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Don’t Box Me In

My wife, whom I love dearly, has a box fetish. This is a tragic and deep-seated neurosis that is apparently part of her family’s DNA. It causes the females in her family to collect and hoard boxes, mostly cardboard.

Over the past decade, Kate has crammed more and more boxes into our small condo and until last week there were so many in our bedroom that we could only make love in a south-by-southwestern configuration and only one participant had enough space to scream.

There was absolutely no room left in our bedroom for any of my essential items – used computer printers, almost-new car tires and four broken clocks that I intend to mend early in the next millennium.

I complained to Kate many times about her box obsession but she would reply that I had turned our second bedroom into an office, the living room into my private library, and the kitchen into a second writing area.

She carried on and on, as women will do, that I had refitted the guest bathroom as a darkroom. I don’t know why she was upset – what’s wrong with having a pleasant red light in the bathroom instead of a harsh fluorescent one?

Often when Kate was away, I would go through her boxes to see if there was anything of value in them. There was not. Nothing but old clothes, family photographs and stacks of stuff that we would never use. At least, that I would never use. Naturally, if I moved so much as a shoebox,

Kate would find out and become unmanageable until I put the item(s) back. I’m certain she took Polaroids on the sly so she could monitor what had happened while she was gone. Our bedroom looked like a shrine to some kind of corrugated paper god.

The boxes are all gone now. Here is what happened.

After Kate went to visit our niece, I heard a noise in the boxes. A terrible scratching sound. I phoned Kate and told her that I thought there was a rat (she hates rats) in her boxes and that she had better drive home right away (a distance of less than 100 miles) and do something about it. It was not yet 3 a.m.; she refused to go along with my request, suggesting instead that I sleep in the den.

I pointed out that our den was my office. We argued, but the seeds had been planted in my wife’s mind:  rats in her boxes.

At 4 a.m., I called Kate again and said I could smell rotting food in her boxes and I postulated that is what had attracted the rat family.

“What rat family?” she asked.

“A family of rats has set up housekeeping in your boxes and are multiplying. Rats, being smaller than humans, don’t need that much room to reproduce in.”

“You’re nuts!”

“I saw the father rat a minute ago. I have to take drastic countermeasures.” I hung up and left the phone off the hook. The next morning, I called a friend with a truck and we took all the boxes out of our bedroom and stored them in his garage. They occupied more space than a car.

When Kate returned with our niece, there was some elbow room in our bedroom. This was a good thing because I was able to set up a third work area there – and a lucky thing I might add, since our niece took over our second bedroom-office. (I had – heh heh – timed the box removal to coincide with our niece’s visit as Kate is usually on her best behaviour when we have guests.)

After Kate got over “box deprivation” or whatever ailment I was helping her with, she became slightly hostile. She wanted to know what happened to the rats. How come she had never heard them? Where had all her business records, tapes, clothing, photos, books and glassware gone?

I patiently explained that I had uncovered the mother and father rat in a nest with their babies – little pink things. I had killed them all. I told Kate that all of her items and boxes were safe in our friend’s garage. She was welcome to go to the garage and bring back any item that she wanted, after we talked about it.

Kate reluctantly admitted that our bedroom looked okay. No clutter except for the temporary office I had set up. Then she wept. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because she found out my friend’s garage was several hundred miles away, just east of Death Valley.

I explained to Kate that she should be happy – at last there was some order in our bedroom. You could find things now; but in typical female fashion she had to point out that there wasn’t much left to find.

A few days later, when I came home, I was horrified to see that our guest bathroom had been repainted and that all my photography equipment had vanished.

“Rats, darling,” Kate explained. “I saw one the size of a cocker spaniel running off with your enlarger. Don’t worry. I killed him and the rest of his family, but they completely stole your darkroom. They also got your broken clocks. Doesn’t the bathroom look great?”

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