It is a smallish box, about six inches by nine by six again, made of wood, hinged with leather, and clasped with brass and a locked bar of steel. I am Jared, football player, straight-A student, all-American, most-likely-to-succeed three years running. I found it in the recesses of my locker yesterday, as I was cleaning it out, last day of Senior year. I’ve never seen it before. I don’t know what’s in it, I don’t have a key, but it rattles with anticipation when shook. I’ve taken it out to the field to try some more – percussive – lock-picking. My best friend, Sandra, speaks next.
“What if something fragile’s in there? You don’t want to break it.” Sandra has brown hair and freckles that blur when she’s running the hundred-meter. She’s the fastest womens’ track star in three counties. She already has four colleges begging her to run for them. She’s continuously worried about small things, and their mistreatment by bigger things: animals by people, workers by their bosses, small wooden boxes by large cleated feet.
“I don’t think it’s broken – yet,” I say, after the first couple of kicks. I haven’t heard anything like shattering yet, just the dull thud of shoe on wood, wood on something smaller, interior, hidden. Reverberations. I rear back to kick it again, to send it further down the field than the six inches or so my test kicks have been punting it.
“Well why risk it?” Sandra looks worried, so I step back instead of kick. She crouches down next to the box. She picks it up, turns it over in her hands, where I think I hear some musicality, like faraway chimes, tiny cymbals.
“What’s this little hole on the bottom?” She’s squinting, trying to make her finger small enough. “I need a pen –”
I kneel now, scrounge through my backpack, find a sharp pencil. “Maybe this will work?” I say, handing it over.
She takes it from me, our fingers brushing each other. She aims, then pokes the pencil, eyebrows furrowed. She pushes hard. There’s a click somewhere, deep within the box. The lid relaxes and sits agape, like a child’s breathing mouth.
We hold our breath and she thumbs the lid open.