Sunday, 18 November 2018

F Fic, Non-fic

Second-Hand Suitcase

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by Lesley L. Smith

SECOND HAND

My bride Annie and I were wandering the streets of Clontarf, a suburb of Dublin, when we found the suitcase. Technically, we were on our honeymoon, having just been married the previous evening at Clontarf Castle. Annie and her family were from Ireland.

We'd decided to stay an extra day before flying to the Amalfi Coast for our honeymoon proper. I'm not sure why; there was nothing to do and the weather was abysmal. I guess we'd assumed we'd need the extra time to recover from the excitement of the wedding. And for sex, of course. It turns out there's only so much sex a middle-aged couple--at least this middle-aged couple--can have per day.

So, anyway, we were poking around in old shops, trying to stay out of the rain, and we found this old suitcase.

"Huh," I said, holding it up. It was a hardside case, about thirty by twenty inches, a foot deep. I brushed my hand against the baby-smooth, tan leather that covered it. "Nice."

"Put it back, Will," Annie said. "It looks ancient."

"It looks sturdy," I said. "They knew how to make things in the olden days. You know the zipper on my big rollerboard is about to bust. It's only a matter of time." I turned to her and smiled. "Do you really want to see my boxers all over the baggage carousel?"

She pretended to shudder but couldn't help laughing. "No. No one would want to see that. Talk about scary."

The grizzled old proprietor appeared at my elbow out of nowhere.

I jumped.

"Lovely piece," he said. "We've had it since 1955."

"1955?" Annie said. "Oh, Will, it's too old."

"Sometimes an oldie is a goodie--like me." I opened it up and sniffed. It wasn't musty. It looked almost brand-new inside. I blew out a few stray pet hairs. "Pretty nice." I glanced at the proprietor. "Er. Not horrible. Especially for such a decrepit piece."

Annie shook her head, but she was grinning.

We agreed on the price and I handed over the Euros.

~ ~ ~

Back at our hotel, I dumped the contents of my rollerboard out on the bed. Among the items were some 'authentic' Irish jewelry with dried shamrocks and flowers pressed inside. We'd bought them for my grandmother whose health didn't permit her to join us for the wedding. I thought she'd get a kick out of them, and hoped she'd feel included in the event at least a little.

We'd also purchased a small stuffed animal, a Cheviot lamb, for our neighbor girl, Hannah. She'd been disappointed we were going to Ireland without her.

Annie helped me repack and we went to dinner.

Dinner was delightful. We started with venison tartar, progressed to pan roasted haddock, and ended with some amazing hand crafted Irish cheeses. The wine flowed like water--we were on our honeymoon, after all.

When we got back to the room much, much later, I stumbled over the new suitcase. "Oops. Who put that there?"

"You." Annie giggled. "You drank too much wine."

"Me?" I leaned down to move the case out of the way. "You drank just as much as me. If I drank too much, you drank too much." As I kneeled down and tried to push the case under the bed, I stumbled and my ear landed on the case.

I heard a strange noise from inside. "Did you hear something?"

Annie collapsed on the bed and tried taking off her shoes. "I just heard you say, 'Did you hear something?'"

"No. Before that." I leaned over the case. Ba-a-ah. There it was again.

"Before that, I heard you say, 'If I drank too much, you drank too much.'" She gave up on her shoes, leaning back on the bed and giggling.

Ba-a-ah.

"No. After that. Never mind." I reached for the latches and opened the case.

Inside, a tiny lamb chomped on some beautiful living flowers and shamrocks.

I was so surprised I fell backwards. "What. The. H-"

Annie interrupted me. "Will, language." Hannah's mom was trying to train us not to swear.

I still stared at the tiny lamb, pointing.

Ba-a-ah.

"What?" Annie said and leaned over the edge of the bed. When she saw the lamb, she did some pointing of her own and said, "Hell. There's an itty-bitty sheep eating the stuff in your suitcase."

I pointed and gaped some more.

We couldn't make heads or tails of it. At some point, the wine kicked in and we fell asleep.

~ ~ ~

Our flight to Italy was scheduled to leave at lunchtime. When the alarm went off bright and early, we were both lying on the floor, heads near the suitcase. My back and my head were killing me. Middle-aged men were not meant to sleep on the floor. Or drink lots of wine, apparently.

Annie squinted and levered herself off the floor. "Jeez, my head hurts."

I sat up as well. "Me, too." It was pounding.

She sat. "Why are we on the floor?" She glanced around. "I'd say we must have had some epic sex, but our clothes are still on..." She petered out. "Oh, my god. The little sheep! Where is it?"

We glanced around the floor. No sign of it. We stared at the closed suitcase. I reached over, and we both held our breath as I opened it.

Inside we saw my clothes, the jewelry for Grandma, and the stuffed lamb for Hannah. Everything looked completely normal. "Huh."

Annie shook her head. "What the hell was in that wine?"

