A postman misdelivers a mysterious box to an old inventor and his nagging wife, with the latter proceeding to hold it ransom.
Production Details Edit
Directed by: Jodie Foster
Written by: Franco Amurri and Bob Balaban
Rose Pennywell: Eileen Heckart
Charles Pennywell: William LeMassena
Postman: Richard B. Shull
Clarissa Sanderson: Fay Gold
Act I Edit
Old and kind-hearted inventor Charlie Pennywell fishes through his belongings down in his basement workshop when he comes across a box he doesn’t recognize; the words ’Do Not Open This Box’ are displayed in gold letters on the top of it. As he ponders how it got here, his wife Rose comes down and complains about their poor quality television. She claims a friend of theirs Clarissa Sanderson has a nicer TV than them and berates her husband for leaving his job 35 years ago to become an inventor. He excitedly tells her about a universal fastener he’s been working on and claims it will be able to seal anything shut; Rose doesn‘t believe him, as most of his past inventions have not worked right.
As Rose wonders aloud why no boxes ever get delivered to their house anymore, she stumbles across the mysterious box. Charlie insists it’s not theirs, but Rose picks the lock anyway. She opens it up to find nothing in it; exasperated, she throws it in the trash.
Not long after, an aloof Postman knocks on their door and informs them a package has been sent here by mistake. He accurately describes the box, humorously pointing out the gold corners and lettering. Rose pulls Charlie aside and insists they not tell the Postman right away they have it, but rather try another approach. She negotiates with the Postman, claiming that they have misplaced the box but will find it if they are rewarded handsomely. The Postman gleefully obliges under the grounds that it is not opened. He stresses the box’s importance, not exactly telling them why he needs it but insists he will do anything to get it back.
Act II Edit
Over the next few days, Rose demands many lavish items from the Postman and receives many inexplicable things such as a bracelet worn by Marie Antoinette and silverware used by Henry VIII. Charlie, meanwhile, continues to enjoy his simple life tinkering with his inventions down in the basement. She intrudes on his time wearing a brand new dress which she thinks makes her look 10 years younger. Charlie tries talking her into giving the box back, but she refuses. She insists, “I am a winner, and I think we all know what you are”.
Later that night, the two go to a dinner party hosted by Clarissa. Rose nags Charlie about boring the other guests with stories of his inventions and complains about not having jewelry as nice as Clarissa’s. At one point, Charlie defends Clarissa from Rose‘s bickering. Rose calls her husband weak-willed and threatens to leave him if he ever does that again.
The Postman arrives the next day and asks for the box; a depressed Charlie lies and says they’re still looking for it. He says he doesn’t mind waiting while he looks, and repeats the box‘s description as well as the importance of having it by tomorrow midnight. Rose enters and immediately complains to the Postman, demanding more items and asking for another week to look for the box. He warns her to limit herself, but his words go right past the overbearing woman. She orders him to use his mysteriously supernatural powers to remodel their kitchen, then unveils plans to turn Charlie‘s basement workshop into her own personal entertainment area.
Act III Edit
Charlie has the Postman over for coffee the next morning. He asks the inventor if he needs anything, seeing that most of the demands have stemmed from Rose. He even offers to make Charlie 10 years younger, but the old man only wants to invent something that can be useful to everyone — The Postman nods his head in approval. Charlie reveals he doesn’t know where the box is as Rose has hid it somewhere. Rose comes home; The Postman presents her with everything she has demanded. She is only briefly satisfied before demanding more things. The Postman finally puts his foot down and demands the box; Rose asks him to leave and orders Charlie to call the police. In response, the Postman hands them a repo notice to take everything back. Rose scoffs at the papers and throws them into the furnace.
Suddenly, the entire house violently shakes and a red light flashes in the basement. Rose goes upstairs to find their kitchen back to the way it was. When she comes down the stairs, she is back to wearing her plain clothes with no jewelry. Upset and defeated, she fetches the box and brings it to the Postman in the hopes he will return her luxurious things; however, he immediately becomes aware that she opened it. The angry Postman informs them that a soul was locked in the box and that he must now replace it with one of theirs — “Proper payment for proper due”. He gives them until midnight to decide who it will be as he leaves to collect souls in Washington and Moscow.
As midnight approaches, Rose instructs Charlie to do the right thing. The Postman knocks on the door, reaffirming he is here for a “pickup” and not a “delivery”. Rose pushes her meek husband to stab the Postman in the back; when Charlie can’t do it, she grabs the knife from him and does it herself. To their surprise, the Postman doesn’t even flinch. He turns to face Rose — now sporting a devilish black beard — and recites the Ten Commandments, focusing on “Thou Shall Not Kill”. He backs her into a corner and opens the box, which is now full of smoke and an eerie red light. She screams out as her soul is sucked into the box.
The next morning, Charlie completes his universal fastener prototype and uses it to fasten the box shut with Rose trapped in it for life. The Postman commends him and says his invention will greatly help him. Once he leaves, Clarissa visits Charlie, surprising him with a cake. He gladly invites her in and the two prepare to spend the day together.