Curious Goods: Jack-in-the-Box by Bones Monroe is story number four in the Curious Goods series. I purchased the book for USD 0.99 on Amazon although I could have read it for free on Kindle Unlimited. My KU queue was full and the annoyance of shuffling my books around was not worth USD 0.99. All the stories in the series are short and, to me, all are impressive. After posting this review I will spend time reading the other short stories in the series.
Arthur is buying a toy for his daughter Brenda at Curious Goods. While trading philosophical insights with Albus, the shop owner, Arthur selects a Jack-in-the-Box. The box decorations are gruesome depictions of horror. Brenda likes creepy stuff. The gift was not initially well received. Patty, Brenda’s mother, felt that any dollar spent on toys was another dollar she could not spend on shoes. Arthur is Brenda’s ATM but he tends to forget it. Brenda at first likes the toy but later that evening is terrified by it and has nightmares. Patty blames Arthur as a bad father, Brenda is terrified, and Arthur agrees to take the toy back to the store.
Arthur takes the toy back to the store and meets Wayne, a new assistant who is working through a penance for past misdeeds. They discuss the toy and a book that Arthur is carrying (rumored to be quite good). Wayne invites Arthur to bring Brenda to the store. Maybe she doesn’t know how to use the toy and Wayne can help. Brenda has serious anger management problems. Wayne shows Brenda how to channel her anger into the toy. Once Brenda does this, Brenda is delighted to find that she has a new friend, Jacque, who lives in the box but is willing to occasionally and covertly leave the box and solve problems to Brenda’s satisfaction.
Renny, a school bully, should not have made Brenda angry. Anger fueled the box and Jacque. Renny will not be a star on the track team anymore. Lots of things could make Brenda angry. She liked milk with her cereal. Mommy shouldn’t forget to buy milk and she shouldn’t yell at Daddy. She won’t forget anymore. Brenda really loved her daddy but she didn’t like the drugs he sometimes used. And she didn’t like Ashley, daddy’s friend. Sometimes both of them used drugs together. Maybe Brenda could give Daddy and Ashley a present so they would appreciate her more. Jacque could help with the presents; he really knew how to wrap presents well.
Brenda was Wayne’s attempt at penance. Was he successful? Read the story to the surprising conclusion.