"I do not know."

"I'll get the aspirin."

~ ~ ~

We checked into the Naples hotel and arrived in our sunshine-laden room. I threw the doors to our balcony open and strode out into the fresh air. Italy was just as glorious as we'd hoped. In particular the sunshine was heavenly. I stood on our balcony and stared out at the Mediterranean. I breathed in the scents of salty sea air, garlic and basil. "We must be near a restaurant."

Annie joined me on the balcony. "Wow. This is amazing." She turned to me and we kissed in the sunlight. We both turned back to the view. "I wish we could stay here forever."

"Me, too." We held hands, gazing at the beautiful scene.

And then we heard a soft strange noise from the room.

Ba-a-ah.

We both turned around.

"Did you hear something?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

Ba-a-ah. It came from the direction of my suitcase.

We ran for my suitcase.

With shaking hands, I opened it up.

Inside the case, a tiny lamb chomped on some beautiful flowers and shamrocks. Not only did the lamb seem alive, so did the plants.

"What. The," I said.

"Hell," we both said together. We watched the tiny creature cavorting amongst my t-shirts and boxers.

Annie grabbed Grandma's pendant. "This plant looks alive as well." She stared at me. "What's going on?"

"Could the wine have given us some kind of delayed psychedelic effect?"

Annie shook her head. "I don't see how." She put down the jewelry.

I reached out and closed the case. Then I reopened it.

Everything was still, seemingly back to normal.

I closed and opened the case again.

The plants were green and lush once more. The lamb baahed.

We both watch as the lamb jumped out of the case and started cavorting about on the floor.

"Wow," Annie said. I echoed her.

The little lamb was adorable, with its tiny but perfectly proportioned head and legs and body. It looked really soft. "But I don't understand. Do you think that old shop guy was a leprechaun or something?"

Annie broke out into peals of laughter.

Her humor was contagious. I had to concentrate to keep from laughing myself.

After she caught her breath, she said, "Seriously? A leprechaun?

"I don't know. Something weird's going on."

"Don't you think he was a bit tall for a leprechaun?"

"How do I know?" I shrugged. "None of this makes any sense."

"There's no such thing as leprechauns," she said. "Maybe you could call the shop and see where they got the suitcase."

I grabbed my phone and found the number. It rang a long time but finally someone answered. "Hello? What do you want?" It sounded like the elderly proprietor we'd dealt with.

"Uh, hello?" I said. "I bought a suitcase there at your shop yesterday and I was wondering where you got it."

"Is there something wrong with it?" he said quickly. "All sales are final."

"I wouldn't say, wrong, exactly," I said. "There's something weird with it though." I paused. "You're not a leprechaun are you?"

He didn't answer.

"Hello?" I said.

"I remember you. Don't-cha think I'm a bit tall for a leprechaun, sonny?"

I shrugged.

"I may be Irish, but I don't believe in the wee folk." He sighed. "There's no such thing as leprechauns. Wait a minute, I'll go see where we got it."

He stopped talking and I heard a clunk like he put down the phone. I heard a drawer open and a bunch of papers rustling and some grunting. He came back to the phone. "Yeah, I found it. It says here, an E. Schrödinger sent it over from the Institute for Advanced Studies. Some teacher, I guess. Definitely not a leprechaun." He snickered.

"Thanks," I said and we bid each other goodbye.

"He said the suitcase came from some guy named Schrödinger," I told Annie.

"Hhm," she said. "The name's familiar." She grabbed her own phone and started looking up the name. "How do you spell that?"

"I don't know." I felt strangely disappointed, but then the tiny sheep ran past my foot. I carefully sat down next to it on the carpet. "This thing is cute."

"I found it," Annie said. "Erwin Schrödinger. He was some kind of scientist."

"We should name this little guy Erwin." I very gently pet its tiny back. It, Erwin rather, didn't seem to object. He was as soft as he looked.

"A physicist," she said. "He's most famous for what he called a thought experiment in which he theoretically put a cat in a box and said it was both alive and dead until he opened the box." She glanced up from her phone. "You don't think he experimented on real cats with your suitcase, do you?" She looked horrified.

"I don't know." But I did recall there seemed to be some fur initially in the case. I shivered in the bright Italian sunshine.

Suffice it to say we were very, very careful what we put in the suitcase after that.

Turned out, Grandma loved her magical Irish jewelry.

And Hannah really loved Erwin, her tiny magical lamb.


Lesley L. Smith has published eight science fiction novels including The Quantum Cop, A Jack By Any Other Name, and Conservation of Luck. Her short fiction has been published in venues including "Analog Science Fiction and Fact," "Daily Science Fiction," and "Fiction River." She has a Ph.D. in Physics and an MFA in Creative Writing. She's an active member of the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW). She is also a founder and editor of the speculative fiction ezine Electric Spec (www.electricspec.com). For more information, please visit her home on the web: www.lesleylsmith.com.

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