Episodic Madness


Alfred ripped open the parcel as if the contents contained the anti-venom for a fresh viper bite. Emma looked on, baffled at his haste. Layer after layer of tissue paper was ripped away from what revealed itself to be a small white box. Alfred frantically felt the edges of the white box. He cursed to himself, the edges had all been sealed with tape.

“Scissors. I need scissors!” shouted Alfred.

Emma sat, stunned for a moment.

“Can’t you hear?!” cried Alfred, spittle on his lips now. “Fine I’ll get them myself, you worthless old hag!”

Emma’s face blushed with indignation, but she said nothing. The floorboards creaked under Alfred’s weight as he ran into the next room. For a moment, all was silent. Emma gazed suspiciously at the white box with taped edges. Yesterday’s mail rustled under a car-shaped paperweight as a swift breeze rushed through the open window. Emma sat staring pensively out of the open window.

Creaking floorboards announced Alfred’s return. He was breathing heavily now, hair disheveled, sweat on his brow. He dropped back down on his knees, placing himself squarely before the white box. He sighed deeply, as if to diffuse his agitation, and then produced a pair of red handled scissors. Alfred plunged one of the blades through the tape at one of the corners of the box and sliced through it viciously. Now the opposite edge. Now across the middle. Alfred tossed the red handles scissors aside and ripped open the white box. Foam peanuts flew across the room like shrapnel  in a battle zone. A startled cry left Emma’s lips as one of the foam peanuts glanced off her forehead and fell into her lap.

Alfred  was digging frantically through the foam now. He gasped and paused for a second as the the object of his search came into view. A very small book with a black leather cover sat at the bottom of the box, partially obscured by a few remaining foam peanuts. Emma edged forward to see what had so transformed her husband’s behavior, but Alfred quickly blocked her view of the box with his body and pulled the book up out of the polystyrene.  He tucked the book underneath his shirt, glancing slyly over his shoulder at Emma as he did this.

Alfred stood up, and walked abruptly out of the room. Emma listened as the stairs moaned under her husband’s weight. She sat there still, too bewildered to move. She listened as Alfred hastily closed and bolted the door of the upstairs bedroom. The floor of their small den was covered with the packing peanuts. Emma let out a derisive chortle. The red handled scissors lay at her feet , flung open as if poised to cleave her feet in two. A wind rushed through the open window again, this time carrying away the lone foam peanut which had been resting undisturbed on Emma’s lap.

She sat in a daze, ruminating about the events of the last three minutes. In time, maybe just a few minutes more, everything would proceed as it normally did. Alfred’s strangely guarded behavior over the mysterious package would be carried away too, as if by a gust of wind. Emma would understand in time. She was sure of it. Her cheeks were no longer hot with blood, and her pulse had returned to normal. Those foam peanuts weren’t going to pick themselves up.


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