A snowflake was allegedly spotted 30 miles southeast of our city, so we’re on DEFCON 1 around here. Schools and a lot of business are closed. Since we humans no longer have to worry much about saber-toothed tigers or the Bubonic plague, I think we’re secretly excited about the dangers of puffy snow. But what do I know?
I stopped by the grocery store to get some yogurt for work this morning. I noticed the cheese section was wiped out. So was the toilet paper section. It would seem much of one would eliminate the need for much of the other, but again, what do I know?
Time to conjure warm memories.
Several years ago on a humid Saturday in late July: The air was so hot mosquitoes were spontaneously combusting in mid-flight. I did not want to go outside, but I had to. Those food scraps weren’t going to walk out to the compost pen by themselves. I’m a man, and that’s what men are for. No matter how hot it gets. No matter how much sweat may trickle down a man’s forehead into his eyes, he has to take the heat.
The compost pen is out by our garage near the back alley. It’s scary out there near the alley, because of things a man may see that he can’t un-see. Things like bugs and maybe a vicious squirrel or two. A man never knows.
I took the banana and apple peels out to the compost, the scalding ground burning the soles of my Nikes as I strode. When I arrived, I saw something against the back fence I did not expect to see and never want to see again. A man, no matter how tough he may be, never wants to see that. No, not that.
It was a grungy blue vinyl suitcase. Not a particularly large suitcase. Not very small either. Like something you’d take on a trip if you’re only going to stay over one night, but want to pack an extra change of clothes in case you go to the Spaghetti Factory for dinner and accidentally spill sauce on your chinos and you don’t want to wear your return-home pants two days in a row. Something about that size. But then, if you’re carrying around a suitcase that dirty, perhaps a little Prego on your khakis is not such a big issue.
I approached the mysterious blue suitcase with trepidation. I lifted it. It contained something a bit heavy. I don’t mean heavy in an emotional sense like a Nicholas Sparks novel about someone who falls in love the same day they learn they have a terminal illness, but heavy weight-wise. Its heft filled me with dread. I could imagine it contained a severed appendage, maybe a head, or stolen drugs. I could imagine nothing good. But a man, the kind of tough individual who takes table scraps to the compost pen on a 98-degree summer day, has to do what he has to do. I slowly unzipped the suitcase, my eyes all but closed as though that would make it easier to see what I was about to see. Oh, the humanity. I did not expect to see that.
I looked around and detected nothing but quiet. Even the squirrels had stopped chittering. I decided the smart option was to do nothing. I re-zipped the suitcase and left it where it was next to the back fence of our yard. I returned to the coolness of the house. I sat in the den as the 43rd rerun of a Lenny Briscoe Law & Order episode droned on the television. No more than fifteen minutes passed before I could no longer resist. Forget Lenny. I had my own mystery to solve. I had to go back out there, no matter the risk, no matter the danger, and open that suitcase one more time. Burning questions needed answers. What? Who? Why Colgate? Why not Oral-B?
I would not get my answers. The suitcase was gone.
Somewhere in the distance, a dog howled.
I have my theories about the suitcase and its owner, but what is your theory? If you think someone walking through the alley could have grabbed it, that’s possible. But it would have been hard to see over or through the back fence because of all the bushes. I gotta trim those.