Passing on the Parcel

Terri Mullholland

Photo Credit: Flood G./Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

The parcel will be the last thing he gives her. He’s been carrying it around all day in a red canvas bag and she wonders if he’ll hand it over, or whether his nerve will desert him at the last minute and he’ll decide to keep it.

She never asks for the parcels. That isn’t how it works. They must give them up of their own free will. They must choose to part with them.

She’s had clients who arrive with enormous bundles, far bigger than they can comfortably lift, who will pick them up and walk out with them at the end of the session. Sometimes they say they genuinely forgot they were carrying them.

She is already guessing about the parcel in Jonathan’s red canvas bag. She knows it will be neatly wrapped. She imagines he is a brown paper and string man. She had one client, a young woman, who had given her the most exquisitely wrapped box. Shiny gold paper, silk ribbon, Japanese washi tape to seal the ends. Often the more painful the contents, the more beautiful the wrapping.

Not always though. Some people boxed up their unwanted feelings in the bits and pieces they had by the bin ready to go out for recycling. No care was taken at all, ten years of an abusive relationship crammed into an old cereal packet. That client had sealed it well though: reams and reams of brown parcel tape. Those feelings weren’t getting out again.

She has a special confidential incinerator to burn them. She throws in the whole package, then watches as fear, shame, sadness, and every other unwanted emotion is reduced to nothing.

Sometimes they’ve been badly wrapped and she doesn’t get them to the incinerator in time. She can end up chasing angry thoughts around the house like a swarm of wasps. Once a wave of someone’s unwanted grief had leaked out of the milk carton in which it had been stored and left her crying for weeks.

Jonathan hands over the parcel at the end of their session. It is neat and tidy, as she expected. Apart from one flap that looks as if it has been lifted one too many times and now won’t quite seal. Sometimes clients do that, take one last peek at the feelings that have been part of them for so long. Say a final goodbye.

‘Is this everything?’ she asks.

Jonathan nods.

The parcel is heavier than she had expected. Even as she is showing Jonathan out of the door and watching him walk away with a new buoyancy in his step, she can feel it. The heaviness of what he has left. It is seeping out of that loose flap of brown paper, filling the room.


Terri Mullholland is a writer and researcher living in London, UK. She has a PhD from the University of Oxford, where she has taught English Literature and Critical Theory. Her flash fiction has appeared in Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, Every Day Fiction, Full House, Severine, and Six Sentences. Twitter: @Lesley_Cat Email: terri.mullholland[at]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email