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The Mystery Box

Time Sensitive Delivery

By Andrea Corwin Published 2 months ago 14 min read
2
The Mystery Box
Photo by Dose Media on Unsplash

Halloween

The kids would be trick or treating as soon as the sun went down, and she had a huge bowl on small candy bars to hand out. She had decorated her yard with a skeleton that moved and yelled at movement near it. One of her hand-knit muffler scarves in orange and black adorned its neck and waved in the breeze; its long fingers pointed regularly in various directions as it screamed. Beverly was making up her face to be a ghoul with blood running from her eyes when she heard a strange noise. She checked the time - three o’clock. She looked out the bedroom window and saw rusty colored oak leaves swirling in the street. Her neighbor Anne Marie was shutting her curbside mailbox. Seeing Bev in the window, she raised her hand to wave, but suddenly froze, and stared across the street at Beverly’s yard. Confused, Bev went downstairs and out onto her porch. The skeleton was shrieking and waving its arms. A white drone with a black spider on its back was lifting off her front walk, having gently made its delivery. Human-like, seemingly observing Beverly, it hovered. She looked at the drone, then the package, impressed at the careful delivery. Swooping low over the box, its rotor let out a squeal and spun hard around and around. Now that it had Beverly’s undivided attention, it rose again and moved slowly toward her, showing two painted on eyes circled in red. It snapped a photo of Beverly in lieu of a signature, tipped to its side as if to say ‘bye,’ then skimmed quickly along the treetops following the footprint of the residential street. Beverly saw her name and address in bold black seven-inch letters on a heavy-duty corrugated packing box. Along its bottom edge were ten-inch dark red letters: L - A - EXPEDITE. Ensure recipient home. TIME SENSITIVE. DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED.

Eugene

Beverly woke early and went for a walk in the Spring slush. She reveled in the cold, the wind turning her cheeks bright pink until she had to pull a scarf across her lips and nose. She found an alcove with a bench, out of the wind, and reviewed photos of Lenny on her phone. Lenny with Penny; Lenny with her; Lenny with her and Tim. A shadow fell across her and she looked up to see a very bent over and extremely elderly man peering down at her. He obviously had osteoporosis and would forever more walk with his head bent downward. He smiled at her, and she notice he had white straight teeth and dangerously flirtatious dimples. She was sure he had been a ladies’ man in his time; she guessed he was about eighty years old.

“Hello, Young Lady! Beautiful brisk morning! May I join you?” She nodded, grinning at him. He spread a small microfiber blanket onto the bench and plopped down beside her. He was eye to eye with her. “What do you have there?” he motioned toward her phone. She hesitated, then showed him a photo of her and Lenny. “Oh, he is so handsome!”

“Was,” she said, putting her phone in her pocked.

“I see. Well, we were all handsome or beautiful at some point in our lives, I suppose, or at least seemed so to someone. I’m sorry Lenny now is a was.” She looked at him questioningly. Frowning, Bev asked, “What do you mean?”

“Well, was is past tense, but you have him present tense, there in your phone. So, Lenny is presently here, is he not?” She stared at this old guy, not knowing what to think or how to answer. His words dug into her heart and gut; they seeped upward into her brain. She jumped to her feet. “YES, YES, YES!” she cried out, her arms stretched wide. “Wait. Who ARE you?”

He smiled and patted the bench beside him. “My Ruthie is present also. I talk to her every day, and we have breakfast and dinner together. Life is too short to live in sadness. Make your happiness, and live in the present. Oh goodness, I’ve stayed out too long, I’m afraid. I’m getting chilled so now I need to head home. I live at 8889 Circle Avenue if you ever want to drop by. Eugene is my name. Bye!”

By Danny Lines on Unsplash

She watched him walk away; his head bent downward toward the sidewalk. As he crossed the street, his head pivoted sideways to watch for cars. “Bye Eugene!” she called out and he raised a hand in acknowledgment.

Tim

“So how are you, Beverly? That was a horrible situation Thursday night. I am so sorry about Lenny.” She just stared at her friend. He was a co-worker, but he was also a caring friend and when she called him sobbing that Lenny was sick, he was at her house within an hour. He helped her get Lenny in for emergency services and stayed in her guest room. On Friday, the notice came via phone that Lenny had died in the night.

Beverly’s eyes filled until one enormous tear rolled out of her right eye like a clear pearl; he watched as it plopped into the foam of her cappuccino, making a dent the size of a nickel. Tim scooted his chair next to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders as they began to shake with her quiet sobs. He squeezed her shoulder again and again until she quieted, then he pushed her hair behind her ear, resting his head against hers. Their fries were cold now and the waiter brought a large platter of fresh ones and a steaming pot of Pu-erh tea, gently touching Beverly’s hand. Tim texted their supervisor to say they would be late coming back from lunch.

