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Things You Don’t Want But Have to Take

by DeAnna Knippling

She hid from the thing for years, but it found her and came to her in a box with no real return address and her own handwriting on the label.  She knew what would happen if she tried to fight the cold thing with its claws in her neck.  Her only hope was to hide it from her husband…

When it’s time, you know.

I opened my front door.  The deliveryman, a guy of about twenty with sun-streaked hair and the musculature of a young god, had his fist up in the air; either he was going to hit me, or he was just about to knock.

“Hey, Joe,” I said.  I plucked the signature pad out of his other hand before he could say boo and signed for the package.  “Do you want some chocolate chip cookies?” I asked.  “I made them last night.”  In fact, I’d had such a bad nightmare last night (about the box) that I hadn’t been able to go back to sleep.  I know, cookies, right?  But cookies are wholesome.  And they smell good.  I’d eaten about a dozen already.

Joe gaped at me and retrieved the signature pad.  “How do you know my name?”

I pointed at his nametag and walked into the kitchen.  The cookies were still a little bit warm.  “Want some milk?” I yelled into the hallway.

“No thanks,” Joe called back.  “Uh—”

I put the cookies on a paper plate and wrapped it with plastic wrap.  “You sure?”

No answer.  I brought them back out.  Joe had picked up the package and was staring at it.  He looked like he was about to vomit.  Probably from the smell emanating from the box.

You know, Joe reminded me of an old boyfriend I had, who was always trying to keep me out of trouble.  Hadn’t worked.  Joe looked up at me, and I knew he was going to try to run off with that box.

I hate it when people try to be noble.

“Trade you,” I said.

Joe hesitated.  “I—”

Damn it.

“I know,” I said.  “It smells.  It’s some really stinky cheese.”

“It isn’t cheese, ma’am.  Let me get rid of it.  Nobody needs to know.”

I hate it when people call me ma’am.  But I’m married to a company man and stay home all day.  I wear color-coordinated pants and sandals and get matching manicures.  So I guess I can’t complain.  It’s what I’ve made myself look like, after all.  Protective coloration.

Something heavy in the box shifted across the bottom, rattling the packing peanuts.