Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Box

When I was in high school, a couple of friends and I would play a game: we would go to the mall, identify a promising victim, and follow him or her throughout the mall. The fun in this (in case it is not clear) derived in part from the sheer unpredictability of the unknown person: would she be a stalwart, middle-America type, nothing but Sears and Cinnabon, or were we in the presence of a more unexpected character, someone who might, say, top off her visit to the lingerie department at Neiman Marcus with a cheese log at Hickory Farms? The other part of the fun came from the stealth: you were supposed to follow your target without being detected. If through poor technique or plain bad luck, however, your mark turned around and looked at you, you had to fall down dead on the spot.

I was thinking about this game today because when I stepped out onto the street this afternoon, I again crossed paths with an elderly, full-dress nun (Carmelite, I think), carrying the same mysterious card board box with holes punched in it as yesterday. When I saw her the day before, she seemed to be coming from the market, so I imagined that, in the best case scenario, the box contained chicks who would lead long happy lives supplying fresh eggs for the sisters, and in the worst, that it held the rabbit that would soon be dinner.

But today, there she was again, tottering her way down the street with her air-conditioned box. What could it contain? I had no choice but to follow her. We passed the newsstand. She did not, mercifully, go to the market. We turned left, past the paper store with the Christmases, past the new Gallegan restaurant, past the lighting supply store. She was moving very slowly, so it was hard to keep my distance. And when she stopped, it was so sudden that I almost ran into her. Where was she going? Of course: the vet's. She went in, and I decided it best not to follow since 1) the office was very small and 2) I might be forced to fall down dead. As a result, I never got to see what was in the box, what pet it is that nuns get to keep.

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