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THE BLACK BAG

My blog post today is a story I submitted to a magazine. The publisher set the story theme:

You just came home from a relaxing vacation and realize you have the wrong suitcase. How would you react?

As usual, I ran in an entirely different direction than what the publisher might expect. Here is the story of The Black Bag.

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As the black bag rounded the airport conveyor belt it was hard not to notice the colorful thong panties tied to the leather handles.  The elderly man removed the black bag from the carousel and then lovingly grasped the arm of a woman and walked her toward the curbside valet. He seemed oblivious to the stare of onlookers, or maybe he simply didn’t care.

The valet attendant’s eyes widened as he loaded the bag into the trunk. Attached to the streamer of thong panties was a luggage tag imprinted with the words, ‘Hot Stuff’. He shuddered to think what might be inside the black bag of a couple who appeared to be his grandparent’s age.

As the couple drove away, the valet attendant muttered aloud, “Just when you think you’ve seen it all…wow, that was really strange.” He couldn’t help but wonder if the bag belonged to someone else and was mistakenly picked up by the man; after all, the conveyor belt spews out plenty of look-alike black luggage bags; but few have panties and a ‘Hot Stuff’ luggage tag attached to them.

The elderly couple drove home in silence. For the first time in 50 years of marriage, they had nothing to say and the silence was deafening. They stopped to collect the contents that overflowed from their mailbox. An unexpected phone call had abruptly ended their golden anniversary vacation in Hawaii and the sudden departure left no time to stop mail delivery. The stack of mail could wait. The only thing that mattered at the moment was the black suitcase in the trunk of the car.

The elderly couple walked into the house and placed the suitcase on the bed in the spare room that once belonged to their daughter.

Father and Mother sat on the edge of the bed overcome with memories. This was the same bed they had cuddled, read stories and said bedtime prayers with their little girl. At one time, stuffed animals and trophies had lined the shelves next to pictures of prom and dance recitals. But now, the room was bare except for a bed, black bag and grieving parents.

With eyes locked, the woman nodded to her husband to unzip the black bag that didn’t belong to them. It belonged to their prostitute daughter who was buried two days earlier.  Inside the bag with thong panties and a ‘Hot Stuff’ luggage tag tied to the handle were her only possessions.

They carefully laid the curling iron, blow dryer and a zippered cosmetic bag onto the bed. The bulk of the suitcase was filled with miscellaneous clothes and undergarments. It was only after the Father and Mother removed the garments that they came face to face with their daughter’s killer; dirty syringes.

Prostitution and heroin had stolen the innocence of their only child and left them with nothing more than a black bag that didn’t belong to them.