Memory Box

By , Plymouth, MI

John sat in his chair, staring at nothing, bored.  Usually it was his flat-mate who complained of boredom, but today it was John.  His daughter was at daycare with another hour until she needed to be picked up, and his friend had left before he got home from the groceries.  A note was taped to the door of the flat.  It read: “John – Lestrade dropped by.  Nice murder for me.  Don’t come.  We’ll be all over the place, probably hard to find us.  –Sherlock.”  John hardly glanced at the note before he knew what it said.
     He looked around the flat, searching for his laptop.  It was nowhere to be seen amid the heaps of miscellaneous clutter.  Sighing, he got up to search for it.  “Sherlock, I swear, if you’ve taken it again…” John muttered to himself.  In desperation, he headed to Sherlock’s bedroom, a room he hardly ever entered.  But, in his bored necessity, he felt justified in doing so now.
     Searching around, John dropped to the floor and peered under the bed.  “What,” he said, reaching for a little wooden box, “is this?”  He pulled it from under the bed and looked at it in the full light of the room.  He was sure he’d seen it before on one of his raids through Sherlock’s things to discover any hints of drug use, but after a glance that proved it devoid of clues, it was soon forgotten again.  Now, when time was his and he was filled with curiosity, he couldn’t help but sit on the bed and examine it.
     It was about the size of a shoe box, but it was ornately and simply carved.  Its lid flipped back on hinges, and with a sense of guilty interest, John opened it.  Inside, many disconnected objects resided.  There were pictures and toys, along with some scientific equipment and what John recognized as his daughter’s rattle that he had thought he had lost.  John tried to find explanations for each, and although he couldn’t, he didn’t stop studying them.
     Suddenly he was aware that he wasn’t alone.  He looked up.  Sherlock stood framed in the doorway, coat and scarf still on.  He was not looking at his friend, but at the box that his friend held. 
     “Sherlock, I – I wasn’t… Well, actually, I was just… Yeah.  Alright.  Sorry.”  John stood up, intending to leave, but Sherlock motioned for him to sit back down.  He came and sat next to John, gently taking the box from him.  John expected him to close it and tell him never to look in it again, but instead Sherlock pulled a block of rosin out.
     “This was what I used on my first violin,” he told his friend.  “I hardly knew how, then.  Or why.”  He put the rosin back in the box and pulled out a slightly disintegrating yellow teddy bear.  “And this.  This is Sir Fernando Eduardo the First of Rosebush Lane.  Mycroft had a black bear who he called Pudder, but I renamed him to be Sir Fernando Eduardo the Second of Apple Tree Lane.  They were neighbors, and best friends, although they never admitted it to each other.”
     “Did you and Mycroft play with them?” John asked hesitantly.
     “Well, I did.  Mycroft didn’t like Pudder so I inherited him.”  Sherlock put Sir Fernando back and hesitated before pulling out the next object; a worn toy eyepatch.  “I found this,” he said quietly, “one day when I was wandering through our yard.  It was just lying in the grass.  Victor Trevor had it first.”  He paused.  John was unsure if he would continue.  But then Sherlock sadly smiled and said, “We would play pirates, you know.  I was always Yellowbeard and he was –”
     “Redbeard.  Yes, I know, Sherlock,” John said gently.  Because he felt his friend needed a distraction, he pulled out a rock from the box.  “What’s this?” he asked.
     “That,” Sherlock said, looking at the rock and gently putting the eyepatch back, “is a rock that I found.  I swore it was gold, and Mycroft didn’t say it wasn’t when I asked him.  And this one I thought had a fossil inside it, and that one I just thought looked cool.”  John laughed.  Sherlock looked at him, concerned.
     “No, it’s not you, Sherlock,” John said, grinning.  He looked at the box.  “You really kept all these things?”
     “Yes.  Why wouldn’t I?”
     “I don’t know.  I’m enjoying this, continue.  If you want.”
     After a glare at John, Sherlock turned back to his box.  “And then there’s always this.  Do you remember this?”  He held up a smartphone, its case a sickening shade of pink.
