by Alexis Kypridemos
"Says here this trunk contains 'unspecified goods.' What does that mean?" the customs man asked Derk.
"Don't know," Derk said. He was telling the truth. He knew what he wanted it to contain. He had no way of knowing what was actually inside.
"Come on, fella. You had this thing shipped to you. You came all the way out here to take delivery of it yourself. And you want me to believe you don't know what's in it?"
"Believe what you want," Derk said, "But I don't."
The customs man gave Derk the look. Derk knew the man must have heard the story a million times, and it was never true. But that wasn't his problem.
The customs man sighed and moved on to the next question he had to tick off his checklist.
"Minimal," Derk said. There was no way to price what may be inside the trunk.
The customs man frowned. Derk could tell he'd decided he was being taken for a ride. The man kicked the side of the old wooden trunk. Unsurprisingly, it didn't budge.
"Sure is heavy. Old wood? Some kind of antique?" he asked Derk. He was trying to find an angle. If what was inside wasn't valuable, maybe it was the trunk itself which was the contraband.
"Mahogany maybe," the customs man suggested. Derk shrugged. He didn't know wood.
The customs man sighed again and set his sheaf of papers on a nearby table.
"I'm going to open this," he said. "There's no tariff for 'unspecified goods.'" Derk cringed at the mention of opening the trunk. It was a bad idea. He reached into his pocket. The gesture wasn't lost on the customs man.
"If I could somehow persuade you to change your mind," Derk said.
"Are you talking about a bribe?" the customs man growled. Of all the customs men in the world, Derk thought, I lucked on the honest one. He took his hand out of his pocket.
"I never said that."
"Good," the customs man said curtly and kneeled to open the trunk. He undid the buckles on the leather straps. That left the lock.
"Got a key for this?" he asked Derk. His tone suggested he knew the answer.
"No," Derk said, still telling the truth.
"Of course you don't." The customs man left and soon returned with a crowbar. The old lock was no match for the crowbar.
"Now we'll see what you're all about," the customs man sneered at Derk. He threw the lid open and looked inside.
His eyes opened wide. Derk knew immediately the trunk didn't contain what he'd hoped for.
"Oh my-" the customs man said. His eyes rolled back in his head. He reached for his throat, as though he were choking. He collapsed head first into the trunk. His legs sprawled on the floor.
Derk knew what he had to do. He looked out the window of the little customs office. Storage workers went back and forth in the large warehouse. No one looked their way. But it was only a matter of time. Derk moved quickly.
Taking extreme care not to look into the trunk, he collected the customs man's legs and lifted them over and into the trunk. He swung the lid shut on the man and fastened the leather straps as tight as he could. There was nothing he could do about the broken lock. He gathered the sheaf of papers off the table and went to the front office of the shipping company's warehouse.
"Cleared it with customs?" asked the lady behind the counter.
"I changed my mind," Derk said.
The lady looked up, surprised.
"Ship it back."
Author Notes: "Pandora" is part of "Fiction Fix," a collection of 46 short, funny stories, plus 196 bonus micro fiction budget stories, available at http://www.fiction-fix.com.