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The Box

By Matthew Cheney From Issue No. 1

Everything I kept in the box was dead. My fingers trolled the dust and mucus, seeking life, seeking what I had left there in the simple little box, a box far too ordinary to justify its ruby lock.

All dead: the mouse, the butterfly, the toad, the sparrow.

My husband said I shouldn’t have expected anything else. Put living things in a wooden box and of course they’ll die.

Of course.

They’ll die.

He doesn’t understand the power of prayer and desire. I tried to fit him in the box—I hacked off his limbs with the saw from the garage, I sliced his stomach open with a kitchen knife (a wedding gift, now that I think of it), I peeled off his face and ground his bones into dust and emptied his veins. I snipped off his penis and testicles with scissors from his desk, then trimmed his fingernails and toenails and hair. Only little bits of him would fit in the box.

I closed the lid and locked it.

I threw the rest of him into the yard for the crows and coyotes to take away.

A week later, he was sitting in the yard, naked, sucking on his thumb, a sparrow resting on his shoulder, a butterfly perched on his elbow and flicking its wings, a toad hiding between his legs, a mouse nibbling his toes.

“You should come inside,” I said.

“No,” he said. “There’s better air out here.”

About Matthew Cheney More From Issue No. 1