A box is a magical thing to a child. It is one of the few objects in this universe than can instantaneously morph into a rocket ship bound for the red skies of Mars and its arid, windswept plains or a towering cliff-side castle that calls itself home to a brave king or queen and their entourage of gallant lords and clever ladies.
My favorite boxes as a child were the large, enormous boxes that only come at great expense to the adults in the family since the former occupant of these boxes were typically filled with much more boring things such appliances or water heaters.
Boxes were to be treated with care. You never knew when another would arrive nor when the inevitable bends and folds in the walls of the cardboard would turn into rips and tears and a loss of structural integrity from overuse and exuberant play.
I fondly remember making a cardboard frigate complete with wooden masts and paper sails appropriated from random household supplies. I couldn’t wait to launch my prized warship upon the glistening waves of the small pond on the family property. However, being the type of young man I was, I promptly lit my boxy frigate on fire with lighter fluid and blew it to charred smithereens with a blast of bird-shot from a Remington 870 12-gauge because my ship was destined for imagined battle and devastation from the very moment of its creation.
If you were to hear the story as told by my younger siblings and cousins, I once tried to kill them all with a box.
It was the height of summer. August, I think. And it was sweltering. These were the days we would spend all day in the pool and plaster ourselves in clay from a hastily made mud-pit near the garden to be hosed down prior to re-entry into the house lest we incur the wrath of my grandmother. The heating element in the old metal water heater in the attic wore out and was forced from service and the new plastic 50 gallon tank that came to replace it was packaged in the most gloriously large box I ever saw.
I had the bright idea that we should turn the box into a vertical kiddie pool, sort of the like the water-filled escape boxes into which you see magicians drop chained beautiful young ladies. To shore the box up, because cardboard and water do not mix well, I had my siblings and cousins first get into the box while it was lying on its side and I stood it up and wrapped the entire exterior in duct tape. I grabbed the hose lying in the yard, threw it over the side of box – a converted death trap according to my sisters – and turned the spigot on full blast. The next thing I heard were the pained shouts and unintelligible screams from everyone in the box to turn off the water mixed with overt threats to do me bodily harm. Before I could get to the spigot, I saw my eldest cousin hoisting himself out of the top of the box. No small feat considering the top of this now sinister contraption was a couple of feet taller than him. As I was running to grab the hose, I saw my sisters’ hands and arms tear through the side of the box similar to the scene in Night of the Living Dead where the undead are attempting to break down the doors and windows of the old house to eat the brains of the occupants and everyone comes crashing out of the box soaking wet. Only, this time, I’m fairly certain my sisters were probably going to bash in my brain should they reach me.
I’m not sure which was worse – the fact I packed four small people into a tall box assuming they could tread water indefinitely, or, the fact I forgot the hose was left out in the blazing sun all day and the moment I turned the spigot on I sent a stream of scalding hot water onto the legs and feet of everyone in the box as I began to boil them alive until they destroyed the walls of their now defunct torture chamber.
Boxes were fun. Still are.