It was an old wooden box, with no key. She found it at a yard sale in a small town fifty miles away and paid too much for it. Back home, she placed it on the kitchen table and smashed the lock off to see what the box held.
Inside were bits of paper, handwritten, full of advice, contingency plans, exit maneuvers. She sorted them into piles, dividing them by types of paper. Each kind of paper, she soon discovered, had its own flavor of advice.
There were blue squares, with roosters in the corner, shopping lists on one side: apples, milk, roasts, white bread. On the back of the lists, in the same flowing script, motherly advice: In case of rain, unexpected company, wrinkled linens. Another stack: Blue-lined notebook paper in childish handwriting, shaky Palmer script advising her what to do in case of lost homework, bullies, bad lunches. There were index cards with neat, blocky printing and instructions on what to do in case of problems with furnaces, rain gutters, flat tires.
Finally, at the bottom of the box, a few strips of thick, cream colored paper. Some with no words at all, only tiny sketches of trees and flowers that had never grown in this world. The advice, if there was any, tended towards what to do in case of infestations of fairies, how to manage elves who came to visit and wouldn’t go home, plans in case of dragons. The very last slip of paper said, In case you are lost….with a hand-drawn map on the back.
At last. She nearly cried with relief. Practical advice, at last.