The Best Chest.

Today is my birthday. The last few minutes of it, anyway. I’m 34. It feels outrageously old.

As some of you know, I’m weird about birthdays. Actually, I’m much weirder about birthdays than I’ve ever let on. When it’s time to sing the birthday song to someone, I hide in the back and pretend to be distracted. When it’s time for other people to sing it to me, it’s sheer torment. Those twenty seconds feel like two hours. Of being on fire.

It’s been this way since my late teens. One year, I spent an entire night out with my closest friends, never once mentioning that it was my birthday. I’ve gone to tremendous lengths to keep it a secret. It isn’t just because I hate getting older, because even if I do, I’ve been an idiot about birthdays since I was practically still a child.

In more recent years, I’ve even gotten weird about birthday presents. The people who gotta give them to me “by law” will always struggle, because I will never even hint at what I might want. I don’t know where this comes from; it’s not like I have these issues at Christmastime.

Anyway, for the past few weeks, my might-as-well-be-wife was pushing me for gift ideas. My answers ranged from “I don’t know” to “I don’t need anything” to “I hate my birthday don’t you dare get me a present.” Even when she’d suggest totally practical things that I could totally use, I’d weasel my way out. “Nah, I’ll just use it once and forget about it.”

As a cake topper, I have a terrible poker face, and I’m the worst person to ever try to surprise. So if you think she should’ve just picked something on her own without any semblance of “permission,” trust me, she’s learned not to from experience.

A few nights back, she grilled me again. This time, she was serious. Maybe even teary. It finally hit the point where I could no longer be a cold jerk in good conscience. I hate it when things hit that point. I had to fess up.

“Well, there was this weird storage chest on Craigslist…”

Not the response she was expecting, I guarantee you that.

Behold, my birthday present. That weird chest from Craigslist. THE BEST CHEST.

We’d never bought or sold anything on Craigslist before. I’d heard too many horror stories about it. Even when I’ve seen listings for amazing things at unreal prices, I could never pull the trigger.

But this… this was different. That chest SPOKE to me. Each side has a different piece of art, and the whole thing is just so incredible and bizarre and perfectly up my alley. I had to have it.

Since this was my birthday present, she wanted to pick it up alone. That was a no-go for me. I’ve been brought up to believe that everyone on Craigslist is a psychopathic murderer with a secret torture chamber. So I went along for the ride. Turns out, the owner/artist was a perfectly nice and normal guy, with a cool car to boot. He even gave us a severe discount.

He’d worked on the chest bit by bit for more than a year. Bless his heart: It was even more incredible in person. This thing is just so insanely me.

Below is a closer look at the various scenes, and if you don’t come out of this believing that this really is the best chest, leave Dino Drac and never come back.

The top features Stewie and Brian from Family Guy, along with an evil clown, a big snake and a hip hop Frankenstein. Stewie menaces us from the shade of an ominous and possibly alien tree. Meanwhile, the snake grows out of a skull. He potentially grows out of a skull, at least.  I frickin’ love this.

The front of the chest is even more impressive. It’s an Alice in Wonderland scene, psycho and psychedelic. Kind of like the facade of a dark ride at a sketchy carnival. I won’t list all of the neat features, but I must point out that the Cheshire Cat looks too much like a Crite for it to be a coincidence. Even though it’s definitely a coincidence. Harley still approves.

One of the side panels features this guy. This, uh… skeleton guy, in a hat, with a gun. He seems oddly friendly. Look close and you’ll notice that the skeleton guy (in a hat, with a gun) guards an enormous and much more threatening skull. I lack the eloquence to describe why all of this is so great. All I can say is that this chest inspires me to be a better human being.

The other side panel has this… zombie? Bearded zombie? In a bed of roses? I don’t know. I like how the rope handle goes straight through his ears. It must be a statement. “Don’t believe everything you hear.” Alternatively, “Stick rope in your head.”

Now here’s what really made me realize that life would never be complete without this storage trunk. (I’m mixing it up because I’ve already used the word “chest” like two hundred times.)

It’s a gorgeous Halloween scene, where yet another evil clown looms large over pumpkins, tombstones and a haunted castle. We’ve gone from Family Guy to Alice in Wonderland to HALLOWEEN, and we’re still not done!

The final scene may be my favorite of ’em all. The reverse side of the lid features two fat frogs protecting ANOTHER haunted castle. If you count the Alice in Wonderland version, this chest includes three haunted castles. I am swooning.

Between the frogs and the swan and the dragonfly and the burning moon, I think I was born to write a short story about this.

It’s unlikely that I will ever see or speak to the artist again. God knows what he was he thinking as we scurried away in that grocery store parking lot, cackling like idiots. Should he ever stumble upon this review: Dude, you’re awesome, and you made something that will inspire me for years to come.

And Ms. X? Thanks for making me talk, and for buying the best chest. In return, I won’t complain about that $400 vet bill. Even though nothing involving cat teeth should ever cost $400.