Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The briefcase

The professor's new briefcase was an embarrassment. It had been presented to him as an accessory to the international literary prize which he had been awarded for his book The Compensations  of  Poverty . He had argued in this work, with studied irony, that the poor have a greater potential for happiness  than the rich. The annual prize is awared annually by Castiglioni, the fashion giant whose  label is even more highly valued by some than its expensively crafted products. 

He was  just about to travel to Milan to receive the prize when the briefcase arrived by special messenger. It came in a large, silk-lined box with the Castiglione logo discretely printed on the lid.  The case itself shone as though made of crystal.   It was in fact moulded from one of those new  materials used in space exploration. Above all the simplicity  of its design spoke of  wealth. It was clear that much depended on his presence at the ceremony. It had been impressed on him that the entire board of the biggest name in fashion were about to assemble in his honour. "It looks disgustingly new," said the professor to his wife. "I suppose it would be ungracious  to arrive with my old carpet bag. " Bollocks to graciouness," said his wife, who while she disapproved of Castiglione and all it stood for, was glad of the substantial prize  money. "Why don't you take it to the farmers' market before you leave for the airport? Fill it with vegetables and buy a chicken. I need to cook a meal for the children when you've gone. Scuff that case while you're about  it as much as you can."

Time was running out when  he returned from the market. He needed to be at Heathrow by 2pm. It was now 12.30. He emptied the case on to the kitchen table and ran upstairs to stuff it with necessities for an overnight stay. He had informed Castglione that his principles precluded his wearing a dinner jacket. He would receive the award in the tweed suit he was now wearing. 

At the airport when he put the case on the conveyor which led to the X-ray machine he tried to pretend that he had nothing to do with it .  There was in fact little to associate the svelte item of luggage  with a bearded, long haired sociology professor. The anomoly had not gone unobserved by the  security team. The request to open and unpack the case was hardly surprising.

"What is this , sir?" 

A potato  as far as I can tell." 

"As far as you can tell!" The sarcasm was not wasted on the guard. 

"So you're not certain, sir". The professor shook his head in despair. A despair which quickly became panic when he realised that he would now almost certainly miss his flight.



  1. Okay, I pondered over this one. At first glance, the ending looked like there was a page, or at least a couple of paragraphs, missing; that the story was incomplete.

    So I wondered how a good writer, such as you, could have forgotten the finish. Ah, then perhaps he didn't. Perhaps this is precisely the intended finish to the story.

    If that's the case, then I need to re-read the story with the ending in mind, to see what I might have missed.

    My conclusion is that the last paragraph is an expression of the professor's true feelings about the award, counter to his protestations in the beginning of the story.

    That conclusion, if accurate, no doubt was obvious to everyone else immediately, but you know how we Americans are - slow to catch on.

    Anyway, I liked what I got from this story.

  2. Gosh, Crow. As RR as he is now revealed to be said recently once a piece of writing is published it has a life of its own. Comments and interpretations are truly welcome and I am grateful for your attention. I aim to write a story a day for the next few days at least, a rash ambition doubtless but I am enjoying it as I hope others will.

  3. I am enjoying your little stories very much. The shortness really seems to suit the web where so many readers seem in a hurry to cover all their reading list. It really is interesting how each reader may have different interpretations, just as viewers have on visual art. Sometimes the responses can be quite remarkable and true though we don't see it ourselves until that moment.

    Just curious, Plutarch, are you writing these fresh daily, or have you already a collection of writings to draw upon to rewrite here?

    PS I'm having trouble commenting with this version of blogger - it seem to ignore my rquest tio publish'even after I've entered that gobbledeygook stuff, so I have to do it all over again.

  4. M-L. They are all new dreamed up in the last few days. I usually have a store o,f two three ready to deliver. I aim for the time being to do one a day like Scheherazade. I have similar problems. Please persist. Comments are very welcome.

  5. There's a tauter, flick-flick style emerging. But they're getting longer: is this OK? In my most recent post I have finally managed something (at 377 words too) that qualifies for the blurred definition I have arrived at for a short story. One requirement (though it is far from being the most important) is the seemingly inconclusive ending that isn't in fact inconclusive. Another, much harder, is to create character description and build-up through single-sentence anecdotes which do not directly describe. There's a whole Retreat seminar in this. At least Julia approves.