The Cardboard Box

Arian Knops

The Cardboard Box

4 min.
May 4, 2021

In 1708 AD, the first known written record of something resembling, “God helps fools, lovers and drunkards,” appears. All three have a place in this story.

The Kangas Bar, a wretched watering hole for industrial workers, Salvation Army castaways, a few always drunk drunks and, me, stood near the corner of Twelfth and Glenwood on the northwest fringes of downtown Minneapolis.  A couple of B-girls were usually there too, mainly because during the day they lived and did some business in an apartment above the bar. 

Lee’s Liquor Bar two doors to the east served more potent drinks to the wealthier workers in the area. The guys from the NSP service center usually drank their lunch at Lee’s, but Lee’s didn’t have food. Only booze. I liked something a little more substantial for lunch and The Kangas had good burgers and the best homemade chili in the city of Minneapolis. 

The owner of the Kangas was an ex-professional boxer who used the moniker ‘Chick’ to hide his true identity. Chick once told me he had the recipe for his ‘Knock-Out’ chili fly into his head at the same time that a right-handed punch from Rocky Marciano met his jaw. As Chick lay on the mat getting counted out, the magic ingredient, salami, and how much of it to use, entered his consciousness, never to leave. 

My lunch hour started at eleven AM and ended at eleven-thirty. I was the new guy in the office, so I was given the worst time for lunch. The NSP office where I worked had a good cafeteria, and for the moment I was single, so I if I wanted something that was greasy and good and could be washed down with a beer the only nearby choice was the Kangas.  I usually ate there once a week, so I became one of the regulars. Another plus was that one of the ladies of the night, a gal named Crystal, took a shine to me and told me if my upcoming marriage didn’t work out, I’d have a warm body part, that she owned, that would be available gratis.  

That I was the youngest person she’d seen in twenty years probably helped. The clientele at the Kangas were on the lower end of the economic ladder.  Since I was making ten cents an hour over the minimum wage, I fit in. The people who inhabited the Kangas didn’t talk about money, religion or politics. Sports and what had been on the police scanner the night before were the hot topics of discussion. Fall was a painful time for sports in Minnesota. The Vikings were a good team but couldn’t win a championship. The Twins of the era were out of contention for the pennant by Memorial Day in a year they were hot, and Easter in a year they weren’t.

One beautiful and sunny Wednesday while I was eating my burger and having a guessing game with Crystal on how many men, she’d had in her life a guy named Mumbling Jesus, named that because every time he got up off a chair he’d mumble, “Jesus”, wandered in.

Before he even said “Hi” Mumbling Jesus asked, “Whose beaver is that laying in the back entry?” The B-girls all had quizzical looks on their faces and fessed up to the fact that it wasn’t theirs.  One of the girls went to the back door and when she opened it, there was a very alive and extremely confused beaver on the stoop. I wondered aloud what body of water it had come from. The Mississippi was more than a mile away and on the other side of downtown.  A guy named Lance, who was a delivery man for an auto parts outfit said, “Basset’s Creek is just on the other side of Lyndale Avenue, that must be where the little fella’s from.”  After a few too many beers one of two things happens. Either you develop a love or a hate for God’s other creatures.

We all talked to the animal like it was a child and it responded by hissing at us. The things have razor sharp claws and constantly growing teeth that can fell a small tree with a single bite.

 Lance threw an old blanket he’d found in the backroom of the bar, a place he’d slept quite a few nights, over the frightened creature. He then stuffed it inside an old hard cardboard beer case with a folding top and slammed the lid shut.

Then he and Mumbling Jesus stuffed the beaver filled box in the back of Lance’s van and headed off to the creek. 

Crystal, who’d never left her stool, said “How long do you think it’ll take a beaver to chew its way out of a cardboard box?” 

This article was orginally reported by
Arian Knops

Arian is a short story contributor to the Sentinel & Rural News. Arian has written two full-length thrillers which have received critical and popular acclaim. Arian lives in Bruce, WI, with his charming wife, Arlene.