The Missing BoxesA Story by Ken C.
An old man commits murder... and then convinces his neighbors that the body parts are leftover Halloween props.
When I was about"five or six, I guess"my father asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I said, A doctor.
He laughed and said, You can’t be a doctor, Calvin.
I asked why.
I think you are too clumsy to be a doctor, he said. You’d probably lose track of things, knowing how you are.
I started to cry. I said that I would go to doctor school and that they would teach me to not be clumsy.
He said that he was kidding and to stop crying.
I thought about this moment while I stood in the middle of a campground on a sweet afternoon. The first of November. Thick trees towered above me, surrounding me, shifting with the wind.
I held Ms. Jackson’s left leg in my hands. A sock was still clinging to the pale skin. Bright green with red dots on it. The toes pointed toward me. The rest of her was in a bloody pile sitting on a large fallen log to my right. Dead parts on dead parts.
I looked very closely at the leg in my hands and saw that she had very nice, large veins… at least in her left leg. I don’t know much else about the human body. I don’t really have much motivation to learn, not anymore. I just like to look.
I put down the leg and picked up the brain that I set on the tarp I had spread out on the picnic table. It was like a little rubbery monster with no eyes… or legs. I had left it out overnight.
Ms. Jackson. Everything she ever was, sitting in my hands. The size of a child’s foam football. I decided she would ride in the front seat with me. I put all of her other parts in the backseat of my car. I plunged my knives into the odd pile of flesh without thinking. They stuck up like little dark flagpoles.
I drove Ms. Jackson and all her parts home with me. It was still pretty light out by the time my car rolled into the driveway. The clock’s square numbers read 4:46. It was about five minutes fast. I didn’t want to wait until the middle of the night to clean out my car, like I normally did. I wondered if being an old fart made me less of a suspect. I looked down at my arm, still sitting in my car. It seemed to be more droopy than yesterday… and more wrinkley.
I got out. I slammed the door. I went inside and returned with a large black garbage bag. I rolled it out and shook it open. It made a loud noise, and a lady walking her dog across the street glanced over at me. I waved and smiled. She gave me a quick nod and kept walking.
I learned a long time ago that if I just smiled and waved, I could get away with a lot of things.
I opened the back door of my car. All the knives I had planted in Ms. Jackson’s flesh were still in place. I quickly began throwing the chunks of flesh into the bag. I had about half of the body taken care of when I heard footsteps approaching behind me. I didn’t move.
Calvin? said a female voice.
I turned around to face the voice. It was Elsie and Andrew that lived a few houses down. They had little red paint spots all over their clothes. They were holding hands and smiling.
I decided to act like nothing was out of the ordinary. Maybe if I just acted cool enough, they wouldn’t even notice.
Hey, I said.
Hi, said Elsie. It’s been a while since we’ve seen you. How are you?
I said, I’m doing pretty well. How about you guys?
Pretty good, said Andrew. We’ve been working around the house a lot lately. Today is kind of like our day off.
Oh really, I said. What have you been working on?
Everything! said Andrew. He laughed.
Been painting, as you can see, he said. He tugged at his shirt.
I like the color, I said.
Elsie suddenly made a face and pointed at the bloody mess in my backseat.
What is all that, Calvin? she asked.
S**t s**t s**t s**t s**t s**t s**t s**t s**t s**t s**t s**t s**t…
That’s, uh… some leftover Halloween props, I said. Genius. F*****g genius.
They looked impressed.
Really? Looks pretty real, said Elsie.
Yeah. I brought them to a friend’s house for a party, I said.
Cool, said Andrew.
Elsie slapped him on the shoulder. It’s not cool, she said. It’s gross.
I was feeling really great about that story I told them. The day after Halloween is the only day I could have pulled that off. I was very proud of myself.
I reached into the car and took out an arm. The entire hand was still there except for the pinky finger. The nails were painted bright green, and there was a matching plastic-looking ring on the middle finger. I held the limb out to them.
Touch it, I said with a smile.
Andrew immediately reached for it.
Cool, he said. Honey, feel it.
I don’t want to, said Elsie.
Come on, I said, bouncing the arm in front of her. Ms. Jackson’s hand flopped up and down.
Elsie felt one of the fingers and recoiled, smiling.
She said, Oh, gross! It feels so real.
I nodded. I said, I got the whole body set. It was pretty spendy. I’m just putting it away until next year.
Oh, said Andrew. His smile deflated a little. Why are you putting it in a bag? Didn’t it come in a box or something?
I said, I’m an old man, Andrew. You can’t expect me to keep track of the box.
Andrew said that Elsie probably had a box somewhere that would fit the body parts inside. She nodded, and invited me to their house. She said that it probably wouldn’t take long to find a good box.
I threw the rest of Ms. Jackson’s body into the bag. Andrew insisted on carrying it to their home. We walked past houses that still had Halloween decorations displayed; cartoon skeletons, badly-carved jack-o-lanterns, and plastic light-up monsters led the way. Andrew and Elsie had some fake cobwebs and large spiders spread across their lawn.
Andrew set down the bag in the entryway and went upstairs. Elsie quickly put out some crackers and homemade spread. I complimented her on the spread and on the color of the recently-painted walls.
Thank you, Elsie said. We also got some new hard-wood flooring. She gestured proudly at the floor.
I noticed. Real or fake? I said.
Really? It looks very real.
Andrew came back down with a box. He and I worked together, fitting the bits of Ms. Jackson into the box like we were packing a suitcase. When we were done, Andrew taped up the box and handed it to me.
Perfect, I said. Thank you, accomplice.
He laughed and said, Happy to help.
I carried Ms. Jackson home. I was very happy. My favorite part was that what everyone saw, even Andrew and Elsie, was just an old man carrying a box.
On the way to my backyard I grabbed Ms. Jackson’s brain from the front seat of my car with one hand. I went into my shed and found my shovel. I dug a giant hole in my backyard. It was getting pretty dark by the time I finished. The box and the brain looked so small inside, sitting inside a big dark brown circle surrounded by green grass that was close to Ms. Jackson’s favorite color. I buried her.
Next year I would say that this old man just can’t keep track of a box. I would shrug my shoulders and we would laugh. They might even help me find another box for another set of props.
© 2010 Ken C.