The package you have been waiting for arrived today. Fingers trembling and heart racing, you open it to find a letter and an extremely small piece of luggage. You sit down to read the letter.
IGNOTUM EST QUAERITIS
28 April 2021
Ms. Cynthia Kilpecker, 31245800-0WF
1752 Rocky Mountain Road
Denver, CO 80202
Dear Ms. Kilpecker,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to participate in Project Ares. Please report to Ares Headquarters, 4520 East Camelback Way, Phoenix, AZ 85018 on Monday, 15 May 2021 at 08:00 Arizona Time. Please read the enclosed information. Pack your suitcase thoughtfully, following the directions provided.
Austin Colombo, PhD
You pick up the 10 X 14 X 3 hard shell black case with a label maker label designating it as a suitcase, slide the locking latches to release the top and open it to find the directions.
1 Remove all jewelry before arriving at headquarters
2 Uniforms will be issued at Headquarters after your arrival
3 Toiletries will be provided
4 Electronics will be provided
5 We have a vast digital library so please leave your books home
6 Please limit your personal belongings to items which will fit inside the suitcase.
You stare in disbelief at the tiny space. It’s 420 cubic inches! Four hundred twenty freakin’ inches! What are you supposed to put in there?
You sit down and turn on the television set. Obviously, your brand new flat screen is too big to fit into the suitcase. They did say that they have a vast digital library so you can part with the TV.
A talking head program is playing on PBS, “The World on the Move: the Challenges of Migration Throughout History.” A perky blonde and a balding older man in a three piece suit were talking.
Blondie: “As civilization spread across the planet, each generation faced the same dilemma: adapting to new places.”
Baldy: “People were limited by space, transportation, money and other factors in what they could take of their old lives.”
Blondie: “What they could take was different for each group. The Mayflower Pilgrims had extensive lists of provisions they were expected to bring while later immigrants came to Ellis Island with their personal belongings wrapped in a shawl.”
Baldy: “Some (he is making air quotes with his fingers) immigrants didn’t get a chance to choose what to bring. Slaves arrived with nothing.”
Blondie: “Don’t forget about the native peoples who were forced to leave their homes without their belongings.”
Baldy: “My grandmother told stories of her grandmother who walked across the plains barefoot because she lost the one and only pair of shoes she could bring.”
Blondie: “And in the Great Depression, families moved across the country with all their belongings strapped to their cars. If the car broke down, they had to leave their stuff behind.”
Baldy: “We moved a lot when I was a kid. I never knew if my favorite toys were going to make it through the move. My mom would spend hours deciding what to take and what to leave. Every time we moved, something got lost.
Blondie: “I heard an experience mover say, ‘three moves equal a fire.’ I guess that’s true.”
Baldy: “Now, here in the 21st century, we have a group of pioneers having to make the same hard decisions – what to take and what to leave.”
Blondie: (holding up a package like the one you received today) “If you received a package like this in your mail today, you’ll soon have to make those decisions. Participants in Project Ares, due to take off to the Mars Colony on May 20th, were informed today. Keep an eye on your neighborhoods, folks. There are going to be some pretty big garage sales and curb pickups.”
You turn the TV off and start making a list.
Dishes – give to Martha.
Copper pots – give to Sally and George
Fish tank and fish – give to Howard. You look more closely at the fish tank, then cross fish off the list. They are already gone.
Grandma’s quilt – You’d like to take it, but there’s no way it will fit into 420 cubic inches – give to Quilters guild
Beer can collection – toss
Coin collection – sell
Stamp collection – sell
Car - sell
Furniture – donate to Goodwill
You become more and more depressed as you list your earthly belongings and make decisions about them. You pour a glass of wine and look up a place to buy boxes. Why should you pay to give your stuff away? Why should you pack things you’ll never use again so they don’t break? Why not just throw them off the balcony? Finally, exhausted, you fall asleep.
In the morning, you start again.
Make up case from last Christmas – give to Heather
Love letters from Matt – burn
Wedding ring - sell
Wedding dress – donate to Angel Gowns
Prom dress – donate to Angel Gowns
Bible – give to Martha, Project Ares has digitized the Bible
Collection of novels – give to Women’s shelter
Garth Brooks Autographed CD – give to Sally and George
Kitty Boy’s cat tree – put on curb
Kitty Boy’s ashes – Scatter in the park
Clothes – give to Women’s shelter
Bedding – give to Women’s shelter
TV – give to Mr. Balducci
Wine – drink what I can, pour the rest out
For the next few days, you put items on the curb. You take the wedding ring and your collections to the pawn shop. You take donations to Goodwill, the Women’s shelter and Angel Gowns. You call friends to come and pick up their share. You empty the refrigerator and put bags of edible food in front of neighbors’ doors.
You burn the love letters and scatter the ashes along with Kitty Boy’s ashes. You sweep and mop the kitchen floor. You water the flowers in the window box and wash the windows. You buy a bus ticket to Phoenix.
You drink the rest of the wine and give the TV and your apartment keys to Mr. Balducci. You call a taxi and ask the driver to drive you around Denver, then take you to the bus station. Before you get out of the cab, you open the suitcase to make sure it is empty. You give the driver a generous tip, then exit the cab. Suitcase in hand, you head to the station. Time to start over.