Something Weird Happens to You Before Lunch


The portinaia–the doorlady–in your apartment building buzzes you on the intercom. “You’ve got a big package down here. UPS just delivered it. Can you come pick it up?”

“A package?”

“You’re not expecting anything?”

“No.” But it’s the Christmas season so you pull on your sweater and hop into the elevator wondering who has decided to surprise you.

The portinaia hands over a large UPS box with “Extremely Urgent. Sehr dringend. Estremamente Urgente. Extremadamente Urgente. Tres Urgent. Bardzo wazne.”  printed in red in the top left corner. The box is heavy. You note that it weighs 4 kg-8.8 lbs. There’s no no return address, but sure enough, the box is addressed to you.

You shake it. Whatever’s inside thumps heavily.

“A computer,” you say to yourself on the way back upstairs.  But who would send you an extremely urgent computer through the mail?

“A gift from my sister,” you figure next. “For the kids.” But if it were for the kids your sister would have addressed it to them, not you.

“A bomb?” You whisper. You don’t know quite why you think of a bomb, but you do.
You realize you’re slightly paranoid when it comes to large, unexpected, mystery boxes.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” you say next. You square your shoulders and scoff at yourself. The box made it through the Italian system without detonating. It can hardly be a bomb, after all.

Upstairs, you don your glasses. You take a knife to the tape.

Box number 2

Box number 2

Inside the UPS box, you find another box.  One emblazoned with small photos on a black background. You open this box and find another one. Think: This is just like a Matrioska. Boxes inside boxes instead of dolls inside dolls.

This third box is all black. It seems to be made of leather. It’s two and a half inches thick. It’s got PRADA stamped in blue across the top.

Box 3

Box 3

You turn it over and realize it isn’t a box. You see that it’s a sleeve and that inside the sleeve is a black leather-looking book. With PRADA stamped in blue on its cover too, just like the sleeve.

“A leather book from PRADA?”

Let yourself think that your meditating and candle-lighting and finger-crossing activities have all paid off. PRADA has discovered you and published your work. Somehow they downloaded it off your hard disk. And it’s all inside this black leather tome.

Brief History

Open the book. Discover it’s a history of PRADA from the PRADA Foundation.


But find a white card.

“Thank you for sending your story,” you read.

Remember how you submitted your short story, “HIBISCUS,” to the PRADA-Feltrinelli First Literary Contest last June—six months ago—and haven’t heard a word since. Recall how just last week you’d been thinking the prize—€ 5000—would come in handy for Christmas. Smile. Think that maybe this book means your story was selected from the tsunami of global electronic submissions.

Whisper, “Oh my God.”

Sit hyperventilating at your computer. Check the PRADA website. There’s no news posted there yet. Decide the big black book is definitely a good omen.

Dream. Think. You’ve done it.

Then decide to Google. Key in “PRADA/Feltrinelli Literary Contest Winners.” Discover that the PRADA/Feltrinelli Literary Contest Winners—five out of 1,300—were announced in October.

Let your face fall. Say, “at least all rights to my short story have reverted to me.” Decide that the dreaming was fun while it lasted.

Then wonder. Who sends out 8.8 lb. books in Extremely Urgent UPS boxes to 1,300 writers in twenty-nine countries? Hope against hope. Maybe today they’ll soon write to tell you. There’s been  a mistake. Your entry’s the 6th. You’ll have €5000 too. In time for Christmas.

ABriefHistory Past Catalog pages
If not, at least you’ve got a fancy book and some pretty boxes to admire.

9 thoughts on “Something Weird Happens to You Before Lunch

    1. And very expensive too! I can’t even begin to guess how much all the extremely urgent postage cost for 1,300 copies of 8.8 lb. books send around the globe.

      1. Yes, you are right but I am convinced that marketing is an ego trip for the marketers who are busy inventing more and more clever ways to say how great the company is …
        (and they get discount rates from UPS or Fedex anyway …) .

  1. Oh, Natalia, the writer (and contest enter-er!) in me was right there with you the whole time. (Ah, even with the bomb part. 😉 My fingers are still crossed for you, too! And I have to say it is weirdly comforting to me to hear you go through this, too—you who are such a good writer and so visibly successful in my eyes. Even the end made me smile, had me relating to you, pretty boxes as silver lining, as scaffolding against possible disappointment. Thank you for this!

    1. Thanks for the finger crossing! I fear it’s too late for this particular contest, but who knows what’s up ahead? Keep sending ’em out!

  2. I was really worried that it might be a bomb. I happy to find out after the event that it wasn’t!
    Keep entering. You are a wonderful writer and someday–not too long from now–Prada will be
    asking you for the rights to one of your stories and as an enticement will ask you to choose
    ANYTHING from their latest collection!!

    Elizabetta Acosta

    1. Yeah, mystery boxes do have a way of making you paranoid. I tell you, for a few minutes I was worried! And since you’ve given me an opening, if anyone from Prada’s reading, could I have a Prada bag too?

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