Eponymous Plot Device

It was well past 9 pm, and Harv could probably have let Buddy off his leash, but there had been warnings about the raccoons in the densely forested areas north of 97th St. He still found the park a bit creepy after dark. Nowhere near as bad as thirty years ago, but still. It helped that Buddy was big. Although really, he’d probably just lick a potential mugger.

The lady startled Harv. She stepped out from one of the innumerable side-paths, dressed in an ankle-length gray robe with a hood that covered most of her face. Before Harv could react though, she had handed him a wooden box, and he had instinctively grabbed it.

“Huh?” Harv exclaimed. The box was heavy. He still had one hand on Buddy’s leash, and the dog was digging in his hind feet and tugging.

“You need to be careful to keep it closed,” said the lady.

“Why?” demanded Harv. “What’s in it?”

“There might be a MacGuffin in there,” said the lady. “I’m not completely sure about that, but it’s definitely safer just to make sure nobody opens it.”

“Is that dangerous?” asked Harv. He looked around, nervously, for somewhere to set the box down, but Buddy was still tugging on his leash, and had partially circled around behind him.

“It might destroy our entire universe,” said the lady. Harv opened his mouth to say something, but she continued, speaking over him. “More likely it would only require some rather strenuous heroic activity to straighten things out. You should probably get a big elastic band to wrap around it. That may help.”

“Is this supposed to be magic or something? I don’t believe in that nonsense.”

The lady wrinkled her nose, the only part of her face that Harv could see. “Not magic,” she said. She sounded amused. “Not in this universe. Much more likely to be some sort of advanced technology. But who really knows with MacGuffins. That’s not exactly the point.”

“You’re kidding, right? Putting me on. Why would you just hand me something like that?”

“MacGuffins serve only to be handed from one person to another,” the lady said. “They are given freely or taken under duress, or they may be hidden away and lost for a time, and then later rediscovered. When a MacGuffin is given to somebody, it provides the dramatic tension that allows that person to discover something new about themselves. Some say that is the sole purpose to our universe.”

“Well I don’t want it,” said Harv. He tried to safely put the box down on the path, but Buddy had now encircled his feet twice with the leash, and he stumbled. “Oh n–”