Last Box – 8/31

Steve brushed the dust from the wooden frame. The gray photograph smiled back with the same curve and smooth cheeks caught in the distant moment from decades ago. A flicker of his desk lamp on the glass gave a vibrant twinkle to the pale set of eyes.

He laid the photo on top of a pile of reports stacked within the last cardboard box.

With a sigh, he dropped back into his leather chair with a creak of joints. He leaned on his elbows and his shoulders drooped as he entered a staring contest with the desk drawers.

“Did you want some help with these too?”

He looked up to find Adam, once more in the door. Rolled sleeves exposed the younger man’s healthy arms, full of muscle and vibrancy. His tie had been loosed once the office clocks had ticked past five but Adam didn’t seem prone to making any other accommodations to the pending evening.

Steve followed Adam’s pointed finger targeting a trio of closed boxes of books from the shelves now standing naked against the wall.

“If you don’t mind,” said Steve.

“Sure.” He gave a half smile and dropped out of view for a moment. He returned with a clanking dolly.

Nice kid, thought Steve.

He rubbed his arms as if enduring the weight Adam took easily in his hands as he stacked one box after another onto the steel carrier.

“Do you want them downstairs?”

Steve nodded. “With the rest of the pile, yeah.”

“No problem.” Adam kicked the dolly onto the wheels and rumbled out into the hall.

Steve waited for the elevator to ding before pushing off his knees and starting into the center drawer.

He sorted through the tray of paper clips and push pins, putting those to be left behind in the plastic wells. Pens gathered in crisp lines although he tossed a few more memorable ones into the box. The deep drawers held stationary and envelopes all with flowing letterheads. He ran his fingers through the stack then withdrew his emergency stash of stamps, tucking the strip into his breast pocket.

By the time he had sifted his personal effects from the bowels of the desk, the elevator pinged and the dolly’s creak returned.

Steve heaved out of his chair and pulled on his suit coat from the skeletal rack occupying the corner.

“Any more I can help you with, Steve?”

Steve slid his chair beneath his desk, his hands gripping the cracking leather.

“No, I can take this one.”

Adam hovered in the opening for a moment before stowing the dolly and stepping forward, hand extended.

“Best of luck.”

Steve shook and tried not to see how pale and wrinkled his hand was in comparison.

“You too.”

Clacking heels pulled both of their attentions away from the awkward silence.

“Mr. Grant?” asked Beverly, her hand pressed to the ear piece clinging to the side of her head.

Adam turned and his secretary continued. “They’re ready for you in LA.”

“Thanks,” said Adam. Beverly gave a sharp nod and her clicking steps took her quickly away. “You’re alright with all of this?”

Steve glanced around the nearly bare room and hoped Adam wasn’t about to become suddenly sentimental.

“It’s one box. I think I can handle that.”

“Alright,” said Adam with a rebounding grin. “Excuse me, then. I better get back to the grind stone.”

Steve waved his hand toward the door. “By all means.”

He heard Adam shouting some orders to Beverly before another door down the hall slammed closed to block off the pending phone conversation.

The offices and hallways gave a small set of snaps and groans as the rooms and corridors settled for the night.

“No use hanging around,” said Steve to the faded carpet and chips in his desk.

He scooped up the box and tucked it under his arm. Another glance around confirmed he had everything in hand, or at least waiting for him downstairs. With a nod he strode around the furniture and into the hall, pulling the door closed behind him.

He paused in the corridor as the latch clicked, his nose hovering before the metal sign etched with his name. He took a deep breath before slipping the sign from its frame and slid the plaque into the box. Laying his hand against the wood he sniffed and blinked his eyes clear. He drummed his fingers against the door, tapping the rhythm to a song he no longer remembered. At the final note, he turned and took the walk to the elevator for the last time.

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