It came on a Wednesday, while it was raining. The delivery kid handed it over with a grin, that teenage smirk that you lose in your old age. It was like he knew something. The winged house logo on his truck looked very retro, fresh from the 1950's.

I took the package in the house, after giving the kid a fiver for his time. He sure had a good tan for this time of year. The smirk spread further across his face and he said:

"Thanks buddy! This job has me running my ass off!"

Then he leaned in close, very conspiratorially, and said,

"Listen. You should be careful with that."

Then he winked and ran back to the idling white truck. He peeled out and took the corner at the stop sign like he was on rails. Teenagers.

Curiosity is something that keeps you going in the antique business. You have to peek and pry in all the dark places to find the bits and pieces of glories past. The thrill of the hunt fuels the fire in your belly. It has kept me in business for 30 years, the yearning for the unknown. The paradox of the new old. A strange package on the front step is better than a boatload of gold because of the rush.

The paper I left on the coffee table when I went to answer the door is now the impromptu bed of my examination space. My cold coffee sits nearby, a passed fancy. The whole world has stopped for this butcher paper wrapped enigma. Hope it is worth it.

The label is very odd. It looks new, but somehow ancient at the same time. The return address swims when I look at it. These old bifocals need changing. The sender was careful to write her name in English: Pandora. What a lovely name. I don't think I know a Pandora. My brow wrinkles in thought. Names escape me all the time.

Whatever it is, it's not very heavy. I peel the brown wrapping off on end carefully and I am met with a strange discovery. The brown cardboard of a box of olives peers back at me. This package is well traveled. I never even heard of Olympia Olives before. Too salty for me, what with the high blood pressure and all.

My keys make for an improvised knife to split the packing tape. Unfold the flaps and Voila!


Looks like a wood box. A note is tapped to the top. Gingerly I slip the box free and set it on the newspaper. It has all the hallmarks of being old. It has been shined to a dark gloss with some kind of polish. The rich texture has the color of fresh dried blood. The hair on my neck stands up when I touch it. This is museum old. Big money. Lets see what the note says.

The paper looks like that fancy art store stuff. Like a parchment roll they gave the kids at their graduation. Helena was so proud of them. She had me frame them up with their portraits in the living room. I haven't heard much from the kids since their mother died. I miss them but that’s how it goes sometimes. This "Pandora" lady went full out on the arts and crafts. A real wax seal. Geez.

I get my reading glasses out of my cardigan pocket and break the seal. Calligraphy. Surprise, surprise. What I wasn't counting on was it being Greek. Those O's with the lines through them are the big clue. The letter is addressed to Helena at the bottom. I get a swallow stuck in my throat. Poor thing has been gone for years. I still sleep on my side of the bed, trying not to disturb her.

I left that box on the coffee table for the longest time, like a centerpiece. People would ask about it, and I told them what I could, which isn't much. I tried sending a letter back to the address on the box, but they came back as undeliverable. The last one was stamped 'Return to Sender'. I never opened the box on purpose. The cat knocked it off the table once, running from the vacuum. I saw a glimpse of a little white bottle inside as it spiraled in the air. It closed heavily upside down, disturbed but dignified.

The phone rang once in the kitchen. Long distance.

I put the box back on the table carefully that day and I still dust it very lightly.

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