process.

With the shipping crate out the door and onto the truck, she pictured the end of its journey, stashed in a long-term storage unit up there in cold, cold Minnetonka Mills. She briefly held a mental image of huge snowdrifts piled against the storage unit’s door, making her crate cold, isolated, and secure in the murky depths of an anonymous unit in Minnetonka Mills. Somewhere it could be forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind.

She held the padlock key in her hand. Standing on a bridge spanning the Mississippi River, she drew her arm back to toss the key into the roiling muddy waters. But at the last minute, she hesitated, and, trying not to think too much, she instead stuck it into the bottom of her jewelry box. You never know.

Copyright 2005 Carolyn Earle Billingsley

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