You’re climbing a long wooden staircase in the old house, step by step, coming closer to the door. You take the last step and reach out to turn the crystal door knob on the unpainted, four-panel door. You open the door. It creaks. You step into a dusty attic space and pull a string to light up the sloping wooden roofline that defines the room running at least thirty feet by eighteen feet. The attic has two cedar chests, an old four-drawer pine dresser, a dress form, a metal file cabinet, a baby buggy, lots of cardboard boxes stacked in teetering piles, and mounds of magazines. You walk toward the far end, your footsteps raising small eddies of dust. You pull the string of a second light bulb next to the small circular window.
A red box lies on the floor beneath the window. You kneel. The box measures about a foot high, a foot deep, and eighteen inches long. The surface is painted a faded enameled red. The seams of the box are bound in golden metal, with carvings that suggest a twining ivy. There is a small lock in front, but the key is inside it. You turn the key, and lift the lid.