Have you ever sat looking at a suitcase and wondered about all the places it has traveled?
The assignment for round 4 was:
Write a story from the perspective of a suitcase.
Imagine looking at the suitcase, wondering where it has been, and then giving it one or all of the five senses. What has it seen? Heard? Felt? Then, go one step further, and have the suitcase tell the story. Let it witness things happening in their surroundings – good things, bad things. Give them a voice to tell the story. Writing from the perspective of an inanimate object is one of the best exercises to develop your writing.
Readers, what should you do now?
Read all the entries, and vote for the stories you like the best. Try to keep the assignment in mind when you make your choices. You have to choose three entries, no less, no more.
The survey is at the bottom of the page after the last story. Don’t’ forget to click the ‘Finish Survey’ button when you’ve made your choices!
We would love if you can leave the writers some feedback in the comments section below.
- Writers are not allowed to tell anyone which entry they have written!
- You can only vote once. Votes will be monitored and double votes will be removed.
- The voting round closes on Tuesday 9 August 2022 at 23.45 GMT (see the countdown in the sidebar).
- Results of the voting round will be published on this site on 13 August 2022 and then the author of each story will be revealed.
The Entries: Suitcase Stories!
All stories have already been sent to the jury, and they will rate each with a point between 1-10. Below, you – the public – can read the stories, and vote on the three you like best. The points the writers accumulate in this public voting round will be ‘translated’ to a point between 1-10, and added to the jury score to get the final result of this round.
Below are 18 stories for round 4, sharing the world from the perspective of a suitcase – read them and vote!
Since only ten writers go through to round five, it means eight will be knocked out, so your vote is very important. The next round will start again with a level playing field.
1. Me and Bobby McGee
1955 was a year of change. Rosa Parks was arrested, Churchill resigned, and the Vietnam War began. But none of that mattered to 5-year-old Bobby McGee, who was experiencing his own major life event: his daddy died.
Suddenly, his whole life was upheaved. His favorite person in the world was gone and his mama cried all the time. Sometimes she forgot to feed him and the school called social services. When his aunt learned about that, she immediately flew from California to collect them.
“Sherry, come live near me,” she said. “I’ll help with Bobby.”
That’s where I came in: a gift from Bobby’s beloved Aunt Donna. A little brown leather suitcase he could carry all by himself. His mama told him to pack only his favorite toys, because their new place was small. So he packed his Matchbox cars and his Gumby doll and three cans of Play-Doh.
Bobby’s mother struggled, so Bobby used me a lot, moving from one cheap apartment to another. His mother drank and brought home boyfriends, some meaner than others. He was eight when one of them hit him.
His black eye made Aunt Donna furious. This time when Bobby packed me, we went to live with Aunt Donna and Uncle Tom. Bobby loved it there. There was always food and music. Aunt Donna would play records and they’d dance. I stayed in his closet for seven years, until cancer took Aunt Donna, then his mom fought Tom for custody and won.
Bobby packed me with his treasured vinyls and bell bottoms and the Rolling Stones shirt Aunt Donna gave him their last Christmas together.
Things with his mother were even worse now. I got used a lot as they bounced from town-to-town and eventually landed in Baton Rouge.
When Bobby was 16, his mother hooked up with Marco, who smacked them both around. But Bobby had grown tall and strong and this time, he hit back. Marco threw me and the rest of Bobby’s things on the lawn and told Bobby’s mother if she didn’t like it, she could leave, too. Instead, she pressed $40 in Bobby’s hand and told him to catch a train to Tom’s.
Bobby met Sunshine at the train station, and it was love at first sight. The name suited her, with her gleaming blond hair and cheery smile. Her bruised face indicated her home life hadn’t been rosy, either. She wanted to see the world, and suddenly, Bobby wanted to see it with her. She carried a guitar and a scant few possessions in a paper Winn-Dixie bag. When it fell apart, Bobby crammed her things inside me with his.
They were a striking couple. Sunshine would sit on me and play her guitar while Bobby sang the blues. His voice was as pretty as his face, so people would stop and throw money in a cardboard box at Sunshine’s feet. They made enough for food and the occasional motel room when bad weather struck.
They hitchhiked all over the country, making love and making friends, even as the world around them fell apart. Sunshine put peace signs and Jimi Hendrix stickers on me and stood on me to yell, “1-2-3-4 We don’t want your fucking war!” at protests.
I lay on a motel bed across from them one night in Salinas. Sunshine slept while Bobby watched the draft lottery. All 366 days of the year were numbered, mixed and drawn. The first number was 258 (September 14). All eligible men with that birthday were called to serve immediately. Bobby inhaled on the next one: 114 (April 24).
I knew Bobby hated the war as much as Sunshine, but I also knew he felt a responsibility, too. His father had served in Korea and Bobby kept his dog tags in my liner pocket. Bobby didn’t sleep much that night.
The next night, Bobby waited until Sunshine was asleep, then penned her a goodbye note, telling her how much he loved her but that he couldn’t run from this. He didn’t take much, just a change of clothes and his father’s dog tags, leaving her all their money. Then he kissed her forehead before leaving us both behind.
Sunshine was devastated, especially when she found out she was pregnant. One morning, she slipped on the old flannel shirt that still smelled like him, packed me up and we took the train to her grandmother’s house in Georgia. Maybe she needed to see something that was his, because she didn’t stick me in a closet. She wrote him dozens of letters, and finally received one back. He was thrilled about the baby and promised her they would have a stable life—a family—when he got back.
Sunshine, who just went by her given name of Mary here, gave birth to a boy with a headful of dark hair and his father’s nose.
But Bobby didn’t make it home. Mary didn’t get the official visit—she and Bobby never married, after all—but a friend of his dropped by. The young man stumbled inside her foyer and cried when he told her how Bobby had saved their whole platoon. He handed Mary a stack of letters, the tattered picture of Bobby, Jr. and both sets of dog tags. He cried even harder when she let him hold Bobby’s son.
That night, Mary put all of those things inside me and put me away in the closet. I didn’t come out again for a long time.
When Bobby Jr. was eighteen, Mary pulled me down and showed him the few things she had left of his father. She told him their love story, then they were joined by his stepfather, Johnny—the man he’d saved. Johnny supplied his own stories of Bobby’s heroism and humor, and of his kindness.
Mary ran her fingers across my scarred leather and said, “This suitcase is yours now, Bobby. It saw the world with your father and now it should see it with you.”
2. My Romantic Rendezvous
As the door opened, light poured in from the skylight in the garage. “Pick me, pick me,” I think as she enters the storeroom and starts looking for something. I hear her mutter, “There you are,” and grab my handle. Whee!
We’re going on a trip! I love seeing new places even if it’s just from the cargo hold, trunk, and hotel room. It’s so much better than being stuffed in a dusty closet. I wonder what kind of trip it will be.
She puts me on the bed and opens me up. Stretch. That feels so good. Inside goes underwear first. Oooh—it looks fancy. I bet it’s a getaway with Mark. Well, I assume it’s Mark. Maybe she’s moved on since the last trip.
Shorts, tank tops, and bathing suit. Check. So, somewhere sunny and warm. I hope it’s a resort! I love the smell of resort rooms. Clunk. Sex toys. Please, let her have taken the batteries out or let the charge run out. It’s so embarrassing in the hold when my insides are shaking. Everyone stares at me, judging. It’s not like I packed myself.
She stands back and looks at me. “A dress and some shoes and I think I’m ready to go.” She looks at the clock on the wall. “And no time to spare.” She tosses shoes in me. Ouch. High heels hurt. Dress on top and she closes me up. Just then, the doorbell rings and she rushes off. “Hi!” She talks in that excited, high-pitched voice that she uses when she is talking to her boyfriend.
A rough hand grabs me and I peek. Definitely not Mark. Into the trunk I go and I can hear cars zipping by as we head somewhere. It’s both thrilling and frustrating to be at the mercy of your owner. Everything is a surprise. I doze off for a few minutes in the warm trunk and then jerk awake when I’m grabbed again and put on the ground. Airport.
No cargo hold for me this time—I’m so relieved. After the invasive zing of the X-ray machine, I bounce along down the concourse with all of the others. Some are really cute and others look like they’ve been through a rough time. I’ve been trying to listen to her to find out his name, but there’s just too much noise around me. I could swear it started with a D, but that’s all I’ve got. At the gate, he puts his feet on top of me. How rude. But she seems happy.
Onto the plane and into the overhead. I’m alone up here and keep my fingers—well, you know what I mean—crossed that it stays that way. No such luck, of course, as a man shoves me to the side and puts his own bag up here too. Buzz. The vibrator inside me turns on. My companion looks at me and smirks. “Sex toys, huh? Naughty thing, aren’t you?”
“I didn’t pack them, you jerk!” I try to shift a bit to get the button to turn off. The door closes and here I am in the dark, humiliated and feeling like everyone can hear. Buzz. All I can do is hope that she hasn’t recharged it in a while.
After what seems like years with my companion laughing at me, the door opens. The man with the D name looks inside. “Did you pack something that is buzzing?” I can feel her embarrassment mingling with mine as he takes me down and opens me up on the seat. Now everyone in the area can see and hear me! She mumbles something and he starts to laugh. “Of course.” He puts his hand inside me and moves it around, finally grabbing the toy and turning it off.
Relief floods through me. At least no one will be staring at me anymore. He puts me back up in the compartment and closes the door. My companion is pouting. “Now what will I do for fun on the trip?” Just then we hit a pocket of turbulence and he bounces against the top. “Ouch!” This is followed quickly by a vibration and buzzing.
“You seriously were laughing at me when you are carrying the same thing?!?” I start laughing.
“It’s not the same thing! It’s a shaver!”
“That’s what they all say. Enjoy your ride.” He continues to wiggle while I doze a bit. I wake up just as we land and that excitement rushes through me again. “I wonder where we are,” I say. My companion looks a bit frazzled. “Getting a little excited with the ‘vibration’?”
He glares at me. “This is the one time he made sure that it was fully charged before we left. How would you feel if you were at the mercy of that for hours?”
I laughed. “All amped up and no chance of release. I think it’s karma for laughing at me.”
The door opens and light floods in. His owner grabs his handle and he is gone. Next is my turn. D is much nicer to me. I might have to rethink the resentment over his feet. At least he didn’t leave me buzzing in the dark.
As we leave the airport, I see the sun reflecting off water and sand. Yes! I was hoping for this. Sand in the nether parts isn’t my favorite, but I do love sun and heat.
A short ride, followed by a race through the lobby and we are at the room. “Doug, it’s beautiful!” she squeals. Doug. I can live with that. And then they start kissing. Then more.
“For the love of everything holy, please put me in the closet,” I think. Nope. She opens me and reaches for the toy. “Maybe we can spend some time getting acclimated to the room before we go to the beach,” she says.
I close my eyes and try not to listen. The price that I pay for vacations.
3. Suitcase in the Bardo
It was one wild ride. Conveyors and ramps and carts and flappy doors and dark corners of the travel world. Hurry up and wait kind of thing, now I don’t know where I am. It’s a room with shelves stacked with strangers.
We’re all different shapes and sizes. This lot is a real melting pot of cultures. From the poor, utilitarian duffels to the expensive designer complete sets from all over the world, we’re still all in this together. We all are lost — in more ways than one. I can only assume my partner made it home with our family, while I have accepted my fate here.
Sadly, if you’re in this place you will likely never go home. It’s not unlike a refugee camp or a disaster shelter, except there are no people. Just rows and rows of us who have not been claimed — and likely never will be. This is the purgatory of the baggage world, and I’ve met some interesting characters.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that suitcases adopt the names of their owners. Not only the names, but identities, as well.