     “That’s the pink lady’s phone,” John said, pointing to it, astonished.  “How do you still have that?”
     “Snagged it from Lestrade.”  Sherlock turned it on and began flipping through its gallery.  “Remember taking this?”  He showed John a picture from years ago, of the two of them sitting in a cab together. 
     Chuckling, John said, “I can’t say that I do.  Is that a selfie?”
     “First selfie I ever took.  You wouldn’t remember it, actually; you weren’t aware I was taking it.  It was right after we solved that one, the Study in Pink, or whatever you called it.” 
     He replaced the phone and pulled out a test tube.  It had a chip in it and was slightly cloudy.  He told John that he had used that particular test tube on the first real chemistry experiment he had done, and that burnt-out match was used to start his first Bunsen burner.  There was a seashell from his first trip to the beach, and a bag of black baby hair from his first haircut.  There was the magnifying glass he had used on his first real case, and a copy of his favorite book when he was growing up.  Every knickknack had a meaning, and Sherlock shared each one’s story with John.  At the bottom of the wooden box was a group of pictures, and Sherlock hesitated to pull them out.
     “What are these?” John inquired, grabbing them.
     “Uh, nothing,” said Sherlock, reaching for them.  John held them away from his grasp.  “There nothing, really, John.  Now give them back.”
     But John was staring at them.  “Is this you?” he asked, pointing to the first picture.  In it, a chubby child stood eagerly peering into a baby carriage, where a baby boy was wrapped in blankets, blue eyes staring up at the child.  “That’s you, isn’t it?  You and Mycroft?”
     “Yes,” Sherlock grudgingly admitted.  “Mycroft gave me those, after I met Eurus.”  He let John flip through them, peering over his friend’s shoulder as he did so.
     There was a picture of two young boys, one with curly black hair and a pirate hat on, and the other with blond hair that was ruffled by the strap of an eyepatch.  They were standing in a stream, looking intently into the water for something.  In another picture, a one-year-old Sherlock held a sleeping baby girl.  Mycroft looked at the two, slightly disgusted, but Sherlock looked ecstatic.  One was simply a family portrait, with the three of them staring dead-eyed into the camera.  John had to laugh; he knew that if they tried to create a better version now, they would all have the same expression.
     Then there were pictures from when Sherlock was older.  A picture sneakily snapped showed Sherlock curled up on a chair, reading, with words Sharpied on that read, “Sherlock’s prom night.”  There was a picture of him at about twelve, holding an award for a science experiment, and at graduation, accepting his diploma.  Ordinary scenes from an extraordinary life, and ones the John had never before associated with his sometimes inhuman friend.  He made a silent resolution never to think of Sherlock Holmes as a machine again.
      Then there were pictures of people and places that John recognized.  There was himself, and his late wife, Mary, and Sherlock, standing awkwardly in the background at John’s wedding.  There was his own little family, smiling at the camera as Mary held their newborn daughter.  There was one with her godparents; Mrs. Hudson, Molly, and Sherlock.  Sherlock looked so uncomfortable as he tried to hold the baby.  In the next picture it was Molly holding his daughter, but Sherlock still seemed uneasy.  John didn’t look through all of them, but he saw many from the cases he and Sherlock had solved and tried to solve.  He looked for pictures of cases Sherlock had before they met, but couldn’t find any.
     All too soon, John suddenly put the pictures down and announced, “I should go get Rosie.  Thank you for, um.  Sharing.  I enjoyed that.”
     Sherlock rolled his eyes.  “You were the one who intruded into my memories.”
     John only chuckled and left the flat.  Sherlock watched him go.  He took one last look into his box and then shut the lid.  He was glad John hadn’t discovered what was beside the box.  Some things were too big to fit, and so Sherlock kept John’s cane by its side. 






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