From my basement, I unearthed a collection of small containers. I carried them into the sunlight, a mound of dirty boxes set at your feet. Unlikely seen as gifts, imagine my surprise! Body washed in water dipped from your waves. We fitted into the nightwhorl of a seashell, our(more) tattered packages ornamenting the crescent moon tips.(less)
The yellow house on the corner used to contain a woman who yelled at the top of her lungs, at 5:30 in the morning. I often heard her when I went out for my early morning run. She would stand on her porch and yell incomprehensible things, usually of(more) an accusatory nature. I knew she wasn't yelling at me but still I ran by quickly.
She also created collages, and taped them to the mail boxes and fir tree in the yard. There were colorful ads cut from glossy magazines, and editorial comments were sometimes added, having nothing to do with the pictures. Sometimes there were no photos, just pages of notebook paper with rambling thoughts pasted up for passersby to read.
One day all of her possessions were put outside in front of the house where the trash and recyling bins are usually left. The woman is gone. Dead? Tranked up in a mental institution? Who knows. But her things were out in the rain, getting wet, forlorn. Did this woman have a family? Did her landlord just get tired?
The day after the boxes appeared, someone covered them with clear plastic. I guess some neighbor took pity on the woman. Imagine your life reduced to a pile of soggy boxes in the rain. I felt sorry for her. She reminded me of my mother. I am sad that she's gone, even though her yelling made me nervous.
As soon as I stepped into the living room, I knew we had our man. Everything fit, textbook. And there, on the mantle, was a row of five little boxes. One for each victim.
In each one was a lock of hair. His fingerprints would be on the(more) boxes, no doubt; we couldn't stop congratulating ourselves.
We backed off, and settled in to wait. When he showed, his career would end. We waited... and we waited. Hours went by, and we confirmed that he had left work and boarded his usual bus. But he never showed. Then word came over that another attack had occurred, and the perpetrator had been interrupted and caught.
Part of the team reentered the house and began collecting evidence, and the rest of us headed back. We all wanted to be there for the interrogation. But when I walked into the room, I was dumbstruck. This wasn't our man. At least not the one I was planning on.
This other guys' DNA matched the crime scenes, though, and he reveled in recounting the details. It was a done deal. Case closed.
Except for those five little boxes. Each hair sample turned out to be the same, and they matched the fingerprints on the boxes. It all belonged to our original mystery man. And it was all we had of him. He never came back.
It was hard to justify time to track a missing person who never was reported missing, but I fit in a little here and there. Not that it went anywhere. He never showed up at his work again, not even to collect his final check. He never went back to the house. And I couldn't dig up any family. It was almost like he never was. Except for those little boxes.(less)