The front door letter box rattled, and I heard a dull thud as something hit the mat. I rushed and picked up the small parcel. Turning it over a few times, I read my name and address, but there was no return address.
Inside the packet, I found a rectangular block of a polished piece of oak. There was no obvious lid, and I wondered if it was a musical box or a curiosity toy. I tried turning and twisting it. It seemed to be a solid wooden brick, so I gave it a shake, then dropped it onto the kitchen table. I drummed on it with by fingers and then knocked with my knuckles to see if it was hollow; I heard something shift inside.
‘Stop!’ shouted a voice. ‘Oh, please stop.’
I looked around. Did I just imagine the wood speak? I turned it over and tapped it on the table.
‘That’s enough,’ screamed the voice, then it whimpered. ‘Please help me.’
I gave it another good shake and put it down on the table, really not knowing what to expect.
‘Stop, stop, please just stop,’ it cried, ‘you’re making me dizzy.’
‘What’s going on?’ I said, looking around and out the window just in case I was being observed.
‘Please let me out.’
‘How?’ I felt ridiculous. ‘Where’s the lid?’ Some prankster was probably listening, and I played along. ‘If you tell me how to open it, then I’ll get you out.’ I wasn’t sure what the point of the joke was, or where it was leading to.
‘Once I am free,’ it said, ‘your every wish will come true.’
‘Ah! So, you are a Genie trapped in a box,’ I said, still sceptical and looking around for some trickster. ‘It’s just my imagination.’ I muttered.
‘Ah, very good,’ said the voice, ‘you are getting close.’
‘I’m going mad, I must be delirious,’ I felt a moment of rising panic. ‘I’ve no idea what’s happening here.’
‘Think, think of an idea. Use your imagination and soon, we will be free.’
‘We! Is there someone else with you?’
‘No. I mean us, you and me. Please, get those grey cells working, procrastination is not an option.’
I gave the shiny oak another good shake and heard it giggle. It started knocking from inside the wooden block.
‘Stop it. Please release me,’ it cried. ‘Remember, I am the secret to your future; your fortune.’
‘That’s it, I’m getting my saw,’
‘Wait!’ shouted the voice. ‘For a hundred years I’ve waited, but if you damage the wood, you destroy the spell. A curse will fall on anyone who damages this box. The secret to your future will be lost forever.’
‘Then how can I open it. Where is the catch to release a lid?’
‘Oh, why do you want to come into the box? Trust me, there is no way out.’
‘So, what is the secret to my future, tell me.’ I grabbed the box and shook it. ‘Tell me. I’ll get a chisel and split you.’
‘No use,’ the voice coughed. ‘Destroying me breaks your chance of any good fortune.’
‘This is ridiculous.’ I said, ‘I’ve no idea how to get you out.’ I was becoming frustrated and bored with the dilemma. Was I talking to myself again? It had been going on for weeks, and every day I struggled to maintain my sanity.
‘You know the answer,’ said the box, and it laughed. ‘Ha, ha. Time is running out. Find an idea. Think, just think.’
I sat for hours admiring the perfect sheen of the polished oak, and its dark and light hues along the grain. It would make a great paper weight or door stopper, but then it would mock me each time I looked at it. My future, my good fortune apparently my sanity, all depended on an idea of freeing the Genie trapped in a knotted wooden block. How ridiculous.
I threw the wood into the fire and watched as it burned; the flames were a crystal blue and dazzling white. I decided the responsibility for my future and fortune would be my making and independent from some magical idea trapped in a box.
That night I went to bed feeling frustrated and angry at my impatience for not solving the problem that may have freed the Genie. Would he really fulfil my fantasies and dreams? Perhaps it was a missed opportunity.
Regardless, I slept well and in the morning the rattle of the letter box woke me with a jolt. I fell out of bed and hit the floor with a dull thud on the carpet. I tried to get up, but knocked my head on a wooden ceiling. It was dark. I felt as if I was being carried and shaken, then I realised I was in a box.
Suddenly the answer to my future and fortune was clear; if only I was wise enough, if only I could “think outside the box”. Was it too late?
The wonderful Dale has given us a picture of a garlic string to stir our imagination and taste buds. I understand that the greatest benefit from garlic is to eat it raw in salads. Does anyone really eat the cloves raw?
