A Mundane Mystery

Here’s a strange thing. Myself and Mrs. Monkeyshines returned on Sunday from a night away, and found a medium-sized cardboard box balanced on the small wall at the front of our house. It was spitting with rain, and the box was already a bit damp, so I brought it inside. It was not filled with rubbish, rather, it was somebody’s stuff, packed as if for a house move. Curious…

I’ve been reading a bit of classic detective fiction lately, and since I’ve been fortunate enough not to become embroiled in any murderous or nefarious activities, I thought this was a nice first-hand chance to apply my detective skills. Firstly, the box was a bit wet, but not soaked through or anything, so I don’t think it had been there overnight. It was also very deliberately and neatly placed on the wall, and the box was not sealed (the flaps were interlocked, if you know what I mean) and was free from dents and scrapes – so I don’t think it had, say, fallen from a moving vehicle.

It seems like poor form to rifle through the box, but I’ve had a peek, naturally, just to check that there weren’t any kittens in there. There are some hair straighteners on top, some little pots of hair dye (various colours), some wooden African animal carvings (that is, the animals are African, I haven’t studied the provenance of the statues themselves), and a sort-of gothy mirror wrapped in newspaper. The box smells quite strongly of stale cigarette smoke. On the top and sides “Ornaments” and “Market” are written several times each; and “T-shirts” and “Mens Hoodies”, also appear, all written somewhat haphazardly, but legibly, in biro. They could easily be done by the same hand, but not necessarily.

The nature of the articles that I have seen in the box suggest that these would not be destined for sale at a “Market”; rather, I think the box once served as a container for transporting casualwear to and from a market, but has since found use as receptacle for someone’s semi-treasured trinkets. The kind of stuff that, as we trundle through our modern lives, we hang on to, not for the sake of utility, but because it reminds us of a time or place that was somehow worth remembering. I’ve got boxes of tat like that myself, so it makes me a little bit sad that somone has lost their ornaments. They’re packed away too carefully for their owner to have left them on my wall, so that leaves, as I see it, two scenarios.

Either a former housemate or lover has discovered them in a lost attic corner, and has tried to return them to their owner’s last known address (although we’ve lived here since March, so this theory assumes that the box has lain dormant for a while, which does not square easily with the strong smoky smell). Or the aforementioned former friend or lover just dumped them at the first available opportunity (given that our house is the first on the street); but then why put them carefully on our wall rather than in a wheelie bin?

It’s a rum do, and no mistake. I’ve checked the local papers for any notices regarding lost boxes, but to no avail. In fact, there are virtually no classified ads/notices in the newspapers; I guess using the internet is easier and cheaper, but where would I start to look (or post a notice myself) in this big wide world web? I was expecting a knock on the door on Sunday, from the box’s owner. But I’ve been tripping over it in the hall for almost a week now. Is there some sort of acceptable time period after which I can have a proper look at the contents? After which those contents become my own? I shouldn’t like to throw them out, just in case, you know. Am I going to be traipsing this box around with me for the rest of my life?

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