Once there was a boy who had a box.
The boy’s name was Michael, and the box was very special because it had been given to him by an angel.
Michael knew it had been an angel because of the huge white wings he wore. So he took very good care of the box, because the angel had asked him to.
And he never, ever opened it.
When Michael’s mother asked him where he had gotten the box, he said, “An angel gave it to me.”
“That’s nice, dear,” she answered, and went back to stirring her cake mix.
Michael carried the box with him wherever he went. He took it to school. He took it out to play. He set it by his place at mealtimes.
After all, he never knew when the angel would come back and ask for it.
The box was very beautiful. It was made of dark wood and carved with strange designs. The carvings were smooth and polished, and they seemed to glow whenever they caught the light. A pair of tiny golden hinges, and a miniature golden latch that Michael never touched, held the cover tight to the body of the box.
Michael loved the way it felt against his fingers.
Sometimes Michael’s friends would tease him about the box.
“Hey, Michael,” they would say. “How come you never come out to play without that box?”
“Because I am taking care of it for an angel,” he would answer. And because this was true, the boys would leave him alone.
At night, before he went to bed, Michael would rub the box with a soft cloth to make it smooth and glossy.
Sometimes when he did this he could hear something moving inside the box.
He wondered how it was that something could stay alive in the box without any food or water.
But he did not open the box. The angel had asked him not to.
One night when he was lying in his bed, Michael heard a voice.
“Give me the box,” it said.
Michael sat up.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am the angel,” said the voice. “I have come for my box.”
“You are not my angel,” shouted Michael. He was beginning to grow frightened.
“Your angel has sent me. Give me the box.”
“No. I can only give it to my angel.”
“Give me the box!”
“No!” cried Michael.
There was a roar, and a rumble of thunder. A cold wind came shrieking through his bedroom.
“I must have that box!” sobbed the voice, as though its heart was breaking.
“No! No!” cried Michael, and he clutched the box tightly to his chest.
But the voice was gone.
Soon Michael’s mother came in to comfort him, telling him he must have had a bad dream. After a time he stopped crying and went back to sleep.
But he knew the voice had been no dream.
After that night Michael was twice as careful with the box as he had been before. He grew to love it deeply. It reminded him of his angel.
As Michael grew older the box became more of a problem for him.
His teachers began to object to him keeping it constantly at his side or on his desk. One particularly thick and unbending teacher even sent him to the principal. But when Michael told the principal he was taking care of the box for an angel, the principal told Mrs. Jenkins to leave him alone.
When Michael entered junior high he found that the other boys no longer believed him when he told them why he carried the box. He understood that. They had never seen the angel, as he had. Most of the children were so used to the box by now that they ignored it anyway.
But some of the boys began to tease Michael about it.
One day two boys grabbed the box and began a game of keep-away with it, throwing it back and forth above Michael’s head, until one of them dropped it.
It landed with an ugly smack against the concrete.
Michael raced to the box and picked it up. One of the fine corners was smashed flat, and a piece of one of the carvings had broken off.
“I hate you,” he started to scream. But the words choked in his throat, and the hate died within him.
He picked up the box and carried it home. Then he cried for a little while.
The boys were very sorry for what they had done. But they never spoke to Michael after that, and secretly they hated him, because they had done something so mean to him, and he had not gotten mad.
For seven nights after the box was dropped Michael did not hear any noise inside it when he was cleaning it.
He was terrified.
What if everything was ruined? What could he tell the angel? He couldn’t eat or sleep. He refused to go to school. He simply sat beside the box, loving it and caring for it.
On the eighth day he could hear the movements begin once more, louder and stronger than ever.
He sighed, and slept for eighteen hours.
When he entered high school Michael did not go out for sports, because he was not willing to leave the box alone. He certainly could not take it out onto a football field with him.
He began taking art classes instead. He wanted to learn to paint the face of his angel. He tried over and over again, but he could never get the pictures to come out the way he wanted them to.
Everyone else thought they were beautiful.
But they never satisfied Michael.
Whenever Michael went out with a girl she would ask him what he had in the box. When he told her he didn’t know, she would not believe him. So then he would tell her the story of how the angel had given him the box. Then the girl would think he was fooling her. Sometimes a girl would try to open the box when he wasn’t looking.
But Michael always knew, and whenever a girl did this, he would never ask her out again.
Finally Michael found a girl who believed him. When he told her that an angel had given him the box, and that he had to take care of it for him, she nodded her head as if this was the most sensible thing she had ever heard.
Michael showed her the pictures he had painted of his angel.
They fell in love, and after a time they were married.