You can’t judge a bag by its cover. You see Paula over there? The plain gray suitcase that could belong to pretty much anyone? Yeah, she’s packed with BDSM gear. And Brian, the floral print bag with the flamingo name tag? He’s loaded down with clothes for the baby girl his owner and partner are adopting. Steve, the plain red suitcase that has seen lots of miles, is filled with expensive lingerie that his owner likes to wear. He’s a cross-dresser but no one knows. To each their own, right?
We are proof that stories lie within. There is always more than meets the eye, and we have nothing to do here but share our stories with each other.
I sit quietly on my shelf beside my long-term shelf buddy, Jonathan. He has been here a week longer than I, which is an eternity in the lost luggage world. He was a corporate attorney bag, filled with wrinkle-free suits and blazers.
“You know, Janie, the soft-shell case a few shelves down, told me yesterday that she had an affair with an aluminum Rimowa bag some years ago. He was a hard-body model and every bit of fun in the hotel room, but totally dead inside. No personality. Just board shorts and t-shirts. Grilled chicken salads with dressing on the side.”
“That’s what she said. Fun for about a minute. Speaking of fun, a new shipment coming in today. Maybe we can find you a matching carry-on.”
“Maybe, but who would want a used-up suitcase won at a golf outing fifteen years ago? It’s not like I have a lot to offer.”
“But you do, Chad. Sure, your zipper snags and you have a few bumps and bulges you didn’t have before. And if your name wasn’t Chad, of course.”
“Shut up,” I said. “Hey, Jonathan, did you see the new kid over on 4B? He belonged to Tiger Woods. Got lost on his way to Augusta for the Masters.”
“Ooh, I’ll bet he was real fancy-like.”
“Actually, not as much as you’d think. He was pretty down-to-earth. Didn’t seem entitled to me, more like confused. Scared. Like the rest of us when we arrived here.”
“Well, Chad, you would be confused if you went from the penthouse suite of every hotel in the world to the baggage boneyard.”
“Shh. Here comes Mrs. Willoughby rolling over. She always has juicy gossip.”
“Hello, boys,” Mrs. Willoughby says in her delightful old-timey way. “Have you heard they’ll be coming in for auction soon?”
“You’ve been saying that every week for three months, my dear,” Jonathan quipped.
“I know, but this time it’s happening. People are coming here to bid any day now.”
“Boy, I sure hope someone wants a washed up old bag.”
“Don’t call me names, you miserable excuse for a Gucci bag.” Mrs. Willoughby despised Jonathan.
Annoyed, Jonathan volleyed, “Oh, shut up. I didn’t mean you, you glorified granny-panty drawer.”
I interrupted the two. “You two have had this feud going for weeks. Can we just end it now before we all end up in the incinerator? This is our last week before we’re emptied out and recycled.”
Mrs. Willoughby chimed in. “Well, I, for one, am looking forward to starting over. Since my husband passed on I’ve been lonely. I’m looking forward to some big, burly baggage handler throwing me around. One who knows what a real woman carries around in her baggage.”
“Gross,” Jonathan jabbed.
Just then, the lights came on and the garage door to the room opened. A parade of humans came strolling by with little hand-held cards with numbers on them. Mrs. Willoughby spun around on her wheels and lined up next to the boys. The auction was happening now.
The humans strolled by. Not knowing their fate, some bags hid behind others, and some presented themselves like trophies to be won. The lights were bright so the bags could be inspected closely, and they would be bid upon based on their outward appearance alone. Not knowing the contents, bidders would find treasure or trash. Dirty underwear or snazzy tops or sex toys or fine jewelry.
Mrs. Willoughby stood up tall in front of us. She stuck out her full front pockets to show off her bosom, while Jonathan and I attempted to remain indifferent, but failed when we discretely sucked our respective bulges in.
An older gentlemen liked the look of Mrs. Willoughby, but also liked the look of my friend, too. He bid on them both, and I knew I would be alone again. Just like last time, and the time before that.
It’s a real shame that no one knows that, inside my pedestrian exterior, I carry a Stradivarius viola, worth millions to whoever takes me home. It seems people will never learn not to judge by outward appearance alone.
4. The Faithful Sister
You want a story? I got a story…
I used to work for Rocky Valigia, running errands. You know what I mean. Stuffed with folding money on the outrun; something a little weightier on the return. I don’t need to spell it out for you. Then things got too hot for Rocky and he had to hide up in The Convent of the Faithful Sisters of Jesus on East 91st Street for a while. Let’s just say the Sisters owed him a favor and leave it at that, ok.
Well, one day Rocky took a chance. His uncle had met a bullet and Rocky wanted to pay his respects. He was a good boy, loved his uncle. But Rocky never came back from the funeral. Some of the Sisters were saying they’d heard the Feds took him; there were other rumors, that Rocky was sharing a grave with his Uncle Angelo. Me, I know Rocky better than that; he’ll be sitting in a pool in Costa Rica, with a Manhattan in one hand and some chick’s ass in the other. Trust me.
So that’s how I came to be working for Sister Bernadette. You might think that a nun’s luggage won’t get much action but this Sister Bernadette, she travels. Turns out she’s some kind of expert on the Italian Renaissance or something. Florence, Rome, Venice; I’ve seen them all. Rocky would be pleased for me.
Anyway, that’s the set up. Here’s the story:
We’re flying out to a conference in Bologna, me and Sister Bernadette. I get talking to some of the guys in the hold, just like I’m talking to you now. Seems there’s been talk of a big heist and the cops at Guglielmo Marconi Airport are jumpy. It takes me back to the good old days. Of course, Sister Bernadette don’t know shit about this when she’s pulled over into a private room at customs and asked to explain why her luggage has an old label with the name ‘R. Valigia’ on it. Sister B’s not lying when she tells them that the case had been left at the convent by a visitor. But the cops take us to the cleaners anyway.
It don’t bother me none when they turn me out on to the table. Just some art books, a Bible and some underwear but they give everything a real close inspection. That’s embarrassing enough for the Sister but then she’s told to strip and they call in a lady cop. “Hey,” I want to shout, “Show some fucking respect; this is a Handmaiden of the Lord you’re dealing with here, Motherfuckers!” Sister Bernadette doesn’t object – Obedience is her middle name, I’m not kidding you – but I can tell she’s mortified as the layers come off: the hood, revealing her short dark hair; her robe and tunic; her bodice too, freeing her pale breasts. I can’t watch. I can’t not watch. The lady cop gestures to Sister Bernadette to take off her underpants too and my heart breaks, I swear it does, as she stands there, in front of those two smirking customs dumbfucks, wearing nothing but her crucifix and rosary beads around her neck, while her most intimate places are examined.
By now the people who were meeting us at the airport have got wind of what’s going on and, outside the room, a hell of a row has kicked off. Next thing I know, this senior cop comes in and he’s shouting at his boys and grovelling in apology to Sister Bernadette. She is silent as she dresses, puts me back together and we leave the room. Hell of a scene.
But here’s where it gets interesting. Listen up. At the hotel, Sister B has just emptied me and I’m up on a rack where I’ve got a ringside view of everything that follows.
The door opens and in walks this Monsignor, wearing a dark cloak and a wide-brimmed black hat that covers his face. He says nothing. Niente. Just clicks his fingers and raises his hand, like he’s bringing in the violin section. And, for the second time that day, Sister Bernadette performs a goddamn striptease! Only this time there’s nothing embarrassed or shy about her undressing. Man, that dame knew how to tease and talk dirty!
“You’re a mean ol’ Daddy! How could you let sweet little Sister Bernadette go through such an ordeal? Those nasty rough men watching as poor innocent Bernadette was made to show off her pretty titties… their pants bulging as blushing young Bernadette took down her panties and let them see her puss-puss… struggling to contain themselves as that hot Italian policewoman touched me where only you should…”
By now she’s naked again, except for those beads which she’s unfastening as she catwalks slowly towards the Monsignor. He takes them from her, scrapes a layer of paint off a bead with his thumbnail and holds it to the light, sparkling. Holy Shit. Rocks! There must be a million bucks worth of ice in that necklace. This broad has played me for a patsy and I love her all the more for it!
But wait, here’s the punch:
“Good girl, Bernie,” says a voice I know like it’s my own, “You done good. You done real good.”
“Hello, Rocky,” she purrs, as she drops to her knees, “I’ve missed you so bad.”
Son of a bitch! Hey, is that a story or is that a story?
5. Saving the Andrewverse
Coughing sounds, followed by wheezing.
Welp! Careful now.
I’m not as young as I was once. It feels like forever since I moved. For real, Andrew. You really need to get out more. I can barely remember the last time you dusted me off. Let’s see, where was it? Oh, that’s right, some fakakta comic convention. I still have the Green Lantern sticker on my backside. Wait, what day is it? Oh god, has it been a whole year already? Yep, I’d recognize that homemade superhero costume anywhere. Same as last year, eh? Better hope no one there remembers the tear incident. Three hours in and suddenly Robin exposed his whitey tighties to Batman and the rest of the cosplay world.
I don’t know why you choose Robin anyway. I guess you always empathized with the sidekick. It fits your MO. After all, you are always playing support roles to your friends, your boss, and even your siblings. You are always the designated driver for your friends even though I know you crave a drink. You cared for your mother through her dementia right up until the day she passed, even though your brothers and sister couldn’t make time to give you a break. Not to mention those six months you spent working weekends so you could finish a big project while your boss was off at some rental home in the Hamptons with his mistress, only to have him take all the accolades for it when it was a success. Yeah, Robin fits you.
Oh, what’s this? Something new? Nope, same old comic books that didn’t sell last year. I guess there is hope. But honestly, the resale market for used comics isn’t what it used to be. Everyone is a collector now; everybody has the same books. I bet you forgot about the comics you slid in the inside zipper pouch last year. Now those are some valuable collectors’ items. If you don’t slam me against the luggage carousel again, I might let that old X-men book slip out a little. You know, the one with Gambit’s first appearance? Now that one might fetch a few dollars.
Character T’s, Character backpack, Character stickers for the jeans. But really, do you need the character underwear? I am certain no one will be viewing those. I guess in for a penny, in for a pound.
Hmmm, now this is a surprise. Hemp rope? Candle? Luv cuffs? Someone is optimistic! Wonder what security will think when they scan me? I didn’t want to scare you, but last year, a security guy had his hands inside me. I don’t know what he was searching for, but he gave your luggage the once over and then some. All he found last year was that stupid Funko Pop of Deadpool dressed as Bob Ross. Wonder what will happen if he finds your toys this year. I guess they’ve seen it all anyway. Still, if I were a gambler, I would bet my life, that those items will never move from that spot during this trip. Seriously, I may be stuck in your closet, but I can still see what goes on in your bedroom. Or what doesn’t go on?
