Hundreds of white paper lunch bags lined the streets of the neighborhood. They were spaced a few feet apart and had a couple inches of sand in the bottom – nothing else. They just appeared there. On a Saturday. Nobody knew why. Whoever took the time to set all of them up surely had a goal in mind. Up and down every street, white paper lunch bags. Around the roundabout, white paper lunch bags. On the medians, white paper lunch bags.
I laced up my sneakers and went to a yard sale on NW 7th. A lady there said she liked the way they looked. The white paper lunch bags, not my sneakers. She said that if you don’t look directly at them and only see the white spots in your peripheral vision, they look kind of nice. I tried it. They did look kind of nice. The man who lived next door said he saw who did it. He said he saw the guy doing it early early that morning. Just one guy. Setting up the white paper lunch bags. I said I wonder if he plans on being the one to take them all away, early early in the morning. I said I wonder where he bought so many white paper lunch bags, and if that store has any left in stock. I said I wonder how big of a hole he had to dig to get two inches of sand for every single white paper lunch bag. I said I wonder if when he takes them all away will there be a little pile of sand where each white paper lunch bag had been, and if not, where was all the sand going to go? The girl looking at the kitty-cat alarm clock for sale said probably back in the hole he dug to get the sand in the first place. I hadn’t thought of that.
They were still there the next day. In fact, there were more. The white paper lunch bags with sand in the bottoms took over the neighborhood. There wasn’t a single neighbor in the neighborhood who didn’t ask their neighbor about it.
The streets that were thankful they were on the outskirts of the white paper lunch bag phenomenon were now disappointed they had been included. The streets on the outskirts of this new growth were getting worried. Were the neighbors there going to come out to fetch the paper tomorrow only to find white paper lunch bags with two inches of sand in the bottoms lining their street? Probably. There seemed to be no stopping the Paper Bag Bandit. On the night of the second day, it rained. The white paper lunch bags were starting to sag. The next morning, though, there were more. These were standing tall and moving out into the bigger roadways of the city.
Three days later the white paper lunch bags had made it almost as far as downtown. There was a story about it on the six o’clock news. The man who lived next door to the house the yard sale was at on NW 7th was on the news. He was interviewed because he was the only one who had ever seen the Paper Bag Bandit. Randolf McSweeny was the reporter who interviewed the man who lived next door to the house the yard sale was at. Randolf McSweeny asked what the Paper Bag Bandit looked like. The man said he didn’t really know because it was early early in the morning and he didn’t have his glasses on. That was not acceptable for Randolf McSweeny or anybody who saw the six o’clock news. Everybody said he was lying about it just so he could be on the six o’clock news, and that no one had ever actually seen the Paper Bag Bandit. I felt bad for him because he told me that he saw the Paper Bag bandit before he was even called the Paper Bag Bandit or was even going to be on the six o’clock news. I didn’t understand why someone didn’t just stay up until early early in the morning and take a picture of the Paper Bag Bandit.
Even after the Paper Bag Bandit and his white paper lunch bags were discussed on the six o’clock news the city didn’t take them down. They tossed the idea around, but the group Freedom of Expression for the College’s Empowered Students spoke out and said the city must leave the white paper lunch bags right where they are. Since this is a college town the twenty-somethings combined with the people who wish they were still twenty-something outnumber the rest of the population, so FECES won the argument. The city’s only condition was that early every morning the newly placed white paper lunch bags be inspected to prevent any hazards. That task created approximately four jobs. The mayor made sure to point that out. These four or so newly employed citizens of the city would make sure the white paper lunch bags contained sand only and weren’t too close to the curb, etc. The city said that so far none of the white paper lunch bags presented any hazards. There was speculation as to whether the Paper Bag Bandit belonged to FECES, or was even a college student at all. In any event the college’s empowered students just loved his “daring and charismatic statement.” I think FECES is a bunch of baloney, but I don’t mind the white paper lunch bags.
About two weeks later there were white paper lunch bags with two inches of sand all the way to the city limits. The morning this was discovered the whole city took a deep breath and held it for a short time. Would the white paper lunch bags continue forth beyond the city limits and envelop neighboring townships? The people of the neighboring townships took a deep breath, too, and held it for a short time.
The next morning, a lot of people got up early to drive out to the city limits to see if there were more white paper lunch bags. I didn’t. There weren’t. The people of the neighboring townships were relieved to know they wouldn’t have to deal with the white paper lunch bags. Some of the neighboring townships had begun preparing special task forces to deal with the white paper lunch bag influx. They didn’t need them. Soon they would be envious.
So the white paper lunch bags were contained within the limits of our city and they weren’t going anywhere. The people of the city were becoming very protective of the white paper lunch bags. There was a car accident at the corner of 63rd and 10th. The white paper lunch bags that got destroyed or displaced were lovingly replaced by the police department. The people of the city started taking good care of the white paper lunch bags. Neighbors included them in their normal yard upkeep regimens. Business owners made sure to keep them looking fine in front of their businesses. If any of the white paper lunch bags became too decrepit for display purposes they were promptly replaced. There’s been far less littering, too. People probably feel the litter would take away from the dramatic look of the white paper lunch bags. Even the squirrels and raccoons respect the white paper lunch bags, probably because they don’t contain any lunch.
I asked my wife what she thought about the whole situation. She said what situation? I said the white paper lunch bag situation. She said she didn’t know there was a situation. What was the situation? I left it at that. She, like everyone else, had grown accustomed to the white paper lunch bags. It seemed like she didn’t even remember a time when there weren’t any white paper lunch bags.
The lady on NW 7th had another yard sale. By this time the white paper lunch bags had been up for two or three months. I couldn’t really remember how long. I didn’t understand how she could have another yard sale so soon. How much junk did she have to get rid of? I saw the man who lived next door. I told him I was sorry about the whole six o’clock news fiasco. He said it wasn’t a big deal. He said people just liked the idea of no one ever seeing the Paper Bag Bandit. That’s why nobody tried to see him. I said he had a point. I bought a three hole punch and went home.
That night the couple across the street had a barbecue. The wife had this nifty idea to bury little candles in the sand at the bottom of the white paper lunch bags in front of her house. When she lit them the white paper lunch bags glowed. She became the talk of the town and everyone threw out their tiki torches. This resulted in more outdoor nighttime barbecues than the city had ever seen. The glowing white paper lunch bags were a beacon to neighboring neighbors. They said come on over, we’re havin’ ourselves a barbecue.