THE ONGOING INQUIRY INTO ITEMS IN LOST AND FOUND
by Robert Kaye
Years ago, I noticed that the Lost and Found behind the reception desk kept growing bigger over time. The primary engine of growth appeared to be umbrellas, as we live in a rainy climate with sudden weather, but the box also contained a good many lost souls. The latter are very small and tend to settle at the bottom and languish. They are seldom if ever, reclaimed. In quantity, they do fill up a box. I endeavored to formulate a hypothesis based on relative value to explain the trend.
An SLR camera from the lobby recovered in the morning dematerializes by afternoon. Cash and credit cards are irrecoverable, though a wallet might remain if it is ratty and smells like the owner’s ass. The number of umbrellas ebbs and flows with the advent of the rainy season or sudden storms, but hardly anyone reaches in for a soul in good weather or bad.
I theorized that this is because souls aren’t worth as much as they used to be, the monetary value somewhere less than a penny. When I was a child, a penny on the street was an exciting find, representing good luck, or the price of some small piece of candy, but nobody stoops to retrieve a single cent anymore. Cigarette butts are more valuable.
Lost loves also accumulate; love perhaps on the same declining trend line as souls and pennies. Souls tend to multiply, though I’m not sure how, since there is no direct evidence of them reproducing. I don’t believe there is any connection to umbrellas.
Over time, Lost and Found has demonstrated exponential growth and I have had to clear out a storeroom to cope with the volume. We use a lot of ink for invoices and the detailed documentation of the subject population, so it was a no-brainer to recycle the shipping boxes containing printer cartridges from Amazon.com with the logo that looks like a crocodile’s smile.
Each recycled box now has a lost soul, a lost love, an umbrella, and, for luck, a single penny. I noticed late one night that each unit emits a low groan similar to air brakes in the distance on a rainy night, a phenomenon so far inexplicable.
I stacked those boxes on shelves, the shelves in rooms, the rooms in towers filling the downtown core. Streets and trains and busses lead in and out, and houses around the outskirts shelter the physical bodies until they ripen for the cemeteries. It’s developed into a hell of an experiment, like an ant farm, except so much bigger.
It’s a good setup, but I’m not satisfied. The connections between the elements remain tenuous and subject to further study. Correlation does not prove causality. The experiment is so far inconclusive and outcomes in the control group are even more puzzling. All I can say so far is that, in the end, most are lost and little is found. –
Robert P. Kaye’s stories have appeared in Hobart, Juked, Dr. T. J. Eckleburg Review, Beecher’s, Per Contra, The Los Angeles Review and elsewhere, with details available at www.RobertPKaye.com. His chapbook Typewriter for a Superior Alphabet is published by Alice Blue Press. He facilitates the Works in Progress open mic at Hugo House and is the cofounder of the Seattle Fiction Federation reading series.
June 14, 2017