You haven’t had a companion since Sherry three years ago. She knew how to take care of me. Always putting plastic over me to keep the dust out and placing me lovingly in the center of the closet. I remember her fondly. She wasn’t all Avenger this, Justice league that. No, she had some fine lace thongs and matching bras. And her toys. Her toys were a lot hotter than some ropes and cuffs. I’m certain that her jack rabbit left her scent indelibly etched into my inner nylon blend. I wish you hadn’t let her go. I thought she would be a keeper. I guess she wasn’t too happy living in your parent’s casita. Or maybe it was your minimum wage job at the local GameStop. What happened to you? You were a science whiz. Your dreams of programming the next big game have turned into long nights playing Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Hey, now lover boy, Cologne? You rarely wear cologne. Holy cow. This is a brand spanking new bottle. The good stuff too, Jean-Paul! Do you know something I don’t? Wait just a minute, is this a new costume? I recognize the smell of high-quality leather anywhere. Let’s see, a thick overcoat, a pink shirt. No way, Gambit? Ambitious! But why would you pick Gambit unless…? Do you have a Rogue waiting? You do, don’t you! Is it that cosplay girl you’ve been video chatting with late at night? She sounds adorable. Who says TikTok isn’t a dating app.? I thought all those naughty sounds coming from the computer were just another porn site but, you dirty dog, you’ve been cyber sexing with her! I’m so proud of you. If I could cry, I would need a handkerchief. Here, I slid the corner of that comic book out so you will see it. Maybe it will bring enough to afford a second trip, so you don’t wait a full year. If you want to keep a girl like that, you need to take care of her.
Perhaps this will be an interesting trip after all. Zzzziiiipppp Ready to protect your belongings, sir! Through brightest day, through blackest night, no belongings shall escape my sight. Let those who covet the things packed tight, beware my power, Samsonite!
6. What I’m Useful For
I don’t remember much before he found me in that thrift store; scuffed plastic, broken zipper, torn and frayed fabric inside. Still, he bought me and took me home. He said it was difficult to find hard suitcases that large. Despite my rough shape, he paid forty dollars for me.
Over the next weeks, he buffed out the scratches with baking soda and water, ripped out the old zipper and replaced it with new. He sewed with perfectly even stitches.
While working, he talked to me.
“What a great find… you’re so special… you are going to be so useful… I’m so glad I found you… you are perfect…”
He mumbled the entire time he fixed me up, sometimes he spoke so low, I couldn’t make out his words.
I could feel him adding things that weren’t there before. He cut out all the old fabric. First, he made a mold of the inside of each shell. Then he lined both sides with plastic, affixed the mold so that each cell split in two, with the plastic hidden behind the mold. Finally, he replaced the fabric and the straps to keep clothes from shifting to much.
Secret compartments? I thought. What are those for?
My thoughts raced with possibilities – drugs, money… obviously something illegal. He must be some kind of mule. The image of drug mules from movies came to mind from some far away memory that I could not place.
Even with all that, when he finished, I felt brand new and excited to be useful again. He placed me in a corner and didn’t look at me again for a long time. Each day, my hopes faded a little more that he would pack me up and take me somewhere.
Eventually, I fell asleep. Well, not sleep, exactly, but a kind of mindless stupor.
Finally, one day, he picked me up, put me on the table, and opened me backup. Groggy, I didn’t really register much until I was already half full. By that time, the secret compartments were already closed, and I couldn’t tell exactly what was in them. Whatever it was, it was hard and heavy.
In the fabric sections, he neatly stacked and organized papers, catalogues, and brochures kept together with rubber bands in one side and plasticware in the other. There must’ve been fifty containers or more, all stacked inside each other with the lids lined up next to them.
As he lifted me off the table, everything shifted a little inside me and felt more than heard the clanging of metal in the back secret compartment. The front one seemed empty.
Must be tools, I thought. Why would he need to hide tools?
I felt every bump and turn as we drove to our destination. Then he took me out of the trunk and rolled me up to the door of a new house. Some of the insulation still exposed on the porch, it must’ve been built recently. It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, too. I couldn’t see any other houses in the area, but a road led past it and driveways curved off of it leading to empty lots.
A new development? I wondered.
He knocked on the door and young woman answered.
“Hello, Mrs. Bradshaw?” he said, sounding like a salesman and smiling like one, too.
“Yes. You must be Mr. Garrity.” Her warm smile welcomed him in.
“Please, call me Phil.” He turned sideways to walk past her as she held the door for him, and he rolled me over the frame and into the house.
“I’m so looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!” She closed the door and ushered him into the kitchen.
“I guarantee you’ll die for it.”
A few hours later, we reemerged from the house, him satisfied and me in shock. He rolled me back to the car and each bump was accompanied by a strange squishing sensation.
I knew I was big, but a whole… no I couldn’t think of it, poor women.
He made sure to wipe everything down inside. “No fingerprints,” he repeated as he cleaned. He wasn’t as careful about her blood.
I wasn’t in the trunk long before we stopped again. He pulled me back out, next to a lake in the middle of field surrounded by woods. He carefully removed the woman’s arms and legs and heaved them into the lake. He had to spin around a few times to build momentum before letting her body fly.
Then he closed me back up and took me home. Her head rolled around inside me the whole ride.
Oh god, I thought, what is he going to do with her head.
And then the realization hit me: this is what he bought me for.
7. The Pullman’s Peril
The Pullman was jerked up from the corner.
“Oh, good God! What’s this? I was happy living in my peaceful place in the attic. I didn’t even mind the cobwebs. So now what? Nobody seems to want me unless there’s a big trip coming up, and I’m getting too old for that. I’ll likely be thrown around, shoved, and kicked, and will feel smothered until we stop if we’re going by plane. I could be thrown atop a berth in a train car, which wouldn’t be so bad. But I hope to God this won’t be a road trip. I’ll be dragged in and out, opened and closed a dozen times, getting no rest whatsoever, and I’ll likely even land on some hard, sharp rocks covering some parking lot to a motel or at a campground. I really hate that.”
The man who snatched me up proceeded to drag me out of the dusty upper floor, down the stairs, thump after thump.
“Can’t people be a little more careful?” I whined, wondering where we’d be going this time.
That query was halted because instead of being thrown onto the bed and filled, as expected, I was thrown into the back of a vehicle that had a liftback instead of a dark trunk.
“Thank goodness for that small favor,” I muttered as the engine began to purr. “But that’s odd. I wonder why we’d travel with me empty?”
We hadn’t gone too far when the vehicle pulled into a dark space…perhaps a garage? I thought as the surrounding light grew dim when we drove in and then went dark when I heard the big door to the place go shut.
Then I was suddenly blinded by bright lights. “What the hell?”
This was a spooky situation like I had never encountered before, and I didn’t know whether to feel excited to have a new adventure or be afraid for my leather hide.
I heard voices as the back door to the vehicle was lifted. I was jerked forward, my clasps unsnapped, and my top lifted. But when one side was thrown back to lean against the seat behind me, instead of being laid spread out to expose my full interior, like always, I began to suspect a problem. This was not my usual handler. But that was just my gut feeling.
I chuckled to myself. “I can be pretty funny when I want to be,” I snickered, “because I know full well that I have no ‘guts’ with which to feel anything.” And yet, something didn’t seem right. I began to notice that there were four hands filling my interior instead of two. Mmmmm.
I was starting to feel stuffed. The items that were laid carefully inside me were packages filled with something unknown to me. They were box-like, without cardboard on the outside, wrapped in some kind of plastic instead. It was beginning to smell, too. By the time I was full, and my lid was able to close over the over-filled bottom, I was feeling woozy. When the lid clicked shut, my head began to spin.
I kept wondering what the green stuff was that had been packed. One of the voices I’d heard talking said something about making sure my handler got the money. Was I to be sold or given away? Is that why I was pulled from storage after so many years of sitting in an attic collecting dust? Was I worth a lot of money, or was it just my new contents that were costly? Would I be discarded once I was empty? Oh, woe is me, so many worries. I’m not ready to be cast aside just yet,I realized, as we drove back into sunlight.
But then I began to giggle for no reason. My wooziness had turned into giddiness. I saw nothing funny about my situation, but there came another giggle. I didn’t seem to care about anything and felt I was in some kind of La La Land. Oh boy! I kept giggling and then I started singing my favorite traveling song, “I’m gonna take a sentimental journey,” that my handler used to sing.
The car slowed.
“What the fuck?” the voice in front said. “I thought I heard my dad. That’s weird,” he muttered to himself.
When the car reaccelerated, I heard the tires hum. I began to hum with them, humming the song I’d just been singing. But then I felt sad. My old handler, who’d sung that song to me all those years ago, had gone to handler heaven, and his son didn’t seem to know any travelin’ songs to sing.
“Whoa,” I muttered softly, “I’m really feeling outside myself. Maybe I’d better sleep; I’m feeling a bit unhinged.”
The sound of the tires lulled me into an unconscious state with dreams about the old days, the old travels, about the old roadside motels we used to stay in that were sparse in color and personality, but clean. I felt happy.
My old handler loved me because he wiped my surface with a special cloth and then buffed my sides after every trip. I gleamed and looked like new. My brass hardware was always shiny from being polished.
I had heard him tell someone that he purchased me in Italy after the war. I vaguely remember that time, of hearing a man whistling a tune while he worked on me. When he put me in a window, I was spotted by my handler, who excitedly came in and paid for me. He walked outside with me in hand.
The car soon stopped, and I opened my eyes. When the back door lifted, one gruff voice said, “Gimme the bag. Here’s yours.”
My heart sank; I was going away.
My driver hesitated and said, “Keep your bag. This was my father’s, and I’ve had a sentimental moment. I’m taking it back home with me.”
8. Life of Crocodile
Crocodile, or Dile, to his friends, shook his old shoulders. It had been so long since he had been let out of his cupboard. He looked at his ears and they were gleaming again. His buckles were now shining, and his mistress stood in front of him. He wondered why she had wakened him from such a nice dream. As he lay naked and open on the floor, Dile wondered: ‘Why was she packing so many small bits of leather into his mortal cracked brown leather body? This would make him sick.’ Dile thought to himself, ‘if she carried on like this,’ but he felt better when he saw that she had a nice cold cloth in her hand.
“Does that feel better, Dile? We have been so many places together.”
Dile smiled back and enjoyed the cream she started to massage into his broken skin.
He tried to remember the last time she had done this for him. He thought back to that day, when she was a young girl with long blond hair, and how could she still be single, he wondered, and made a mental note to find somebody for his mistress. Perhaps their luggage could go missing and then she would find the owner was a good looking man or woman, as she seemed to prefer women these days, from the noises he heard from her bed chamber.
Dile wondered where they were off to his time, and the feeling of travel unnerved him. He remembered his last owner before Dolores, and those cold winters where he was sure that he would end up being used on the trenches’ fires to keep them or warm or alive. No heating or wax baths back then, to keep his leather supple. Dile shivered and in his mind was straight back there: all around him were bodies dying. He heard the constant screams. He put his hands over his handles to stop them flooding back. To Dile that was a lifetime ago, when all he wanted was to keep the master alive for one more day so he could write his poems. How Dile cried when he heard that he had not made it, by one day.
Dile’s next memory as mistress stuffed a peaked hat into him was straight back in those smokey streets of Liverpool. Dile thought about the dangers of finding a razor in masters hat, which he sometimes cut his fingers on. Again, he remembered the screams of sailors his master handed out terrible punishments too. Dile always thought the name of his gang was stupid. Who calls themselves the ‘Highrippers?’ But in those docks of Liverpool, you could see how this name turned good men’s souls to ice.
Dile’s leather felt so much better, as his mistress started to wax him, he could see web pages open for a cruise on his mistress’ weird tablet thing she was always using.
Dile was instantly back to another time when he had acquired another family after those dark days of living in fear of his master. They wanted to escape Liverpool and make a new life in New York, and had won tickets on a large newfangled ship. ‘What was it called? Oh, yes.’ Dile coughed again, and if he could have, he would have burped when a long leather brush tickled his soul. ‘Oh yes, it was called the Titanic.’
I remember thinking how lucky I was to be on board with all this splendour and style around me. All the luggage decided to have a large party. The handbag tried to flirt with me, and I fell asleep. In minutes when I reached my cabin, till I was woken by a large bell, and water all around me. It felt so cold, not knowing what would happen next, then suddenly, I was lost at sea not knowing where I would end up.
