I’m not a great story teller. I can’t weave stories the way some people do, effortlessly. But yeah, I dream stories. Whatever few stories I’ve written happened in my dreams. ‘The Box’ is a personal favourite, perhaps because it was the first story that I wrote.
Little Myra was the first one to see it in the morning. It lay there in its entire splendour, a beautiful silver box with a big blue bow on top. She screamed in delight. It was the most beautiful box that she had ever seen. Her howls brought in a rush of footsteps towards the room. Soon there was a small motley of people in the room. The elders were amused and the young ones were awestruck. They all had the same questions in mind, how, when and from where had the box come? No one dared to touch the box. It was then that grandpa Matthew, the head of the family took charge. With slow measured steps he proceeded towards the table, reached the box and touched its bow. The bow could not be untied rather it acted as a handle to open the lid. Everyone held their breath in anticipation. Grandpa Matthew opened the box. A paper lay inside the box with just two words printed on it “Confession Box”.
The elders lost interest and soon went away to busy themselves with their businesses. Only the children remained with their grandpa, Matthew. They adored him for he was the only adult in the house who had a patient ear for all their fancies and fears. He was that old Santa without the white beard who was always there to fulfil their wishes which the other elders had no time to do. The children were keen to know what the words meant and why the elders had lost interest all of a sudden. Once they understood what it was, they too lost their interest and went away. The box lay there – abandoned, as if it had lost its existence.
Days passed by and no one noticed the box. It just lay there in its lost glory unwanted, uncared for. It was Toby, the eldest of the lot whose conscience had been pricking at him. He suffered terrible stomach ache because he ate the whole tin of cookies without sharing a single one with anyone. He had to maintain silence since his act had gone unnoticed and unpunished. When he could not take it anymore, he simply wrote about his deed and put it in the box that had appeared mysteriously. To his surprise he found the same tin of cookies near the box, the next day, with a paper inside it which read, “Share It”.
A few days later Felix wrote about how he stole a few marbles, was banned by his friends and could not bear the loneliness. He got a few marbles in the box and a paper which read, “Return and Apologize”. When little Myra wrote sorry for pulling their pet dog’s tail, the box rewarded her with her favourite chocolate and told her, “Don’t Repeat”. Soon the box became the focal point of Grandpa Matthew’s grandchildren. Every few days one of them would write about something and the box would diligently reward, guide or instruct them. The box had become a guide for the children which was making them morally responsible.
The elders of the family treated the box with disdain. But when each child had a story to tell; they too became curious. Uncle Raymond, the eldest son of Grandpa Matthew had been incurring some losses in his business. He too tried the box and as usual the box did not let him down. It contained a little money and the suggestion, “Own Up, Learn & Move Ahead”. When Sarah, the youngest daughter in law and a new entrant in the family was unable to cope up with her other two sisters in law, she too sought refuge in the box.
The box did not disappoint her either. It was sympathetic to her problems and guided her to be patient, respectful and understanding. The message to her was, “I understand. Embrace the change!” And next to it was a gold knotted ring, symbolising love and friendship. Not many days passed when she started realising how loving and caring her other sisters in law were and how much they doted upon her. She did not feel left out or like an outsider any more. She was glad to have opened up to the box.
Soon enough, the box was advising the women of the house about love, unity, domesticity etc. The men of the house were relearning about life and the children about values. It guided everyone with the wisdom and understanding of an old matriarch, who was missing in the family. Every time someone put something in the box, it would help them, reward them and always suggest something in a short-printed message. The box had become more of a counsellor to all. Everyone was happy to have found a confidant and guide in that box, who would help and nobody ever thought of trying to find how the box acted on its own.
Tragedy struck the Matthew household all of a sudden. Grandpa Matthew slipped near the table which had the box on it. He had a nasty fall and everybody was worried about him. Days turned to weeks but he did not recover and finally succumbed to his injuries.
The box again went into oblivion. It was about a month since Grandpa Matthew’s death. The family was crawling back to normalcy. One day the family was seated together for dinner when Little Myra asked why the box had become silent. Everyone looked at her quizzically and she went on to explain how she put letters in the box and did not get any reply since the day Grandpa had taken that fall. The elders looked at each other, something had clicked. Uncle Raymond told Myra that the box would start doing so soon; after all he was the new head of the family!