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Writing Magic 

2nd Prize Winner

Douglas Pereira

I think I had a name once. A family too, but I only see their shapeless contours when I try to imagine them. I liked to travel, to eat, dance - that much I know, but only shadows remain of the details. The bellowing of a bus horn. The smell of fried batter. A woman in a red dress.

 

Sometimes when I open my eyes, I find myself in a different place. On a bustling boardwalk winding along a golden beach. The backyard of a bungalow in a quiet suburb. A hospital room. A pedestrian bridge. I have a strange sense that I knew these places. Memories whittled away by the passing of days, countless as grains of sand.

 

I can’t remember if I was religious or spiritual, but there is one idea that I recite, so long as it doesn’t fade from my mind. Someone told me that we die twice - once with our last breath, and again the last time our name is spoken. Call it supernatural, but nothing else explains why I’m still here, all these years later.

 

I blink and I’m at the bungalow again. This time there’s another man in the yard, tilling the soil. I watch him from the corner, where a little girl is collecting pebbles.

 

“Well, well,” he exclaims.

 

The girl waddles over with her pail. I follow. The man is kneeling now and digging with his hands, unearthing a wooden box. It’s engraved with initials. The girl observes quietly as he unclasps the lid. Inside are travel magnets, ticket stubs, scribbled notes, a letter.

 

“What is it, papa?”

 

“It looks like a time capsule,” he explains. “It’s like a box of memories you hide away for a while.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Well, when you open it,” he adds, sifting through the mementos, “you remember how things used to be.”

 

“Who put it there?”

 

“Some folks who lived here long before us,” he supposes, unfolding the letter inside. 'To my lady in red,' it reads. The hairs on the back of my neck stand.

 

“Small family…” the man mutters, deciphering the letter, “I think the dad worked hard… somewhere far away.”

 

“He forgot the box?”

 

“Maybe. Or maybe he never got a chance to find it again.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Well, sometimes things don’t go how we plan,” he explains, “Or sometimes we’re too busy looking forward and forget to look back.”

 

“Oh,” the girl stares blankly, “Is he coming back?”

 

“No, baby,” he assures her, “I reckon this is all that’s left. It’s an old box, it was long ago.”

 

“Okay,” the girl says. “Did he build the house, papa?”

 

“Don’t know,” the man shrugs, “But I’m sure he took good care of it.”

 

“Okay,” the girl ponders, “Should we thank him?”

 

“Well, I suppose we should”, the man chuckles, planting a kiss on her head.

 

He scans the letter one last time, clearing his throat. There are tears in my eyes.

 

“For everything you’ve done, wherever you are now,” he says, “Thank you, Bosco.”

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