I ended up, after several more years of adventures, landing on my feet, as I always do, being taken in by a lovely family in, what I think you humans call, Austria. I was taken everywhere, and shown off. This all went on very well for years, and I did think about settling down with them, till one fatal night.
All the windows in our street were shattered, and lots of shouting awoke me. The family ran about, and there was nothing I could do.
I saw them hugging and crying and being put onto different trains. I ended up with my master, but we came to a stop in the middle of nowhere. I did not know how to console him. A truck picked us up and led to a wasteland with different buildings. For many years I tried to keep him alive. This I did not succeed with. Until again I was left to die in a room. All I could do was cry and watch my cracked brown leather dry out again.
This, of course, was not the end. Luckily, one of the guards took a shine to me, and took me home for his daughter to play with. Many happy days of her using me as a fort for her teddy’s. I stayed with this family for years until the young girl turned into a woman, and decided that there was no more need for me. She put me in the back of her grandfather’s antique shop, and then the world went dark again for many years.
That dusty bell tinkled and a strange looking woman came in. I thought at first she was a man with her tight leathers and boots and short blonde hair. She looked around and locked eyes with me, and I knew that she would have me and take good care of me.
It was a very different world she introduced me to; club nights that involved too many things for me to talk about. She’s been a good mistress, and I feel we are going on a great adventure.
9. Rough Treatment
“Fuck you!” My unspoken words rattled around inside me, as loud as his barked expletives as we careened down the stairs. He was in a rush, dragging me along as fast as his legs would take him, and as he swiftly floated down, I was making my own, less elegant descent.
Of course, if he’d taken more care as he stuffed me full, then I’d have not been so ungainly. But time was of the essence for him, so with one last shove he’d readied me for our departure. This time we were off to the airport, an adventure awaits him for sure, having seen, and felt, my contents. His excitement, however, is not contagious. And as I absorb the battering of our journey, he’s unscathed. Entirely focussed on the task at hand, or perhaps the prize he expects upon reaching our destination.
My entire being creaks under the assault, the weight of his implements adding to the intensity of the blows as I hit each step. Some I miss as his pace picks up, still holding me tightly in his grip, but the next time I make contact with the concrete treads I feel myself straining. Something is going to give soon. With any luck he will lose his hand hold and I’ll slide down the stairs with grace alongside him.
Attempting to distract myself I think about the others. The ones who hold me so carefully in their embrace. My hi-viz clad heroes would always ensure my comfort and security. These men, and sometimes women, whom he often handed me over to showed nothing but concern for me, even when their backs were up against the wall. Of course, he’d always check me over afterwards. Ensuring that these, what did he call them again? Ah yes, these “grubby oiks” hadn’t tampered with me. But it wasn’t me that he was thinking of in these moments. It was himself. He had a certain persona to maintain, a mask to keep up. If they knew what treasures I hid… well, that would never do.
I guess I’d best tell you how we crossed paths just over three years earlier; I’d been just another model under the bright lights. The others had soft exteriors but fine features, all the while clad in designer branding. Flashy, glamourous, sexy. Meanwhile, I sat there just minding my own business. Never one to stand out, I liked my smooth contours and muted colours that are far from desirable. To top it off I’d been blessed with a thicker skin than most of my peers, it was more like a hard shell, keeping me safe from unwanted advances. But he saw me, his steely eyes bore into me from across the room. Within moments he’s upon me, running his lusty gaze along my seams. Laying me back and easing me open with deft fingers, right there, in full view. He looks closer, leans in close enough to inhale the scent emanating from my interior. I feel him now, touching me, exploring me, teasing my folds before suddenly I feel myself stretched wider, a vast chasm for his desires.
He steps back, satisfied at my efforts and his skill, then he’s off to inspect the others. Meanwhile leaving me exposed and open for all to see.
Eventually he returned, restored my dignity, and lifted me to the ground. There he extended his hand behind him, and we smoothly went on our way.
That was the last time he would treat me so kindly.
After we reached his flat he placed in the corner of his bedroom before busying himself beside a cabinet. Pulling out a number of items, he carefully spread them on his bed, wrapping them individually, carefully, sensually. Then he came for me, lay me next to them, and spread me wide before placing them in, one by one. Once stuffed he lowered me to the carpet and hastily pulled me to the door, escorting me away.
Our first trip together. It would be quite the education…
A strikingly beautiful woman opened the door. Tall, slender limbs, a long, blonde ponytail. But her glossy black flesh, gleaming in her brightly lit hall, left nothing to the imagination. He seemed ecstatic at her cruel ministrations. But she touched me tenderly as she reverently extracted each of his items. She tied him, kicked him, and bent him over before her unrelenting invasion began. First working slick fluids into his behind with shiny black nail-less digits, before, one at a time and in increasing size order, she would push the weapons into him.
Once he’d had his fill she dismissed us. He, with his needs met, became irritable. His previous lack of bother with my comfort paled in comparison to the torment of a return journey.
Over the years I’ve accompanied him to many women’s homes. Each with the same cool stare and lustrous skin, though often in other shades. These would become the highlight of my existence, making the poor treatment almost tolerable.
As he grew braver, we’d travel further. First the train to the continent where I never left his sight. Our arrival at the airport for our first flight together was notable mainly because his hands were wet with nerves. The handlers though, they were something else, and I grew cross each time he cursed them for a mark on my exterior. A mark that he’d left in his carelessness.
And so, we’re back here. Him running later than he’d like, bounding down the stairs in an effort to make up lost time. Me, struggling with my burden. As we reached the last flight he swung wide, narrowly missing the concierge. In the process catching my straining seams on the banister. His grasp and my sides gave way simultaneously.
“Fuck you,” I giggled inside, as I somersaulted, erupting over my red cheeked tormentor as he landed. My sordid contents raining down around his crumpled form.
10. The Beach is Nice
There’s something about the beach that is both glorious, and nightmarish. When Bill said he was taking Kayleigh and I somewhere special, somewhere memorable, I was elated. We all dream of travelling to exotic places, don’t we? Well, Bill promised us the most beautiful, exotic, beach we could ever dream of.
Sadly, the reality of the beach is a double-edged sword for me. While I love the feeling of the sun’s rays soaking through my fabrics, warming me to my core, it can be awfully stifling in the midday heat. When the golden sands have soaked up the sun enough to create a blurry haze on the horizon, reflecting the heat like a magnifying glass trained on ants, it’s more than I can bear. Though goodness knows how Kayleigh is managing, as cooped up as she is in my black leather.
The sound of the sea as the waves crash leisurely against the shore is soothing, regularly interrupted by the jovial cries of children amidst their frivolity. Or yelling parents when said children get out of hand. During moments of calm, you can hear the gentle breeze hushing its way through the palm fronds, a soothing sound though the wind itself offers little comfort. It’s not cool enough, carrying the heat of the day upon its caressing fingers, leaving me longing for the sea spray.
That in and of itself can be wonderful, or horrifying, depending on how you view such things. In one way I long for the cooling mist of the sea as it crashes against the shore, ridding those close enough of the sweltering heat. Bill settled us too far back to feel the benefit, and I’m glad of it since I’m well aware of how damaging salt can be to expensive leather like mine. The moment water mixed with salt even touches fine leather like mine, it’s over. It leaves it dry and cracked, and I’m rather proud of my smooth surfaces without many blemishes, thank you very much. I say many, it’s impossible to have no blemishes at all unless you’re carried everywhere, and sadly I weigh too much to be carted around in anyone’s arms. Even Bill’s, and his muscles are fantastic.
My leather was immaculate until I was dragged onto this beach over dunes and rocks that have torn chunks and left scratch marks along my bottoms. I was angry, at first, but once Bill nestled Kayleigh and I amongst an outcropping of rocks, enough to be sheltered on a night but not enough to offer shade in the midday sun, I soon forgave him. The white sandy beach, with the turquoise water rolling onto the shore, was like something off a postcard. If I wasn’t here to see them for myself I would have believed I was dreaming.
It boggles my mind how sand can get absolutely everywhere. No matter the precautions you take, it wiggles its way into your cracks and crevices, leaving you irritable as the tiny particles jab you in uncomfortable places. I’m not sure how my wheels will turn after this, but Bill is going to have a job moving us now. I’m convinced one, if not both, of my wheels, are clogged with the invasive quartz dust. Even this far from the sea I’m certain the salt water is rusting my handle. And we’ve not even been here that long!
Part of me doesn’t mind, the beach is nice, and I’m lucky to have been taken anywhere quite so beautiful. I know for a fact that there are thousands, if not millions, who would give their soul for even five minutes in a place like this, so I shouldn’t be ungrateful. And I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for these incessant flies.
Their constant buzzing reminds me of the power lines that loomed over Bill’s cabin at home. You could feel the electricity tingling in the air, much like I can feel the flies lingering around Kayleigh and I. At least in the cabin, it was cooler, not by much, but enough that the flies hadn’t bothered us. Bill had promised us an exotic trip on his boat, where he would take us to a beach until someone found us, and he’d kept his promise. He just hadn’t warned us about the flies.
It wasn’t as if I could escape them either, their angry vibrations growing more fervent in the heat as they tried to wriggle between my zipper to reach the rotting flesh inside me. Bill had struggled to get Kayleigh inside me until he’d cut her into pieces. Even then he’d had to fight her in, pushing at her limp limbs and tugging angrily at my zipper until I closed all the way. My sides bulge, and there are strands of Kayleigh’s blood-soaked blond hair stuck out in places, though not enough to make it obvious as to my contents.
Bill wrapped her bits in clingfilm, but it’s done little good in this heat. She’s sweating and bloating, and decomposing much quicker than in the cool confines of the cabin. I’m sure it won’t be long before an errant child discovers me, like some horrifying treasure at the end of a scavenger hunt. Bloated, sweating, stinking, writhing with flies which remain the only life around me since the one within has been extinguished. I wish Bill had taken me to other places, that I might have seen other such beautiful views before he left me here with Kayleigh, but she needed company, and so did I.
Ah well. The beach is nice.
11. The Moveable Type
Crunch, scrape, crackle, snap.
Ruthie drags my two plastic wheels over a path of broken shells. Her arthritic fingers, fragile as the fragments below, gently hook my handle. We’re tethered by two aluminum tubes, one dented, telescoping out of my body.
It’s our daily walk, where Ruthie collects words and stores them inside me.
We’ve left the campground, trundling past lawns that homeowners pay to have manicured. Driveways with SUVs. A new mailbox shaped like an old ship.
Neighborhood kids have hung shiny objects — trinkets from a board game? pieces of sea glass? broken mirror balls? — in their magnolia tree
Dime-a-dozen diamonds, sparkling in the morning sun.
A scrap of paper flutters by and Ruthie scampers to grab it. You’d think she was too old for these excursions but her nimbleness continues to surprise. She tugs at my zipper.
“Here you go, Sammy.” She shoves today’s treasure into my gullet. “Breakfast.”
I am her moveable feast of fact and fiction.
It’s a crumpled receipt from the nearby sandwich shop. Sunscreen and a turkey wrap. $17.46.
I barely cost that much, however many years ago.
It was different then. Crammed into cluttered closets, squeezed into overheads, tossed into cargo holds — I did not go gently into that good flight — and eventually abandoned behind a guesthouse. Some trick had called my third owner “trashier than your crappy suitcase”, which resulted in an immediate upgrade via Amazon.
I was bound for the dump when an old crone, crowned in a sunflower-adorned straw hat, shouted, “Hey, motherfucker! I’ll take that.”
