the smuggler’s bible


In a perfect world, the box you need is always situated on a shelf accessible directly from the foot of the basement stairs. This world, though, has some flaws.

Bate realizes, standing on cold cement under a bare light bulb hanging from a wire, that a full year’s churning has deposited the Christmas decorations somewhere toward the back.

He wants to go upstairs and find his slippers, to tell his children he loves them. But there’s a chance he loses his nerve altogether. Having waited until the fifth eve, his time has already been spent. The tree comes tonight.


Work ends on Friday and the buoyant lightness of freedeom expands throughout Sofia’s body, starting in her heart and radiating outward. She barely clears the front doors before the feeling lifts her and she soars away, floating straight up in a warm(ish) beam of whatever counts for sunshine at four o’clock in December.

When she finally makes landfall, it is in a foreign country; the far shore, where the air is sweet, the clocks don’t run and the quiet mornings stretch and stretch but never break.

Vacation, Sofia sighs. The promise kept. Hallelujah and amen, may the season never end.


The kid has been gone a while. Vlasti stands with his hands in his coat pockets, pretending to examine the sale rack. None of it sparks his interest, just as it failed to do so ten minutes ago.

He sighs deeply and prepares to hunt up another employee. He turns and sees the kid hurrying down the aisle, sweating visibly.

“Well? Have you got one?”

“I looked, sir. I pursued several avenues of inquiry.”

“Cease your flummery.”

“Can you please provide further context? We do not carry any item called a starching apparatus. And especially not one in size medium.”


Colette slaps the button that starts the red lights and the siren, then swivels to pull the lever that controls the metal jaws at the end of the package chute. There is a rumbling far back in the walls from the direction of the silo.

“Hear that?” she says to the trainee. “That’s the good noise. If you hear the bad noise, there’s a jam.”

“What’s the bad noise sound like?” The trainee’s voice is hushed.

Colette sips her coffee and watches the trucks file along. “Good men dying,” she says, “under a whole hell of a lot of cardboard.”