Story time today, kids! It’s the beginning of a tale that I don’t know how to finish (or continue) just yet. Plenty of unanswered questions with this one. But hey, I’m putting it out there anyway. Welcome to the creative process!
The Man With The Box – Part I
He walked into a town that had more churches than sense. The type of place that city dwellers call “quaint”… until they have to live there. Then it immediately becomes ramshackle and frustratingly archaic. It was like walking into a Normal Rockwell painting of a soda fountain and seeing, sitting just outside the frame, a black man sitting in the “negro section” at the counter. Yeah, real quaint.
He’d see a hundred towns like this and surely this one would be no different. He walked down the dusty, deserted main street, rucksack on his shoulder, the black box under his arm where it always was. It had been nestled there for so long he actually had permanent indentations on his upper arm and torso.
The open door of a little diner beckoned. Its open sign flickered with age. As he walked in and settled at a table, a large bald man in an apron stained with years of meals sidled up with a big smile and said, “Hey Stranger! Haven’t seen you in these parts before! Passing through or staying awhile?”
“I’d like two eggs, over easy, hash browns, and a black coffee.”
The proprietor’s smile dropped a little. “Ah, ok. Not much of a talker then. Eggs, hash, and coffee coming right up.”
He sat the box on the table and just stared at it. Wished he’d never found it. But somehow proud to be the recipient.
A few minutes later the proprietor arrived with his food. “Enjoy, friend! Appreciate your patronage. Not a lot of traffic around here, as you can see.”
He just glanced up and nodded at him, then dug into his food. It was typical greasy spoon fare. But that hits the spot when you’re hungry. He finished, threw a twenty of the table and stood up, grabbing the box and nestling it back in its place under his arm. “Is there a motel in this town?” he asked.
“Sure is, friend. It’s called the Bayside Inn and it’s over on 3rd. Go left out the door, walk up on block, and hang another left. Tell Sally at the desk that Bill sent ya.”
“Thanks,” he said, walking out the door and wondering why anyone would name a place the Bayside Inn when there isn’t a body of water within a hundred miles of this place.
The Bayside Inn was a sketchy little dove of a motel. Peeling pink and beige paint. The stairs to the second level looked like nothing a sane human would tread upon. In a larger town it would be the hideaway for drug pushers and hookers. But he didn’t figure this town had a big enough population to people a whole motel with either of those characters.
He entered the office and spotted a lady who must have been Sally. “I need a room.” Sally glanced up, mildly startled that an actual customer had come in. She wasn’t aware of anyone in town having a wedding this week, so no relatives coming into town.
“Of course, sir. Smoking or non?”
“Non.” He glances out the window at those stairs again. “Make it on the first floor too.”
Here’s some questions I need to answer…
What’s in the box?
Where did the box come from?
Why does he have it?
Why is he walking?
Why does he dislike small towns so much?