“Ruthie, my love!” the garbage man replied. “It’s all yours!”
A day hasn’t passed that we haven’t walked the Provincetown streets, collecting tatters of type, snippets of stories.
We mosey past what’s left of the pony farm. Three new condos are going up. More housing for people buying at the top of the market to escape city life.
I gleaned this from last fall’s Boston Globe’s Real Estate section. Ruthie found it near The Lobster Pot, whose menu boasts a Portuguese Fish, made with linguica, onions, and Ritz crackers. $34.
We straggle down Nickerson Street, which separates a children’s playground from a local artisan’s workshop. He transforms scrap metal into objets d’art.
We walk the gray area between play, work, and creation.
Would he see my long handle as the neck of a turtle or a giraffe? A turaffe? A girtle?
Clickety-clacking along, we’re soon on Commercial Street, the main drag of a town full of drag queens, tourists, hippies, and realtors.
She kicks my side, dislodging a pebble from my wheel, then pulls me against the traffic of this one-way street. She stops to chat with wash-ashores and lets tourists take her picture.
She was in the local magazine some years back: “Ptown Icon Celebrates 80th Bday!” A photograph of Ruthie, beaming her near toothless grin, surrounded by men dressed as Liza, Cher, and what might have been Celine Dion or an anorexic Bette Midler.
She extracts a flier from a bougainvillea near the The Boatslip, grumbling as she slides it into my front pocket. A postcard promoting some queen who’d earned a “sashay away” from RuPaul’s Drag Race. $25 + two-drink minimum.
“Don’t care what dumbass TV show you’re on. Quit fucking littering.”
Later this afternoon, The Boatslip’s daily tea dance will be swarming with locals and visitors— the tea being overpriced cocktails and the dance being side-eyes and flirting. Throngs of people shouldering all kinds of baggage, but who’ve left their luggage at home.
There’s no room for likes of me amidst that sea of tattooed calves and Jimmy Choo knock-offs.
I’m not knocking knock-offs. I mean, please — my plastic label screams “Samsenlite”. It’s why I feel so at home in this town. We adore the off-brand.
“Ruthie, my love!”
A screech of bicycle brakes, clearly in disrepair.
Our friend Reneé. Her bike basket’s bedazzled with Barbie doll heads.
No one knows where the bodies go.
Ruthie salutes from the brim of her straw hat. “Morning, gorgeous!”
Reneé reaches into her cargo pants and presents a paperback page. “Something for Sam. ‘Valley of the Dolls’, got left in the restaurant. No spoilers, but Miss O’Hara’s still sober.”
Ruthie slips Neely (bitching to someone called Anne about Helen Lawson walking in “like the Queen of England”) inside me. She lands between last month’s box scores and part of a story where “Since all of this is being televised, right now District 12 is the laughingstock of Panem, and he knows it.”
What could that be about? Why is everyone there so hungry?
“Speaking of Sammy,” Reneé says. “He’s looking a little haggard. We were wondering if it wasn’t time to upgrade?”
Am I about to be Nickersoned?
“He’s fine.” Ruthie caresses my top strap. “Fuckin’ kids just tossing things away ‘cause they’re old. Where’s that leave me?”
Reneé laughs. “You’re gonna outlast us all. Sammy, not so much.”
She pedals off, promising to see us tomorrow. I’m not convinced that’s a good idea.
We continue and make it to Spiritus, the pizza shack that comes alive after last call.
Ruthie settles herself onto a bench.
“End of the line today, Sammy” she sighs, kneading her knees. Our walks have been getting shorter. Wasn’t so long ago we’d make it to the East End.
We’re planted there for another hour or so. This street provides a constantly changing, yet comfortingly consistent, garden of sights. Ruthie nods off every so often.
The sun grows a little warm, and Ruthie’s had enough.
She pushes herself to her feet.
“Time to go, buddy.”
We careen our way through today’s cross-section of Cape Codders: toddler-toting tourists; locals with noses in cellphones; a one-legged man lugging an easel and half-finished landscape; trans dads steering strollers of springadors; a gaggle of bridesmaids, already tanked, squealing in registers only dolphins can hear.
Crunch, scrape, crackle, snap.
This village, like all of us, holds so many fragments of stories that will never be told.
12. Packed Full Of Memories
I was new when his father brought me home from the department store. While I never met my predecessor, I had heard they’d been lost during a flight across the Atlantic. How, exactly, does a whole suitcase just disappear like that? That’s a question for the airlines. Mabe lost in an ocean of lost items, or possibly literally lost in the ocean? I’m not really sure how these things work. I am, after all, a simple suitcase.
I was mainly used for business trips and never for family trips. That practice kept me in good form over the years. They’d leave me behind for a week or a weekend, usually during the summer months. I didn’t mind, but I wish I had gotten to know the family more when they traveled together.
The boy was always about when his father was packing for a business trip. Sometimes he’d kneel down inside and pretend that his father could take him us like that. Inside of me? The sense of humor the boy had and at such a young age! As he got older, he was around for his father’s trip, packing less and less until not at all. I know it was easier to pack without all the distractions, but I wonder if his father missed those days as much as I did?
When his father collapsed, I was at home in the bedroom closet. I don’t know quite what happened to him, but I know that the boy and his mother packed me for when he would recover enough to come home. Of course, at the time, we all believed that he would. But, as things came to pass, that change of clothes would remain packed away in me for several years.
The next time I saw the boy, one would hardly consider him a boy! So when the strong hand of a man pulled me from storage, I’d half thought it was his father who had come to collect me. But, as he discovered my contents, I recognized the scruffy face before me as he recognized the last remnants of his father.
One by one, the personal effects I had been holding for so many years were removed. Carefully, as if he were excavating a tomb, the young man gently lifted each item out and laid them out on the bed. Every time he picked something up, his hands would turn it over, scrutinizing every detail. No pocket was left unexplored. No loose thread went unnoted. I watched as the articles were placed as if their owner might come back to claim them at any moment.
I will allow the young man’s grieving process to remain private, but it was a moment I am eternally thankful I could carry through for him. Watching the boy, now a man, relieve me of the last of his father’s belongings made all those dusty years worth it. I would have held those old clothes a hundred times a hundred more years, guarding them against moths and rodents, if it meant I could give the boy this gift again.
It would turn out that he would have his own gift to give me. Not many nights later, he would frantically grab me, throwing me onto the bed to toss items to take with us. I did not care where we were headed or what he brought along. I was thrilled to be heading out on a journey once again!
I would be by his side for most of the visit as he paced in waiting rooms or slept in chairs. His mother appeared and disappeared a few times during our duration there. She did her best to soothe his worries while they waited. Yet, in all the excitement, I’m not sure she recognized me, though I had changed the least since she’d last seen me. While it took me a while to decipher what this trip was about, it felt good to be with the family again. And when we finally left the hospital, our family included me, the young man, his wife, his mother, and a new baby girl.
Though the clothing, the destinations, and the family would be different, it felt so familiar. Our little family went all over the country, even overseas once or twice. Between the open road, the airlines, and memories, I hardly felt I’d been packed away.
13. A Life Well-Lived
Slapping a logo sticker on my front, she packs me full of Mary Kay — mascaras and eyeshadows and lipsticks, organized in clear plastic baggies, all different shades. We travel through neighborhoods, week after week, sale after sale, until she finally has enough to leave her no-good cheating husband for good.
In April, she flies me to Vegas, first class, one-way. In the airport, she places a “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” sticker just beside the Mary Kay one. I carry her most precious belongings — her fur coat, a bottle of 1965 Château Lafite Rothschild, and seventeen copies of her divorce decree.
It’s hot and dry in Vegas, but the colors bring the city to life. We live in a studio apartment and after a few months, she packs me full of sex toys, a new sticker on my front that reads “The Titillating Traveling Trunk.” We travel to sex shows from Nevada to California in her Volkswagen Beetle, rattling down Route 80 as we listen to Queen.
We move to Los Angeles in ‘82 and I sport a new sticker that reads, ‘In Los Angeles, everyone is a star.’ I’m packed with DVDs, the ones she watched while she smoked stale weed and dreamt of her life as a star. I acquire two more stickers as she books roles on Miami Vice, the Dukes of Hazard, and some obscure movie she never wants to talk about again.
I sit in her large closet — almost as big as the apartment in Nevada until she throws me in the trunk, filled with a white dress and lacy thong, and for a night, we’re back in Vegas. It’s Elvis who marries her and a much older gentleman, one who always seems to have a white powder ring clinging to his nose. A “Just Married in Vegas” sticker appears two minutes after their vows, and they’re back in LA by the same time the next day.
Three months later, she’s packed me again, along with whatever she could scrounge up from that too-big, too-modern maze of a house. We bounce along the freeway as she blasts Belinda Carlisle. At a rest stop just outside of Salt Lake City, she scrapes off the sticker and presses a new one over the evidence: “Divorce. Because Murder is Illegal.”
She stops in Denver for a time, living only with the things she’d packed me full of. In ‘88, we tailgate outside the Monsters of Rock Festival Tour and I pick up two more sticky emblems for Metallica and Van Halen. We’re on the road then and I’m packed full of drugs and liquor and panties. We stay in cheap motels as she schmoozes with the bands.
At one stop in Minnesota, I watch as the room sways with inebriation and she convulses on the floor. They pump her stomach and she swears she’s done, finally packing me up with the few things she hasn’t sold for benzodiazepines.
We recover in Minneapolis, six long years of waiting tables and a new sticker that reads, “Sober is Sexy.” Before long, she’s ready to move on, away from the cold and mundane. We hop a bus to Philadelphia and she rents an apartment over a restaurant that smells like oil and rot. My Mary Kay sticker begins to lose its grip and she keeps it in place with a new blue label that reads, “My Heart is in Philadelphia.” It takes another two years to leave.
My wheels and bottom are scuffed as she rolls me across the city, sixteen blocks to a new apartment where she meets a man with startling blue eyes. He lives across the hall and she tucks me in the closet before he comes over to cook her dinner. They marry overlooking the Schuykill as I hold their end-of-night change of clothes. She’s exhausted, but this time, I know she’s in love.
I’m hidden away for four more years until she plucks me from the closet, her belly swollen, and whisks me off to the hospital. Inside, I carry brand new baby clothes and slippers for her feet.
It’s the girl, Madeline, who pulls me from the closet next, packing me full of toys and nail polishes, feather boas, and costume pieces. On my back, she writes her name with a backward D in black permanent marker. We travel around her room to imaginary destinations, until I’m put away again. When she’s ten, she takes her first plane ride, bringing me home packed full of priceless souvenirs and a new sticker that reads, “Walt Disney World: The Vacation Kingdom of the World.”
A decade later, I’m frantically packed with more clothing, a blood pressure cuff, and the Holy Bible. We’re back in a hospital — the best one, her husband and daughter agree, and we wait week after week after week. She wakes, finally, with a new heart that’s beating on its own. There are hugs and smiles and tears, and a new sticker from the doctor that says, “Transplant Survivor.”
Life is slow after her daughter goes away to college, and I can feel her loneliness even if she doesn’t express it. She packs me full of her belongings once more — a trip to see her only daughter all the way across the country. But this time, my right wheel begins to wobble and I worry not even a tightened screw will fix me for our next adventure. It turns out to be okay — her heart isn’t what it used to be and someone offers her a ride halfway through the airport.
Her daughter finds me next, filled with treasures and trinkets, still zipped up faithfully back in the Philadelphia closet. She refills me with framed photos and paper programs and throws me in the trunk of her Jeep. We arrive at a church, where everyone is dressed in black. I’m a proud participant — my stickered shell revealing a life well-lived.