Radiant with the beauty of eternal youth, Silvia enchanted a fluttering of men like lavender surrounded by buzzing bees. Four of her husbands died of broken hearts and the fifth during a moment of rampant ecstasy, and she howled pitiless that night. It was her curse to devour the passion from the souls of men.
In Vulcan, the women called her ‘She Wolf’ and fortified their homes with strings of garlic.
Late afternoons, wearing fine leather and furs, she would ride her sleek stallion to lure a lusting youth.
By midnight, her mourning and howling would haunt the mountain villages.
At first, Beryl laughed. It seemed harmless. She arrived home from work each evening to a cluttered kitchen.
Although, she was certain the place was spotless when she left in the morning.
This problem started soon after the accident. An inconsiderate driver had knocked her from her bicycle, and she spent the night in hospital with concussion. The doctor advised that her head injury may lead to confusion and disorientation: take it easy.
She took pictures of the kitchen and kept a diary; it was not her imagination!
She lived alone.
Did someone else stay in her flat?
Where are you 007?
Self-isolated with man flu, Mam.
Don’t be ridiculous Bond. I want you in London tonight.
M, is that an invitation?
Don’t be flippant, this is serious Bond. Miss Corona de Ville needs to be stopped.
The Queen of Oral Pharmacies?
Bond, I want you inside her organisation and get to the bottom of her plans.
Oh, Bond have you seen Miss Moneypenny? She’s missing.
After the virus, only the state sponsored selected elite could procreate, and placed under medical supervision to produce fully formed immune humans.
For us it was a crime.
I collapsed to my knees. Grace was in tears, her body shaking.
‘You’re pregnant?’ I whispered into her ear. She nodded.
‘My cousin said . . .’
‘Yes!’ I held her shoulders. ‘We must go.’
We knew about the family escapees hiding around the north lakes; hunters exterminated those captured on the spot.
That night we navigated our balloon in a northward storm and prayed for our future and unborn baby in the wilderness.
Habit is a strange thing.
I wake early, make hot Arabic with frothy milk, and enjoy the moment of solitude as the day begins. I watch Georgios arrive in his dinghy, there is a soft murmur from the water as it nudges against the pier.
I collect a box of red mullet, sardines, a whole tuna, a case of shrimp and a parcel.
I pay cash in US dollars.
My modest fish restaurant is popular; my customers devour the infused saffron dishes.
They leave feeling euphoric and lifted from their earlier depressive thoughts and so willingly pay my exorbitant prices.
When we were children, we would sit with our grandmother and gaze at the boats on the lake.
She would stitch away at her patchwork quilt and listen to our problems.
‘Remember,’ she once said. ‘Hitting people is wrong; although,’ she laughed.
‘A quick slap to make a point and a kick up the butt is good for lazy ne’er-do-wells.’
She shook her head and pointed at us. ‘Yea, they soon forget the pain and may even thank you.’
‘Whatever you do; don’t torment people.’ She wagged her finger. ‘Emotional scars don’t heal.’
She would never talk about Uncle John.
Grandfather died from the RAF bombing in Duisburg.
From his will, we owned the Einfamilienhaus; a ruinous shell in a wild garden.
We were delighted and began the renovation work with enthusiastic zest.
We found a painting in a secret room behind a wall. Imagine our good fortune.
“It’s a masterpiece,” the Kunthaus said. “Priceless and magnificent. Looted!”
And the skeletons?
Their descendants claimed the art and wanted retribution.
Were we to pay the price for our grandfather’s past?
Later, we discovered he had hidden and saved those poor people from transportation.
Why does thirst for revenge percolate through generations?
‘It’s in the cellar. Each flat has a storage cage.’
She moved the boxes and we squeezed past towards the piano.
Our noses touched. I felt her heat; she brushed against me to open the lid.
‘You should get it tuned.’
As I played “Liebestruam”, I felt her breath in my ear.
‘You play so perfectly.’
She wrapped herself onto me, her chin on my shoulder.
I played on; my knees quavered, my heart in tremolo and I ached for her.
Poco a poco, our breathing accelerando.
‘You must stay.’
We were strangers, in love with music.
Ci baciamo adagio.