On the side of a solitary road somewhere in between the city and the country, a shoebox waited for company. Time had drooped one of its corners and weather added splotches of moldy color she never had before. And yet, she waited.
One day, a bird took an interest in a flayed corner of the lonely box. She was a nightingale searching for a morning worm. Now, this worm catcher knew this box was no early meal, but continued her nibbling anyway. Everyone needs some momentary respite from searching in the dirt.
A passing cat took an interest in the bird nibbling on a box. The cat practically flew in a crouched run through the tall green grass next to the road, hungry for this paltry poultry. He paused his pounce at the interrupting sound of the clomping of a stomping boot.
Nearly passing the bird on a shoebox and a prowling cat was a boy with a stick. Believing himself a Knight, he challenged the air to a duel. Thrusting, jabbing, jumping, and jousting, he stood tall against the might of the wind. “Ha ha!” He shouted with a grand stab, “down you go!” He sheathed his sword through his finger scabbard at his side. “Another victory!”
The boy stood tall, hands on hips, when he noticed the bird, the cat, and the observing box. The bird was already aware of the cat, and the cat was watching both the boy and the bird. The box merely enjoyed the company. “What have we here?” The boy exclaimed. “Friend or foe? Pronounce yourselves!”
“Surely you mean, ‘announce’ yourselves?” The cat corrected dryly, then grimaced wryly. He grimaced because the bird took his correction as the moment to take off and hover just out of reach. It was wry because the cat, himself, caused it to be so.
The boy ignored the nightingale and rested one foot on the box, leaning down to peer squinty eyed at the cat. “I mean what I meant and I meant what I mean. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Childish, childish…sir knight.” the bird admonished. While feeling no love for the feline, the bird did abhor know-it-alls.
The boy rolled his eyes, “A knight cannot be childish, and neither am I.”
“You seem to think highly of yourself, sir knight,” The cat hissed, “But the throne you lounge on is a little worse for wear.”
The boy straightened and removed his foot from the box, who immediately missed the warmth from the sole but was happy to breathe deeply again. “This isn’t my throne!” The boy exclaimed, gesticulating. “What would you know? You’re just a cat.”
“I have plump cushions I may lounge upon,” retorted the cat.
“Yes, but those cushions were bought. Brought to you by your owner,” supplied the bird. “I myself built my nest with only my beak and my will. And am served well by the throne I’ve contrived.”
The boy swelled in indignation almost as much as the cat arched his back. The bird hopped and skipped in the air happily as if she won something no one else could have. The box was just happy for the company.
“A nest is nothing. My family have built a house, and a yard, and bed, and another bed…” The boy listed, counting off each achievement with a chubby finger.
“All well and good,” the cat purred, “but I can jump four times my height and when I fall, I always land on my paws.”
“Wings I have for flying!” Chirped the nightingale. “Can you do this?” She suddenly dove, dipped, and figure-eighted through the air.
“I have these things called thumbs,” said the boy, who waggled the knobbly digits in the air ostentatiously. “So there!”
The two legged, the four legged, and the winged glared at each other while the no legged just listened and enjoyed the company.
“I have a bigger brain, which gives me problem-making skills, and that’s something neither of yous have.” Laughed the boy.
“I have this soft, grey coat that gives me pets whenever I want them.” Rebutted the cat.
“I can sing wonderfully in the night or the day,” The cheery bird sang.
The box was happy for the company, and felt the need to partake in such disagreeable festivities. And so she gathered herself and drew their attention. She shuffled, scuffled, scooted, and scuffed her underside moving into the middle of the three arguers. The tip of one of her corners caved in and she shuddered under the effort but nevertheless, she persisted. The cat, the bird, and the boy stopped their yammering. They watched this brave shoebox come apart in the effort to speak.
The boy, using his thumbs, helped the box take off its lid, and the three sudden observers shifted so they could all look inside.
A solitary photo lay inside the solitary shoebox. The photo was so old and worn it was difficult to tell what used to bespeckle it.
“Faded smiles of a family,” The boy intoned.
“Dimming sunsets,” The cat murmured.
“Tattered love memories,” the bird tweeted.
The boy reached into the box and picked up the photo, flipping it over. In neat, washed out lettering yet clearly legible, the three together read, “Inner Beauty.”
From somewhere up the road, after the country but before the city, a parent was shouting, “…breakfast is ready!”
The boy dropped the photo and closed the shoebox. The cat swatted at the bird, the bird dodged and flew off in search of a morning worm. The cat disappeared in the tall grass as the boy picked up the stick he’d forgotten and began skipping home, humming about scones. And the shoebox lived on, thankful for the momentary company.