14. Until Death
The old man shuffled. A painful gait, legacy of some trauma. Step, followed by toe drag. Small puffs of air and spittle sprang from his droopy mouth. His rheumy eyes surveyed the shelves.
My contemporaries, with their shiny buckles and spacious pockets shivered and shrank. We could not be touched by the reaper we seen circling him. For us, his gaze held a different finality, newspaper clippings, faded shoes, rough hemmed suits and forgotten things. Worst of all to be gagged by moth balls, and shoved under a dusty bed to molder in their pungent aroma. No worse fate for a suitcase awaiting the world. I was not worried for my accord. Such wizened wanderers typically like larger darker models, while I am a svelte and pinkish.
Yet, the shuffle stopped before me. His fingers, thick and textured ran across my stitching, rough compared to my softness. We were an ill-matched pair, this man and I, but he didn’t depart. I am surprised he did not hear my groan of protest as he forced his trembling handling around my trim handle, hefted my balanced weight.
A saleslady sauntered over, smiled at me in his grasp.
“I’ll take it,” he said.
I heard the murmurs of the other suitcases, felt the sad eyes of the purses as I left the store.
There was a heaviness about me my empty insides could not account for. The old man grasped my travel handle, we lurched forward in fits and hiccups, my wheels stuttering on the pavement. I gaped at the crowds, gagged at the exhaust of the bus he struggled me on to.
We arrived at a towering, exhaust-stained apartment. My zipper cold, the air within me trapped and stagnant. I watched a door swing upon its hinge and reveal a small dark-eyed girl, about 12 years in age. For just a breath of time, she appeared a lost fey.
Abandoning the safety of the door she leapt forward and buried herself in the elder man’s embrace.
“Happy Birthday, sweetheart,” he said.
The girl peeped at me from under his arm, her eyes wrinkling at her smile’s radiance. I smiled back.
“Mom and Ron are still sleeping. Is that for me, Papa?”
“Let’s just say your gift is inside.”
I wondered at his cryptic answer, my enclosures still empty. I hoped the old man hadn’t a fit of memory. The girl, even in her joy still had a vestige of sadness I didn’t care to add too.
The apartment was dark. I bumped along the carpet and came to rest beside a sagging couch. The old man leaned heavily plunking onto the worn seat with a sigh.
“Before you get your Mom, sit for a moment Mina. I have a story and a question.” He said, patting the seat. The girl obeyed. Her head rested on his arm, eyes downcast. If I had the power I would have shuffled closer, his tone stayed low and soft.
“Now Mina, when I was a boy my mother was a cruel woman. She was sharp-tongued and mean. Sometimes, I think she took pleasure in other’s pain. My father was even worse. My mother never hit, but he was a man with a big voice and even bigger hands. He smacked my mother for the smallest infraction and by the time I was your age, I too, was at the mercy of his blows.”
“Do you know any such men Mina?”
The child scarcely breathed.
“I have seen the bruises on your Mom. Don’t be scared. I can see that he does not hurt you or her again.
My grandmother came to visit when I was your age. I had never met her. I only knew she was an odd duck. She was there for a week, and then she left. I missed her, but I needn’t have worried, because she returned carrying two empty suitcases, small and brown.”
A chill come over me. My fate felt loose, undefined.
“My grandmother told me she was a witch. A real one. She told me many things but what she did… Inside those suitcases she trapped the souls of my parents. Their bodies slept, a coma the doctors said, perhaps a sleeping sickness. They didn’t know, but I knew. As long as those suitcases stayed shut, they would sleep until a natural death took them. I could destroy their prison and end them, but true witches do not kill. It hurts us as much as our victims. A knife can not cut, less it becomes dull.
My grandma stayed to raise me, to teach me all she knows. I have the suitcases still, though my parents are since passed.”
The hum of a fan buzzed loud in the silence. I wondered what a soul would feel like. The little girl raised her eyes, lifted her voice.
“Mom would never hurt me…”
“But Ron?” He asked
“Go to your room and don’t come out,” he said.
The old man unzipped me with the care of a lover. Strange words fell from his lips, odd objects filled my cavity. A ringing filled the air, a crescendo loud enough to drown the screams of Mina’s mother, the wail of the ambulance, the whispers of the neighbors.
I awoke, zipped again and full of him. He rages and splutters within my seams, a hot coal I’ve swallowed or an indigestion I long to spit out. From the couch, the old man snores, in the distance I hear sobbing.
Mina watches me, eyes full of fear and something else. In her hands something sparks, orange and bright. Her fingers tremble at my seam. The flames are slow to catch but I embrace them as they embrace me. Inside the voice screams, and the old man lurches awake.
Too late, I slip away, never having seen the world but content seeing Mina smile.
15. Never Travel Alone
I was born with a desire, a compulsion, an intangible lust for adventure weaved into the very fabric of my soul. A young drummer named Henry Avalon selected me to accompany him on a sold-out world tour that touched down on every continent excluding Antarctica. The inaugural show was at the Stade de France in Paris, then we traveled to Berlin and London before headlining the Prague Spring International Music Festival. We visited Shanghai, Moscow, Cape Town, and Australia in the span of a week.
On a sultry summer night in Toronto, I was lying in bed (where I had been since the morning), when Henry, drunk, stoned, careless Henry, returned to our hotel room obliterated beyond cognitive function with a swarm of ravenous strangers.
That night, he tried heroin for the first time, knowing he had a show in Vancouver the next day. I’ll never forgive him for that decision.
Some people can gamble with their health for decades; Henry didn’t have that kind of luck. When he overdosed, everyone fled the room and left him for the grim reaper. No police. No ambulance. No second chances. Just me, helpless, indecisive me, watching him turn purple and blue on a hotel floor. A day later, I was sent back to the United States with his corpse and drum kit.
I spent the better part of 1972 locked in the closet of a grief-stricken woman named Prudence Avalon. She didn’t pay much attention to me, always shut up in the master bedroom of a hollow, L.A. mansion, drinking straight gin and swallowing pain pills to numb her heartache, with me, feckless, impotent me, watching her slowly deteriorate over a long, cold winter. But then, on a beautiful spring day, she decided to visit her family in New York, treating me to a cross-country drive from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. We saw the usual landmarks one would find in a tourism guide: Yellowstone National Park, the Appalachian Mountains, and Niagara Falls. Prudence skipped Mount Rushmore due to a moral objection.
But as soon as we arrived at her parent’s house, Prudence abandoned me in her childhood bedroom for three long, miserable days. When the time arrived to head home, she gathered her belongings and dumped me in the backseat of her yellow Pontiac Astre while she said her goodbyes and made plans to return in the near future, and I relished the thought of being on the open road once again.
But as fate would have it, before we even left the city, grief swallowed poor Prudence. Henry’s death, compounded by leaving her family and friends, demonstrably overtook her mood, inflicting her with waterfall eyes and nervous hiccups. Her vision was so blurred that she didn’t notice the sudden traffic jam caused by an accident on the bridge–if only she had a passenger who could have screamed stop! She careened into the back of a stationary truck at full speed. At least she didn’t suffer. The steering wheel crushed her ribcage and ruptured her heart upon impact.
An EMT carried me from the wreck and left me in the possession of an elderly woman and her wheelchair-bound husband, owners of a quaint little thrift shop.
It was 1997 when my stay at The Vintage Boutique on Flatbush Avenue came to an end. A short, olive-skinned woman named Theresa McBroom had recently won a lawsuit against her former employer, a substantial fifty-three thousand dollars for unpaid wages, and was set to take a vacation, a chance to finally spoil herself after five decades of servitude and sacrifice raising two kids who had their own lives now.
A map of the world was taped to the wall in her bedroom with a pushpin stuck firmly in Greece. Her grandparents had immigrated from Athens and she wanted to visit the land that spawned her ancestors, and, if she was lucky, have a summer fling on the beach.
We toured the Parthenon on the first day, but for the rest of her vacation, Theresa was sequestered in a dimly lit hospital room. Hours after our plane landed, a pair of bandits mugged us, in broad daylight no less. The volatile thugs stabbed her twice in the abdomen and once in the throat before they absconded with her purse. Sometimes, I wonder why they didn’t take me. . .
On the day we were set to fly back to America, Theresa’s liver and lungs failed. She didn’t even get to try moussaka.
I became a resident of Greece the moment Theresa expired and spent the next seven years in the home of Penelope Mercouri, a nurse at the hospital where Theresa had been treated. Unfortunately, Penelope didn’t like to travel. She barely wanted to leave the house. If it hadn’t been for a coworker begging her to join her on a week-long vacation to Jamaica, Penelope would’ve never seen the world outside of her hometown. She agreed to go. I wasn’t invited. I was too old-fashioned and unattractive, so she borrowed a suitcase from her cousin and sold me to a man in Italy over the phone.
She dropped me off at the Hellenic Post the morning before her flight. I was locked in the back of a truck with no windows and no idea of the world outside of my metal prison on wheels.
I assume Penelope lived a long and healthy life and enjoyed a wonderful vacation in the tropics, but me–benign, harmless me–suffered a slow and painful death when my transport was struck by a tanker truck hauling gasoline. Within seconds, I was engulfed in flames so fierce that my mustard yellow canopy and red pinstripes turned black, my brass buttons falling like teardrops from hell, the lining of my guts the fuel that helped to eat me from the inside out, until every atom and molecule of my construction turned to ash, with so much of the world left unseen.
16. One Way Trip
From the moment you purchased me, I’ve been wondering where we’re going to go. I love travel, as you maybe could have guessed. I’m a suitcase, I was literally made for it. There are so many places we could go together. Are you planning to use me for a quick little weekend trip? That would be nice, a break from the usual without having to move too much around in your schedule. Or maybe it will be something longer, a voyage into exotic locales, broadening our horizons, taking in all the wider world has to offer. That would be wonderful. But no need to pick one or the other, we’ll be able to make plenty of trips together over the years. Maybe I’ll become one of those old beloved suitcases covered in stickers from all our excursions, wouldn’t that be cool?
We’re home now, excellent. What a lovely home you have. This staircase is rather well appointed. This bedroom is nice as well, but at least buy me dinner first. I’m joking of course, I’m a suitcase, do whatever you want. But look, you’re already packing! You’re… Wow, you’re really in a hurry. Not exactly bothering to fold those clothes, are we? Sorry, I shouldn’t be so judgmental. You’re just eager, I get it. Can’t wait to get going, who cares if your shirt’s a tad wrinkled. And you’re packing some spare cash, always good to have on hand. And some… more spare cash. And… Good lord that’s a lot of money, where did you get all this?
Oh, someone’s at the door. You can continue packing after you’ve answered it I suppose.
Hello? I heard a terrible crashing down there, is everything alright?
Oh, hey, you all are new. Friends of the guy who bought me, I assume? Not sure why he didn’t come back upstairs with you, but it’s not my place to pry. You’re, uh, you’re unpacking me, that’s… I’m not sure you should be doing that, my owner seemed to be wanting to head out pretty soon. It’s going to be inconvenient that I’m empty now. Also, you’re not taking much care with his things. At least put the clothes on the bed or something instead of throwing them on the floor, were you raised in a barn? And I don’t know if it’s a good idea to put all that cash in your pockets. There are unsavory characters out there, you don’t want to get mugged.
Okay, you’re carrying me downstairs. That’s fine, let’s just see where this goes. Oh, and there’s my owner! He’s… Oh my god. Oh, oh god, oh he’s dead. Oh god. Oh my god, you’re putting him inside me. Oh lord, I don’t like this. Oh, if I had a stomach I would throw up, this is, this is wrong. This is bad. Ugh, I can feel him touching me. Can he even fit all the way in? Oh, never mind, you, uh, managed it; I don’t think I’ll ever be able to unhear that dreadful popping sound.
