By Megan Kenley
“Don’t open it.”
That’s what she gone and told me before running off into the night like a bat out of hell. “Keep it locked, and don’t open it.”
A lot of good advice that was, considering I don’t got no key. Plus, who did she think she was anyway, waking a man at three in the morning?
To be fair, I supposed she probably didn’t see me at first. It was a cold night and I was wrapped up in all them newspapers tighter than a rat bound up in a boa snake. But I was off in the alley and everything, clearly out of the way. I was just minding my own business, and trying to get a good nap in. Then she goes and wakes me, shoves this thing in my gut—tells me something that ain’t no use to me—and then goes sprinting back out on to the road as if she got a whole troop of New York’s finest trailing at her heels or something.
Next morning, I tried to open it.
You’d have thought it wouldn’t have been all that hard to open, even without a key, but it was stuck like glue. It wasn’t all that big, just a box, kind of fancy-like, with all them little circles etched in it. I thought it might be worth something, at least a lite beer. But old Connelly at the pawn shop said if it ain’t gonna open, it ain’t worth a dime. I tried to barter with him but, in the end, I left the shop in a huff, having said a few choice words and showing old Connelly my favorite finger.
I don’t know why I didn’t end up just chucking the thing then and there. It wasn’t no use to me. But I kept thinking Miss “flight-in-the-night” would end up coming back for it and if she was happy I hadn’t ended up opening it—only because I couldn’t—then maybe she’d give this old bum a reward. I’d been itching for a Big Mac for a while.
I don’t keep track of time—no use to it. So I ain’t quite sure when it was that the guy in the suit came looking for the box. All I know is he must have had some sort of tracking doohickey to have found me. It was colder than my rear end sitting on an iceberg outside, so me and some other fellas headed down into the train tunnels, hoping to stay a little warmer. Them tunnels go on for miles, so you ain’t never gonna find what you’re looking for, unless you know where to look.
I had my box securely under my rear—on account ‘o it makes for a good seat when the ground is all froze up. All the other fellas were huddled around me by the fire barrel, when my buddy Rob came running to tell us that it looked like the boys in blue was coming our way.
Sometimes them coppers don’t like us squatters all that much and—despite what you may hear—we ain’t ever looking for trouble. So we all packed up and scooted out of our tunnel lickety-split. I’d gone off toward 42nd street, following the wall close to the tracks. I had hoped to get lost in the crowds at Times Square.
Right then, a train flew by on the tracks. I stopped for just a second as the subway windows lit up the tunnel in dizzying flashes of color. That’s when I saw the shadow of a giant-tall man standing behind me. It near scared me to death. I yelled out and fell backward, then scrambled up from the ground. I waited for the train to pass before saying, in my most respectful voice, “Evening there officer. I was just scooting on out of here, so you don’t need to go worrying about me.”
“Where’s the box?”
“Say what now?”
I knew what box he must a meant—I only got just the one—but I couldn’t figure how he knew I had it. It was currently tucked up under my arm, and I shifted it a little to make sure I had a tight hold on it. “Not sure what box you mean, sir.” I said. “I only got the rags on my back and my—”
“Give me the box.”
“Alright,” I said slowly, figuring the gig was up and somebody must of told him I had it. “Okay, but how much you gonna give me for it?”
The man didn’t answer so, thinking myself quite the smooth talker and assuming his silence was him deliberating, I kept on going. “Suppose you must have the key then, yah? Bet this is quite important to yah. So . . . how about 50 bucks?”
Well, that’s about the moment he pulled out his gun. Now, I ain’t no fool. I knew right then and there negotiations were over, so I turned-tail and ran for it. I made it to Times Square, jumped across the tracks and scrambled up onto the platform. A lot of people yelled at me for knocking them over and such, but I just wanted out of there. My life was at stake. And all for a stupid box, a box that I—for one silly reason or another—was still holding on to.
Well, I fixed that mistake awful quick. Ahead of me was a backpack, a small, pink one that was open at the top. I dropped that box in there faster than a broiling hot potato. No amount of a comfy tush was worth being shot at and killed.
After ridding myself of that box, I ran up the stairs of the metro station like a freak’n gazelle and sprinted along past the crowds of the square as fast as my old frame could manage. I had nearly reached 50th street, and thought maybe I could make it to The Park and hide out there, when he stepped out in front of me. Just like that, like he’d appeared out of nowhere—his suit still nice and straight too, like he hadn’t even run.
I tried to sprint off in the other direction, but he grabbed me tighter than any thug I ever met and pulled me right up off my feet so that we was nose to nose.
“The box.” He said. “Give it to me now.”
“I don’t got it!” I yelled, putting my hands up over my face. “I was just kidding, I was only pulling your leg. I don’t have no box, don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Something I said must have done it. After a few seconds, he dropped me on the ground in a heap and, by the time I’d scrambled up onto my feet, he’d gone.
Lord knows I ain’t been much of a prayer in my day. If I went to church, I’d probably be in one of them confessional booths admitting all my sins to a priest right now, because there ain’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about that box and the little pink backpack I put it in. I don’t know what kid owned that pack. All I know is I probably put that child in a world of hurt, and I hate to think of the day when the man in the suit comes looking for his box.
Megan Kenley is a fiction writer from Anchorage, Alaska. She has loved telling stories from a young age, and grew up to a career in advertising, where she tells stories of products for a living. Megan has one published work, a short story that can be found in TM Magazine. She is in the midst of publishing a fiction novel.