Fifty minutes later, having eaten some fries, part of their egg salad sandwiches, and having drank the soothing tea, the two of them finished the afternoon at their desks. Tim kept glancing at his friend, seeing her red nose, swollen and red rimmed eyes, and listening to her labored breathing. The stress due to the melancholy of her memories was causing her extreme distress.

At five o’clock Tim was standing at Beverly’s desk. “I’m going to walk you to the station, if that’s OK?” She nodded and gave him a weak smile, feeling the burden of only one workday down with four to go. When they arrived at the metro station, he took her elbow and veered her to a cocktail stand-up bar. “We’ll have 2 Triple Chocolate Shots,” he told the bartender, slapping a twenty-dollar bill on the counter.

They propped their feet on the brass boot bar, silently watching the bartender shake cocktails and do high slow pours. He grabbed the twenty when he pushed the drinks to them, winking at Beverly, who didn’t notice. Tim picked up the glasses and handed one to her. “OK, Bev, this is for Lenny.” They clinked glasses and in unison said, “To Lenny,” downing the large shots. The bartender set two more of the same in front of them, which they sipped while scrolling through photos on Tim’s phone.

“Thanks, Tim, I needed that, you are so sweet.” She kissed his cheek and walked away in silence, Tim’s eyes following her. “Call me if you need anything,” he yelled out to her, and she waved in response.

8889 Circle Avenue

Beverly decided today was the day she would see where Eugene lived. She backed her Chevy out of the garage and programmed Eugene’s address into her WAZE app. As she drove, she found it strange that Eugene would have been on her street. She had already driven four miles and had another quarter mile to get to his house. The houses were getting larger and larger; all were huge dark brown brick homes with massive front porches, long tall hedges, perfectly painted shutters on the dormer windows, and large two, or three-car detached garages.

“Ah, there it is. 8889 Circle Avenue,” she said out loud. Eugene’s house had beautiful paned and beveled-edge glass windows; this portion obviously a sunroom, it stretched to the left of the front door, pale pink lace cap hydrangeas like fingers framing the windows. His front porch had paver steps and a swing with colorful thick cushions in vibrant paisley. The garage, with a visible apartment above it was situated at the end of the long driveway, behind and slightly to the left of the house. Sheer curtains adorned the brick home’s dormer windows, and the attached flower boxes were filled with cherry blossom ivy geraniums and white trailing bacopa.

Beverly had no intention of knocking on the door; she just wanted to see where this kind old man lived. As she began to drive away, her phone rang. Caller unknown. “Unknown – not in contacts, not answering,” she told herself.

Yet, she was drawn to answer it. “Hello?” she said into the cell phone. “Beverly! It’s Eugene. Park your automobile and come in! I see you out there, young lady. Don’t you dare drive away.”

She knocked on his door and was greeted by a woman in her fifties wearing a full-length pink apron. Eugene was sitting in the front room with a China teapot, matching cups, and sugar cookies displayed beautifully on a hand-painted China plate. “I’m so glad you came by Beverly.” A smile lit his entire face.

“Eugene, how did you know I would be here today? I mean, you have cookies and tea and all? Wait! HOW did you know my cell number?” He grinned at her.

“I know a lot of things. I’m very old, remember? Just have tea with me and let’s visit and not worry about unimportant things today. This is Thursday. What will you do on Friday, Saturday and Sunday?” Beverly savored the tea, and he said it was white peony, Ruthie’s favorite. He explained the housekeeper had made the cookies and told her he knew yesterday she would be stopping by on Thursday.

Beverly’s mouth fell open. “I was taught it is not polite to have your mouth open with food in it, Dear,” he gently advised her. She snapped her jaw together, cheeks reddening. This old codger was something else – the nerve of him! She opened her mouth to give a snappy retort, but nothing came out (she really, really liked him). He wagged a gnarled finger at her in warning about her full mouth. She jumped up and turned her back on him, trying to collect her thoughts. The housekeeper glided silently into the room to offer a dinner invitation, but Beverly declined.

“Well, all right. Maybe next week or the week after, huh?” Eugene smiled gently at Beverly, eyebrows raised. When she looked at him, he winked at her, and she burst out laughing. “You are a flirt, Eugene! I would love to come to dinner sometime, but only if you also will let me cook dinner for you.”

As the months passed, Beverly, Tim, and Eugene had many dinners together, alternating homes and restaurants. The three of them enjoyed these dinners, exchanging tales of their lives; Eugene mesmerizing the younger two with his eighty-eight years of experiences.

Eugene went on a trip to visit a niece in Indiana, and Tim and Beverly had not seen him since the end of September.

The Box

Halloween day

A drone dropped off a box; Beverly wondered if it is a Halloween trick.

The box was substantial with an attached manila envelope addressed: “To My Dearest Beverly, from Your Buddy Eugene.” Beverly ripped it open. There was a photo of Eugene with his niece Fiona holding her cat. Inside was a memorial card. A sob burst from her.