What… What is that you’re putting in me now? Is that gravel from the driveway? That’s gonna be pretty heavy, I think that would exceed the weight limit for most flights. I suppose that’s not a concern for, say, a road trip, but still. It’s not very comfortable. I suppose it’s getting between my inner lining and the body, at least a little bit, so that’s… good.
And we’re moving again. You’re clearly struggling with the weight, I told you that gravel was a bad idea. But you managed, we’re back in the car now. Just going down the road with a, uh, dead person inside of me. Man, when they’re telling you about all the travelling you’ll do, they never, uh, they don’t say it’ll be like this. I never… never could have imagined this.
We’ve stopped. Where are we now? This isn’t an airport or a train station or anything. This is… Is that the river? A boat, are we going by boat? I don’t see any boats. Why are we heading towards the river if there isn’t a NO NO DON’T THROW ME IN!
Oh good god that’s cold. It’s cold and dark, and I have a dead person inside of me. And it’s getting colder and darker. I’m being dragged down. Why am I… the gravel. It’s the gravel. I can barely see the light above me anymore and… Oh, there’s the bottom. The sediment is soft at least. That’s… good. I… guess I just… sit here now. In the cold and the dark. With a body inside me. Never going anywhere. Forever.
17. Dreams Dashed Again
Wee… Round and round I went on the baggage carousel waiting for Blake to come fetch me. We were going away on a most fantastic voyage; 7 days and nights on a cruise ship. A boat, a really big boat. I hadn’t been on a boat before but Blake made it seem so very exciting, and after being stuck in the musty old closet for ages I was looking forward to a fun adventure. He packed me full of colorful shirts and tied a flashy strap around me, so I was certain it wasn’t going to be another cold, dreary conference like he dragged me to last time. Duluth, in January. No, that was most assuredly not an exciting adventure. It was week’s before I warmed up and dried out after that snowy ordeal. I still have a stubborn stain and wobbly wheel.
Oh yay, he’s here. I was beginning to get a little dizzy.
“About to jump on a cruise with Suzie, be back in a week.” Who’s he talking to, and who is Suzie? I never heard of a Suzie before, but I haven’t been out in a while so who knows.
He grabbed me and off we went, navigating our way through the Miami airport. He swiftly made his way through the crowd of travellers and we were outside at the taxi stand before I knew it. Handing me off to the driver I heard him say “Wa Kee Na Drive,” before slipping into the back seat. I was shoved into the trunk and plunged into darkness again before I felt the rumble of the car pulling out and driving off.
It wasn’t long before the taxi stopped and everything went silent. Then the trunk popped open and I was greeted by a majestic sun and bright blue sky. Hello Miami! Blake took me out of the trunk and my wheels barely touched the road before the taxi sped away. We were on a palm tree lined street in what appeared to be a residential area. There was no beach, no water, no boat to be seen. Just neat little bungalows behind deep green hedges.
Several days later we were still at that bungalow on Wa Kee Na Drive. All Blake did was smoke cigars, drink beers and swim in the pool each day, interrupted only by the occasional short telephone call. He’d emptied me out, putting his clothes away, and left me sitting empty next to it. Even my fancy strap was gone. What happened to our exciting adventure on the cruise ship? Where was Suzie? Nobody visited, and Blake never left. It wasn’t cold and snowy, but it sure wasn’t much different than sitting in that dreary old hotel in Duluth.
The following afternoon there was a knock at the door. I don’t know what time it was, but the sun had just passed the peak of the house leaving the near end of the pool in shade. Blake opened the door to a man dressed in a colorful shirt, just like the ones now sitting in the dresser, linen pants and a straw canotier hat. He came in and proceeded to get a beer from the fridge before sitting down at the table with Blake. He too was a cigar smoker. They talked for a while, sometimes in hushed tones but mostly they were jovial and laughing.
Long after the sun had set and the only light came from the globe above the kitchen table or the moon outside, the two of them were still sitting there smoking their cigars and chatting away. Sounded like they used to work together as they were reminiscing about old times. Blake said they were out of beers and went to bring more in from the garage. The man followed him. Moments later I heard a faint pop before Blake returned to the kitchen to put the beer away in the fridge. The man did not return.
The next morning Blake was up early and busy working on something in the garage, coming back to the kitchen to wash up in the sink every once in a while. He appeared to be getting quite dirty and sweaty. What was he doing in there? I wish I could see. I thought I heard a saw, but what could he possibly be doing. This may not be a fancy cruise ship but it was at least a vacation in what appeared to be somebody else’s home. Maybe this was Suzie’s home. Oh yes, that could be it. Maybe he was making something to surprise her. Now that would be exciting.
Dreams dashed again. Blake made quick work of his project in the garage then, after a shower, he opened me up on the bed and started packing. This time he didn’t pack the same colorful clothes he came here with though. Instead, he lined me with plastic and newspapers then brought something in from the garage and placed in me. It was cold, heavy, and wrapped up in a black garbage bag. He then added more newspapers and sealed the plastic around it with duct tape before closing me up and wheeling me out to the front door. Looks like we are off again.
Another swift jaunt through the airport and I found myself back at the baggage carousel again when Blake stopped to make a call. “Everything went well. Leaving the package at the airport now… Yes, it is a relief to have that problem taken care of… the next flight… Yes, I’ll meet you there.”
“So long little buddy,” and with that he put be back on the carousel with all the incoming bags and walked away. Round and round I went again, left on the carousel, abandoned, and something was beginning to leak.
18. Cleaning House
She has to stand on a stool to reach me. He keeps all three of us on top of the wardrobe: Big at the bottom, Medium in the middle, me on top. He piles us up rather than nesting us because he likes the structure and symmetry of a stack: it represents order, and as he tells her often, order is important.
She seizes my handle, swings me round, and tosses me onto the bed. She learned that from him, I suppose, from the way he grasps her neck to put her where she belongs, where she can do the only thing she’s good for.
Good lord, does she want that from me?
No, she can’t. She’s very passive when they make love; she just lies there and takes it. That’s her all over: take, take, take. She’s selfish, and so ungrateful. When she first arrived at his island home, the blushing bride only knew one way to fuck. He took the trouble to teach her new positions, and new holes he could use, but all she did was cry about it.
She doesn’t cry anymore. She knows better now.
I can’t describe how painful it is to see her snatch both her dresses from the wardrobe, ball them up, and thrust them into me. She knows that’s wrong — he taught her how to fold clothes properly, the way he likes — but she’s too lazy to take care over her packing.
She empties her underwear drawer on top of her dresses, then tosses her spare pair of shoes beside them. She dashes out of the room, returning a moment later to put her toothbrush and hairbrush in me.
That’s everything she has. She’s packed her whole life.
Oh my god! Is she leaving him, after all he’s done for her? How could she? How can she, when he took the boat to the mainland? And where would she even go? It’s not like she has friends.
I hear footsteps on the stairs. He’s back, thank goodness. He’ll restore order.
But it isn’t him. It’s one of the postal workers for the islands, here on a Sunday for some reason.
“Are you ready to go?”
“No. There’s one more thing I should take.”
She lifts one corner of the rug, and pries up a loose board. In the gap below is a large crystal star on a mahogany base. I’ve seen it before, but I shouldn’t be seeing it now. It’s an award she won at school for being an exceptional student. He told her to throw it away when she moved in, that keeping it would be vanity, and anyway, she must have earned it by whoring herself out to her teachers because someone as stupid as her couldn’t have won it honestly.
She lifts it out, weighing it in her hands. “Is it too heavy?”
The postal worker rummages around inside me, making space for the trophy. “If you can carry it, you should pack it. It will remind you of who you used to be; who you can be again, once you’re free. We’ll put it on our mantelpiece.”
They both have their backs to the door, so I see him first, but we all hear him as he walks up the stairs and into the room.
“Why is the mailboat tied up at our… Oh, I see. I don’t know what my wife has said to you, but she is… unwell. Delusional. You should leave, I’ll see that she receives appropriate treatme — ”
* * *
It was awful, just awful.
She didn’t even let him finish speaking. She raised her trophy high, screaming like the demented woman she is, and hit him, square on his forehead. He dropped like mishandled baggage.
She knelt beside him, and I assumed she’d beg his forgiveness, but she hit him again, and again, and again, howling and pounding until the star broke off its base and lay in a puddle of gore and splintered bone. Then she stopped, and smiled like she’d achieved something. She hadn’t: she’ll just have more cleaning to do. Fortunately, she already knows how to get blood out of the rug.
The postal worker puts a gentle hand on her shoulder. “It’s over, Amy. It’s over. But we have to fix this before we leave; we have to clean up the mess he made. Can you stand? Please? I need you to come with me. I need your help.”
* * *
There’s so much blood. So much.
When they came back, the postal worker took everything out of me and put it in one of her mail bags.
Amy returned with a hatchet.
They packed him in us. His torso went in Big, and Amy made his limbs fit in Medium. You see? She’s selfish: she can fold things if she wants to.
I got the remains of his head. Before she shut me, she picked up the bloody star, wiped her thumb over it to reveal the etched words, then rammed it inside me. “I was wrong. I don’t need that, it’s the past. You’re my future, Nadia, and I feel exceptional whenever you look at me.”
They dragged Big and Medium downstairs, then Amy came back for me. She carried me down to the jetty and loaded me onto the mailboat beside my brothers. As we set off, I smelled smoke. That’s so typical of her: too lazy to rake the embers in the fireplace before leaving.
Halfway to the mainland I heard two heavy splashes, then she tossed me into the sea. I sunk fast, icy water seeping into me, chilling my hinges.
I came to rest in darkness; silent darkness, until I heard his voice.
“This is your fault! Why did you let her open you in the first place? You should have kept your clasps together. What use is a suitcase at the bottom of the ocean? No use at all. You are literally useless. And so stupid! You just don’t think, do you? Pathetic, worthless…”
6 thoughts on “Fiction Marathon 2022: Fourth Voting Round”
I think there was a definite step-change in the calibre of stories in this round. I suspect I wasn’t the only one who found this prompt very much more appealing than those of previous rounds.
After a first read-through, I’m afraid I rejected all of ‘body-in-a-suitcase’ stories; sorry, just not my bag. So, that was a third of the stories – 6, 10, 14, 16, 17 & 18 – out of the running!
Some of the stories veered a bit too much towards the suitcase being the central, anthropomorphised character in the story – I thought of these a the ‘Brave Little Toaster’ stories.
The stories I favoured were those that responded to the prompt with a strong story that just happened to have a suitcase as the thread running through it, as well as being the narrator, rather than the suitcase itself being the main character.
My votes went to 1, 11, and 13 (with a honourable mention for number 4 😉 )
Here are some brief feedback notes (on all the stories that didn’t feature a body in a suitcase!):
1. Me and Bobby McGee – I like this story. I think the writer has done well what several other writers attempted with less success; to let the suitcase be a motif that runs through life-stories, crossing generations.
2. My Romantic Rendezvous – The short sentences gave this story a cartoonish quality that was quite fun but, for me, the story lack a punch to match; I wanted more plot.
3. Suitcase in the Bardo – This had promise and the dialogue was well done. The ending felt a bit abrupt but I liked the idea of bag concealing a secret, priceless treasure.
