In keeping with Mapping the Edge tradition, we explore the creative process by lifting the veil on in-work projects.

I don’t like the draft of this story yet. I may never.

The inspiration came from my love of thrift stores. Most thrifts have large bins full of purses and bags. I always wonder why some stuff gets donated. It’s rarely driven by amount of use. Some items are new with tags still on. Others are well-worn and should have been trashed years before, not donated.

What stories would these items tell if they could speak? For the story below, I pictured an SUV backing up for a donation. I simply jumped in the back and rode it home, then wrote down what happened when I got there.

This is discovery writing, in that, I had no idea what I would find by plundering blindly through the story bin. It’s outlining, in that, having recently moved into an old house, I think the structure of the story may have been there on some psychological level before I wrote a word.

Ultimately, the story has nothing to do with a thrift store bin of inanimate objects. It’s about – well, just enjoy. Or not. No writing is in vain, even if I give up on it and donate the story to charity.

And don’t judge! We’ve all got skeletons…

–  –  –  –

The Things

Knocks eventually became fist pounds, but the loud music in the house continued.

A few off-rhythm thuds between musical beats eventually alerted Crucio to an unexpected guest at the front door.

Screams fought against music, then there was silence. Crucio checked the peep-hole and opened the door.

“If you’re a neighbor, I’m so sorry for the noise,” she said. “My son’s band is practicing downstairs. Lord knows they need it.”

“Actually, I’m –”

“I’m their manager,” Crucio interrupted. “Lately, all I’ve managed to do is give myself a headache.”

“Crucio?”

“Yes…”

“You don’t recognize me,” the man at the front door said. “I’m Emile. Emile from college.”

“Emile? Emile. Emile! Well how are you doing, my old roommate! It’s been so long! Come in. Come in!”

. . .

“So, Crucio” Emile said, now on his second cup of tea. “You seem to be doing well financially – what I mean is, I thought the downturn in the economy hit us all pretty hard, but…”Emile glanced around the house then continued. “You deflected the glancing blow, it seems.”

“You might say I diversified my portfolio,” Crucio said, sipping her tea. “Emile, remember when we skipped out on that physics final exam and went to that concert?”

“How could I forget! It’s one of my best memories. I tell that story to my colleagues all the time. To change the subject, I read somewhere that you had a rather abrupt departure from your last job. Care to elaborate?”

Crucio unlocked her smart phone and tapped the screen a few times before responding to Emile.

“Rather personal question wouldn’t you say, old friend,” she asked. “How much money do you make and how have you made it?”

“Forgive me, Crucio. I’m overly curious to learn about your life. That’s all. Tell me about your son and his band.”

“My what?”

“Your son and his band.”

“Oh. Yes…”

“You may want to invest into sound-proofing those basement walls.”

“I’ve considered it, but my work may take me out of the area sooner than I had planned.”

“Oh? Moving again? You’ve moved so many times in the past five years. Where are you headed next?”

A tone indicating a received text was audible from Crucio’s phone still in her hand. Crucio read the text. She leaned sideways to see around Emile’s big head and outside through the front window.

A dark-colored car was parked directly across the street from Crucio’s front door. Another car, identical to the first, sat at the cul-de-sac entrance. Both drivers waited with engines running.

“Emile, you need to leave. I apologize for my rudeness, but I just remembered something urgent that needs my attention.”

Crucio stood and grabbed the cup and saucer from Emile, still seated.

“But –”

“I’m so glad you stopped by,” Crucio said. She raised him to his feet by an elbow and ushered him to the door. “It’s been great seeing you again,” she said, pushing him out the door and down the front steps. Emile grabbed the handrail to steady himself.

The late Saturday afternoon buzzed with distant lawn mowers. Next door, screams of children could be heard as they splashed in a backyard pool.

Emile got in his car and started the engine. The identical drivers of the two identical cars waited. Both driver-side tinted windows were half-open. Both drivers had sun glasses raised. Four identical eyes were locked on Crucio’s every gesture.

Emile pulled out of the driveway and Crucio winked at the driver across the street. The driver lowered his sun glasses and followed Emile out of the neighborhood. Crucio nodded toward the end of her cul-de-sac, and the other driver followed the first.

Crucio went back inside, and shut and locked the door behind her. She looked out through the blinds until all three cars were out of sight.

“College roommate, huh?”

“Not quite,” Crucio said. “I’ve never skipped out on an exam in my life.”

“Do we need to start packing again,” a man holding a large empty box asked.

“I don’t think so. My old friends from the agency should take care of my needs.”

“You mean those serious-looking identical twins in the identical-twin cars parked across the street were not working with Emile – or whoever he was? Or is?”

“Those guys from the agency belong to me,” Crucio said. “I won them in a card game.”

“Good. I’m tired of moving. I’m still unpacking from this last move,” the man said.

On the dining room table was a pile of wallets, purses and a colorful mix of gently used male and female clothes. The man placed the empty box below the edge of the dining room table and folded the flaps back. With both hands he raked the pile into the box.

He interlocked the top flaps, and with a black marker wrote, “FREE TO A GOOD HOME,” on the side with a smiley face. He sniffed the marker tip, gave a satisfying sigh and replaced the cap.

“Another load of charity goodies are ready for donation. Last load of the day. Have I mentioned how brilliant your idea was to donate these things as a way to spread the evidence? Brilliant.”

“Just make sure all wallets, purses and pockets are empty of contents,” Crucio said.

“Of course. I double-checked myself. Be back soon to start dinner.”

He carried the box through the garage and found space for it in the back of an SUV. Crucio heard the garage door open and close. The SUV full of boxes and over-stuffed trash bags pulled out of the driveway.

“Enough distractions,” Crucio said out loud. “Time to get back to work.”

She turned to walk toward the basement door, but noticed something shiny under the dining room table near where the man had filled the last box. She walked over to the table and picked up a driver’s license. She cursed and fed the license to the shredder in the corner of the room.

“This is grounds for a demotion back to the basement, my dear,” Crucio thought. “We’re due for some interesting dinner conversation tonight. I hate to lose such an amazing cook – among other things – but you serve me best downstairs.”

Crucio walked to the basement door and pounded on the door three times, slow and distinct. The padlocks rattled from the force of the blows. She fondled the over-sized locks and waited. There was no response.

Crucio leaned her head against the door and took a deep breath, but before she could yell the command, the music resumed.

So did the screams.

“This place will never sell without adequate sound-proofing,” Crucio thought.

She wondered which stack of boxes contained the aspirin.

–  –  –  –