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Box Full of Nothing

Do you know about the Parisian ladies who lived to a ripe old age, the recipient of the attention (dinners, trips to Monaco) of the highest society in terms of money and culture and over-all fun people to be around, and lived in a fine apartment in the xy Arondissement, because in the middle of their apartment upon a fine Turkish rug, in an antique chest, was their inheritance, extremely valuable deeds and trusts from a captain under Napoleon who had prospered in the Russian campaign and married rich, and been bequeathed untold holdings in the Russian hinterland — dachas! fields! but not just that, mines! factories! the right to mine in Russia’s Central Asian hinterlands — and all their friends and well-wishers although they loved the now old ladies (they lived till 99) who were after all very nice and fun, they hoped to get some of the contents of that chest when they finally met their reward, and when the old ladies did, finally meet their reward, the eager friends who had made their course through life smooth as silk for now seventy-six years, opened the chest, and found it contained, nothing?

Who among us has gotten to this age and has not learned the art of varying a tale? You don’t need me to tell the opposite story, of the young man who upon coming across a chest in an old junkyard threw it away, and went on to poverty and misery and an early death, all because he threw it away, because what was in the chest was treasure — gold, jewels, and you know why not the right to mine in Central Asia that the old ladies promised lyingly, but which the young man in the story that you’re telling me now, because you sure don’t need me to take a story and flip it on its head — everybody knows how to do that these days, anybody with a brain — but was in the ignored chest in Truth?

You don’t need me to tell the story of the Two Boxes, discovered by the poor young girl who was Virtuous and the rich young man from a family of Cheats, which contain pieces of a Treasure, both of which are needed for it to be good, perhaps the first two pages of the deed to the saphire mine in Mongolia, and the last two, and these two lovers, star-crossed, doomed by society’s opprobrium, give it all up except for the two seemingly-worthless boxes and lo! when they opened them, together they were worth a mint!

Your brain is working in your head fine, you are not ill, nor suffering from a concussion, so you can ring the changes on the story of the Two Lovers and the Two Boxes, tragic — because of their flaws she throws hers away in misdirected pique or he does — or comic, she almost throws her away and the dog saves it (the dog! what a cutie!) and now they can eat pate and truffles and fudge and have little Monsieurs and Mademoiselles with their own boxes and adventures.

Late at night around the fire we will tell weirder stories, friends, how some people themselves were the boxes, how the soldier in Russia learned the story of the boxes from an ancient scroll, whole countries of people who had boxes and the boxes were the treasure, people who feel that life is a box and learning that life is no box because there is no inside or outside is itself the treasure inside the box, and we will alternate them all in all the ways our brains, which are healthy as a horse!, can do and have been taught to do, and learned to do.

But that is for the night, friends. Dawn is dawning. Let’s begin the day!

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