4. The Faithful Sister – I wrote this story and really enjoyed doing so! I definitely found writing from the perspective of an inanimate object helped me to find a fresh voice (and one very unlike my own). If it wasn’t my own story, I would vote for it. (And I hope that someone out there will appreciate the fact that ‘Valigia’ is Italian for suitcase…)
5. Saving the Andrewverse – I think the truth is I’m just too unfamiliar with all the US comic book references to connect with this story (Desperate Dan and The Bash Street Kids is where my familiarity with comics ends!)
7. The Pullman’s Peril – Some nice moments and a distinctive voice. But I felt a little lost in the story and the ending felt rather flat.
8. Life of Crocodile – I liked the concept of a suitcase being witness to historic events but, beyond that, the story was a bit thin. It all had the feeling of building up to a story that hadn’t really begun when you ran out of words.
9. Rough Treatment – I found the characters (of suitcase and owner) unlikeable so I think, rightly or wrongly, that clouded my judgement. Also, at times it felt a bit over-written – as though you’d gone through it with the thesaurus and replaced simple words with something more exotic (which, I confess, I am often guilty of!).
11. The Moveable Type – I enjoyed the world described in this story and the lively characters depicted. This felt like a good balance between the suitcase perspective and it featuring as a theme without it being just a story about a suitcase.
12. Packed Full Of Memories – There was a seed of a really nice story here but it didn’t feel fully developed. Maybe some names would have helped us to feel more connected with the characters?
13. A Life Well-Lived – This was the most successful version of the ‘suitcase-as-life-companion’ theme. I particularly liked the recurring motif of the stickers being overlaid by the next life event.
15. Never Travel Alone – Oh dear, what a lot of tragedy! But I didn’t really find a coherent story in it. And I’m always troubled by a story told from the perspective of someone (something, in this case) who dies at the end; who are they telling the story too, and how?!
Well done to all writers. Look forward to reading your Round 5 stories!
Another great round of stories! Well done everyone!
Here are some comments on the stories I chose and thoughts on other stories, too…
#1: Me and Bobby McGee
I liked the history written, but didn’t get as much of a sense of the suitcase as I’d have liked.
#2 – My Romantic Rendezvous
I liked the humor in this piece; and the topic is fun. Well done.
#10 – The Beach Is Nice
I like the suitcase’s laissez-faire attitude and the quirky ending.
#13: A Life well-Lived
A nicely written family history from a suitcase’s point of view, but it didn’t pull me in enough.
#15: Never Travel Alone
An interesting concept, but a bit too drawn-out, which left me feeling that it was a bit ‘scattered.’
#18 – Cleaning The House
Good story, but I wished the suitcase would have been shown to have a more positive attitude, siding less with the screwed up obsessive-compulsive guy.
Good luck to all the writers!
Well done writers, it is not the easiest to think, feel or react like an inanimate object, but you achieved it and the pieces submitted were well crafted. I suspect you watch too many dark films or documentaries, because so many suitcases were used to hide grisly secrets and body parts!
While the challenge of the task was to make the suitcase a narrator, a few stories gained a real edge by giving their luggage a ‘voice’ – I’m talking an accent, a cadence, a style of speech that helped the reader relate to them as a sentient being. [4 excellent ‘hoodlum’ voice, 5 magnificently sarcastic, 18 – spouting its owner’s toxic attitude, 16].
The valise in entry  manages to hum a tune, which is pivotal to the protagonist’s change of heart. Another entry  used a chorus or hook line about its passive role.
I’m not going to lie, the entries with humour in them [2,3,5,] scored higher with me than those which portrayed a negative object bemoaning its life. A few writers did a great job of describing the sensations a suitcase would experience [2, 6, 9,10] and  clever use of a supernatural vibe and  relatable details.
Some entrants let their suitcases take several journeys. This provided a timeline, around which to build a plot, possibly ensuring their story had a beginning, middle and end. What separated the great from the less successful was accuracy of details included, and how much these brought it alive, otherwise I’m reading an itinerary not a story. [1- all on point, 13 -magnificent use of music & stickers, 12,15]. I questioned your facts  also a slip from writing in third person to first was distracting].
I enjoyed the most original plots, and a few with compassionate conclusions earned an extra point.
My final advice (already given by other judges in earlier rounds) use your title, especially with a limited word count. it’s make or break in this fast paced life. Create a title which makes your story stand out. Give a decent hint at what the reader can expect in the story. With an opaque title you’re wrapping a book in brown paper but still hoping someone picks it up to read it, I’d worry less about spoilers and more about grabbing attention. Strong titles [1, 4, 12, 13, 16] Brown paper titles [11, 18, 3]
This was a fun round. O found the task so enjoyable i dashed mine out the same day of the assignment. I have no expectation of surviving this round as my score combined with 10 eliminations sets a high hurdle. The contest was quite enjoyable. Every writer has a unique style and to the other contestants i say this: you all have talent. Whether you placed high or low, you all contributed something to the contest that made people feel fear, become engaged, and care about your characters. Writers do not always have to use grandiose words to convey their heart. Even those who score higher in this contest have room to improve, to learn and to refine their writing. If you put your soul on the paper, your reader will respond. Good luck to all of you
I love how creative the writers were with the suitcase prompt, and all the lovely stories they have woven. What I found really interesting is how many writers came up with stories about a body in the suitcase. You all need redemption! Just joking of course. Seriously, well done everyone!
1. Me and Bobby McGee
I am a sucker for stories like this. Poor Bobby didn’t have the easiest life, and then also had to die in the war. I love that the suitcase goes on to live a second life. This is the kind of story I would love to see as a movie, and I think that says it all. The story is well written, entertaining and evokes emotion. Great job!
2. My Romantic Rendezvous
I love the humor in this story, and the conversation between the two suitcases, laughing at each other because of the buzzing. And then the ending, having to watch while they have fun. I’m forever going to think of that when I have a suitcase in the room!
3. Suitcase in the Bardo
Oh this made me smile, and a little sad too, thinking of all those abandoned suitcases awaiting their fate and trying to make life interesting for themselves. Love the chit-chat between them and also the feud, and a good lesson here to never judge someone on their appearance.
4. The Faithful Sister
When I started to read, I thought we might meet a suitcase helping with crime, but the story got much more interesting than that. I felt indignation reading that Sister Bernadette had to undress at customs, and then couldn’t help but laugh that she wasn’t as innocent as we think nuns are. Great story, which left me wanting more! Well done!
5. Saving the Andrewverse
Love the humor in this story, the comic theme, and then all those sexy toys, and what they will probably be used for. Great story!
6. What I’m Useful For
When I read it was a hard suitcase, I was wondering if a murder might follow. Even so, as I read on, I forgot about it, until he got to the cabin. I like how you have built the story up and kept the tension in it. And the detail about the head… brilliant!
7. The Pullman’s Peril
I like the humor in the story where the suitcase gets all giddy because of the green stuff. And I also like the sentiment at the end of the story. Good job!
8. Life of Crocodile
Where I like all the details in this story, and the travels the suitcase has done, the sadness he has endured, the story confused me in places, such as the dialogue at the end of the first paragraph and the switch from third to first person.
9. Rough Treatment
I like how the title of the story is the theme throughout – rough treatment for the man; rough treatment for the suitcase. I also like the humiliation at the end. I was momentarily taken out of the story and had to reread a paragraph because of the shift in changes, and one place where you seemed to have missed a word? Other than that, good story!
10. The Beach is Nice
When you mentioned Kayleigh for the first time, I had a sense of her being cut up and dead inside the suitcase. This made me wait for an unexpected twist in the story, which unfortunately didn’t come. I liked the descriptions in the story, but I would’ve liked to see more action.
11. The Moveable Type
Oh gosh, I love this story. There is so much here, and it’s beautifully told. Love the characters of Ruthie and Sammy. Fabulous job!
12. Packed Full Of Memories
Such a sweet story, and well told. I like that you have brought all kinds of elements into it, elements that are part of life, such as happiness and sadness.
13. A Life Well-Lived
I love how the suitcase tells the story of a well-lived life, with all its ups and downs and dreams and failures. And the stickers throughout make for a lovely red line. Great story.
14. Until Death
I feel like there’s a hidden message in this story, a lesson. I enjoyed the story and feel the end is fitting, even though I wanted to know about those trapped souls.
15. Never Travel Alone
This is a great story, and I really like how the suitcase is constantly part of the story, experiencing it and not just looking on. Well written!
16. One Way Trip
That poor suitcase! I like how you have used the second person narrative in this. Daring, but well executed!
17. Dreams Dashed Again
This must be the seventh or eighth story dealing with a body in the suitcase, and I like how no two of them are the same. I enjoyed your well-told story.
18. Cleaning House
A story that makes me feel sorry for a suitcase at the end of reading it, can’t be anything but good. This story is well told, and its elements of betrayal and murder and love make you want to read on to see what happens next. Thank you for the entertainment!
Some fabulous stories in what I feel was a difficult round. Difficult because it is not easy writing from the point of view of an object. I have done it a few times and found it a challenge.
I was really looking for the case with a unique voice and also the story from the POV of the suitcase, not “what the suitcase saw.”
I was also hoping for original plot lines. There were a lot of ‘bodies in cases’. I often say when thinking of writing a story, ditch your first idea as if you have thought of it someone else will have also.
To be honest, all the stories were good. Bearing the above comments in mind, my 5 faves were:
3 – 6 – 11 – 12 – 14
Here’s my feedback
1) This is a wonderful story of Bobby Gee. And it really is a story that stretches over the years, told with drama and emotion. The only thing I would have liked more of is the actually suitcases experiences.
2) This was a feel good tale, sharing an event that many women will relate to. It made me smile and you really gave the suitcase a lot of character.
3) Loved this. The idea is great, and you have really gone into detail to tell this from the suitcases POV. The dialogue is good too. I think you nailed the specification for this round.
4) Great story and I loved the voice you gave the case, but it felt more like someone else’s tale not a story, not the suitcases, if you get my meaning.
5) I really liked this story. The suitcase entertained me by talking about his owner, but also having his own opinions. Nice work.
6) I think you did a great job with your story. Firstly, it was a fab story, but you really told it all from the suitcases POV. Well done. Not as easy as people think. I loved the start when the guy was talking to the suitcase. Nice touch.
7) I really liked that we got snippets along the way about the whole of the suitcases life, and you also told it from the case’s POV – not “what the suitcase saw” type of thing. The ending was a nice touch, as people do get attached to objects.
8) I enjoyed Dile’s adventures and I liked you added some humour along the way. I think you did a good job of portraying the suitcase’s life.
9) I particularly loved how you described the first meeting of suitcase and owner and how the relationships between them both developed.
10) Good job here. I saw all the signs, but didn’t believe it until the case described it for me. And I agree with the case – the beach is nice. Great tale.
11) This was beautifully told. How I could feel so much emotion from a has-been suitcase, I don’t know, but I did. What I loved most was the relationship between Ruthie and the case. Great job.
12) You told the suitcases tale – well done. I so liked how precious the things the adults did, seemed to the case. Great story telling.
13) This suitcase lead a busy life – so many uses over the lifetime. I felt a little dizzy for it. But you certainly matched the title.
14) Great stuff. I love how this unfolded and the supernatural element too. A proper story from the suitcase’s POV, but also so much more…
15) Oh my what a tragic surround this case lived through but for sure was his POV. I thought this was very good and felt it would have worked well in a longer story.
16) What a dreadful end for this case. Your story was very strong on imagery. I liked that, being a visual writer and reader myself.
17) You did a great job of presenting the suitcase bird’s eye view and creating his character, as I felt a little sad at the end – with the case’s fate.
18) The thing I liked most about this tale was that the suitcase was inline with the baddie in the story. In my opinion, that gave the tale more depth.
Thank you to all the writers – brilliant job!