I found a locked briefcase. It was just sitting there in the parking lot of a closed-down Arby’s. There was no one around, but I didn’t take it right away. I didn’t even approach it at first. It could have been a trap. What kind of trap, I don’t know, but whoever was devious enough to know I’d been coming every day to lay a single rose on the doorstep of the ghastly shell of this empty Arby’s would likely be devious enough to know my proclivity for stealing office supplies. It was almost too perfect. I don’t know exactly how long I studied the briefcase from afar, but judging by how far the Arby’s shadow had moved across the lines of the parking spaces, I’d say about three hours. Eventually good sense overcame me, and I ascertained that the potential risks involved in snatching it up were far outweighed by the potential boons.
It was heavy. Heavier than I’d expected. As I quickly vacated the lot, eyes darting, my mind reeled with the possibilities that it could contain. Nazi gold? Bricks of heroin? Illuminati mixed tapes? Maybe it was full of Fabergé eggs, and was just a really heavy briefcase? Whatever was contained within it, I had to get it safely home before I could attempt to open it. But first, and more importantly, I had to go across town to get some Beef n Cheddars from the Arby’s that wasn’t closed down. Yet.
Once I was home, and my craving for processed deli meat and cheese sauce was sated, I set about the arduous task of trying to open up the locked briefcase. At first I made the foolish assumption that it would be easy, no more effort than pulling open a Jr Deluxe to fill it with Horsey Sauce. Oh, how wrong I was. It turned out to be darned near as difficult as straightening out a curly fry. I tried everything I could think of. Jimmying it with a flat head screwdriver didn’t work. Neither did jimmying it with a Philips head screwdriver. I thought for sure jimmying it with a Robertson screwdriver would do the trick, but it remained as unyielding as trying to order a Chocolate Molten Lava Cake after the conclusion of its limited-time run.
I stepped things up. I threw it against the walls, I hit it repeatedly with a hammer, I ran it under hot water, I tried cutting it with those scissors that cut through cans and boots on TV. Nothing. It became an integral part of my life. I clutched it tight to me when I slept, I practiced reading lines with it from the play I was auditioning for (the director said I wasn’t Biff Loman material, but he admired my intensity), it talked me through a particularly bad acid trip. But no matter what I did, it would not part its halves and reveal to me the crispy breaded secret contents of its Cravin’ Chicken Sandwich.
After a few days I began to realize that the people around me were part of something larger. Something sinister. I still didn’t know what was in this briefcase, but whatever it was, it was important. There were people out there who didn’t want me to have it. When I walked down the street I was tailed closer than Bronco Berry Sauce on a Jalapeño Bite. My phone conversations were being monitored, I know it, and my bed was bugged. The heat was on, and things were spicier than a fresh-made Arby-Q®.
Then, in a flash of clarity as eye-opening as an egg and cheese croissant on a groggy Monday morning, I had an epiphany. I knew how to open the briefcase. It was so simple. What was the only thing as strong as this mighty locked briefcase? Another locked briefcase.
I stood over the locked briefcase for the last time. I held in my hands a new locked briefcase I’d bought from the Briefcasery. This was it. The moment that this entire ordeal was building to. I swung it down, and there was a loud crack when the two briefcases connected. Then, with an almost imperceptible creak, the briefcase I’d been trying so desperately to open opened. Ever so slightly. I seized it, and held it close to my face. My entire body was trembling. I pulled the lid open, and for a second my heart sank. There was nothing. Then, suddenly, cheese sauce. It sprayed out of the depths of the case, filled my mouth, my stomach, my lungs. Warm, thick cheese sauce washed over me and began to fill up my apartment, the world. I blacked out.
I don’t know how long I was out, but I’m okay now. The doctors here are quite nice, and come talk to me a couple of times a day. They told me there never was a briefcase, that it was a manifestation of trauma due to a catastrophic loss that I suffered and was unable to healthily cope with. I think that’s nuts. I’m not supposed to say that things are “nuts” around here though. They told me I have to stay here a while, which is probably a good thing, because my apartment is filled with cheese sauce. They also told me that if I’m really good, maybe one day they’ll have one of the aides go out and get me some Arby’s for lunch.
Photo by Johnny Scott