“In memoriam of Eugene S. Alberts, born October 10, 1921, in Joliet, Illinois, and passed from this Earth on October 10, 2010, in Chesterton, Indiana. His dear wife of forty-nine years, Ruthie, pre-deceased him in 2000.

Eugene and Ruthie had four sons and one daughter. James, William and Lyle died in the Vietnam War, and Brian died in infancy. Diana, their daughter, died in a ski accident in Vail, Colorado in 1975.

Eugene was an inventor and held over seventy patents. Ruthie was a pediatrician and saw patients until her death (age of seventy-two). Eugene and Ruthie were philanthropists. They were patrons of the Chicagoland Feline Rescue, and of Alley Cat Allies. In honor of their work, please rescue a cat, or a dog, but preferably a cat. Eugene insists you spay or neuter the cat and keep it indoors! He was a firm believer in adopting pets, not buying or breeding them.”

Beverly sat on the lawn, sobbing, shoulders heaving with the impact of this news. Tim pulled up in his car. How did he know?

In seconds he was kneeling beside her. “I got a note delivered by a drone to the hood of my car! Oh, Honey, come here, come here Baby,” and he pulled her into his arms. They sat there by the box, in the grass, Anne Marie watching the scene from across the street.

“Say, Bev? Bev!” Anne Marie called. Tim looked across the street, eyebrows raised. “The box. Is it moving? What’s going on Bev, why are you crying? Shouldn’t you open the box??”

Tim used his pen knife and slit the tape on the box carefully. Suddenly an orange furry paw grabbed the top edge of the carton with one claw. Tim grabbed the other side of carton and yanked it open. Inside was a two or three-month-old orange kitten mewing and blinking at Tim. The kitty had a perfectly sized collar with letters spelling out Theo. Beneath Theo was a pad and as Tim lifted Leo out, he discovered beneath the pad was a plastic protector holding a handwritten note.

Beverly picked up the note. “It’s Eugene’s handwriting.” She sobbed.

Beverly and Tim: You two were my best friends for all my life, excluding Ruthie. I know we only met recently, but hearing your stories, as well as you both so kindly listening to mine, was the best gift anyone has given me. I’m sorry to leave you this way, but Bev, remember the present! No, not Theo, LOL (I learned LOL from you guys, remember?), although he IS a present. Now I am speaking of time, meaning the time is now, as in present tense. Theo is not a replacement for Lenny, but he will fill your heart, and in a different way. He is the son of Fiona’s cat. When he looked at me, I saw Lenny’s photo, so essentially Lenny sent him to be with you. I almost forgot...my housekeeper Lillyanne wants to be your housekeeper and help with Theo. Don’t say no. Her salary is paid for her until she chooses to retire. I also need to let you know that I have left you my house. My lawyer and Fiona will be coming to see you. Maybe when you and Tim acknowledge that you are a couple, he might want to live there with you. I love you both. Take care of each other and Theo.

Eugene

December 2010

Bev had not made any changes to the inherited house; she and Tim loved it just as it was. Ruthie had exquisite taste in everything. The furnishings, draperies, dishes, linens, glassware had all been selected with the highest quality and ambience in mind. The home was comfy, classy and cozy. Beverly had moved in and stayed for six months, then sold her house. Tim moved in two months later. They were married in the sunroom, had a catered reception in the backyard, arranged and paid by Fiona (her joint account with Eugene).

2015

Four-month-old fraternal twins Eugenie and Ty slept soundly, swaddled in the crib in the sunroom.

Bev was talking with Fiona and Milton, the Alberts family attorney. Fifteen months after their wedding the twins were born. Fiona sat next to the crib, touching it gently every few minutes to keep it in motion. Lillyanne, Eugene’s former housekeeper brought some coffee, tea and snacks.

“Beverly, Eugene’s estate is finalized now. You have the house, but I'm here to explain your babies also are covered under the estate’s provisions and their education will be covered. A subsequent trust has been created to which they will have access upon reaching the age of twenty-nine.” Beverly’s mouth fell open, but Milton held up a hand to stop any interruptions. “Fiona is the trustee, and her legal advice will always be available to your family.”

Tim walked in, kissed Bev and took a seat next to her, waving silently at Fiona. “Tim, you missed what I just said,” Milton told him.

“No, I heard, and that is very generous, but Eugene died five years ago. We weren’t married, we didn’t have children, I’m now senior VP…” he was interrupted. “None of that is relevant, Tim. Eugene was very clear in his instructions and took all variables into account. Fiona, do you have anything to add, Dear?”

“Nope. Oh, wait a second. Bev, did I ever tell you how Uncle Gene found out your cell number?” Beverly leaned forward, all ears.

Mystery
2

About the Creator

Andrea Corwin

Leo obsessed with saving African wildlife. Passionate about environmental issues and healthy living. Love a great cup of coffee or bar of dark chocolate. If I’m not traveling the world, you’ll find me on Twitter.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (1)

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  • Laurie Meyer2 months ago

    Love this story…I want to know how Eugene got the cell number!

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