Today was fun!
* * *
I get out of the mail truck and walk up to the customer’s door, her mail in hand. I’m steeling myself for a confrontation, just in case; they requested redelivery for a package that doesn’t exist, and it’s actually my fault because I left the notice in the wrong mailbox. Oops.
I knock loudly and ring the doorbell, hoping it will be over quickly. The smell of sunbaked dog piss hit me in the face before I even opened the fence, and mosquitoes swarm around the area as if they’d been specifically waiting for their favorite meal to show up. Long seconds go by, the upcoming conversation playing and re-playing in my head. A futile exercise, I know. They don’t ever go the way I imagine them.
I put on a smile as the door swings open. It reveals a wiry old man I’ve never seen before, slightly sunken features, thready white beard down to his chest. He stares out for a tiny moment, eyes unfocused.
“Hi,” I greet him.
“Wah!” he startles, as if I weren’t the guy that knocked and doorbelled just ten seconds ago. He recovers quickly. “Um, yes?”
“Yes, hi, you requested redelivery of a package notified on Saturday, right?” I show him the automatic printout I got in the morning. NOONE CAME TO THE DOOR PLEASE KNOCK LOUDLY AND GIVE TIME TO ANSWER is written under additional information.
“Uh, yes, uh ….” The man leans forward and dubiously looks at the paper, so close he could sniff it. I notice as I speak that his eyebrows jut out of his brow like wide, wispy canopies. It’s awfully distracting.
“Yeah, it’s my fault,” I tell him, “there was a misunderstanding—the package wasn’t for you, I left the notice in the wrong box.”
“In the wrong box got it,” the man repeats immediately. His voice is somewhat feeble. He fidgets. He missed a comma. I can’t decide whether he’s grasping the issue.
“Yeah, sorry about that. You can simply tear up the notice you got on Saturday.”
“Tear up the notice I got on Saturday got it.” He’s looking up at me, features conveying nothing but earnest compliance.
Okay, well. At least no-one is getting angry.
“By the way, if it ever happens again you can also leave the notice in your mailbox with the flag up. It’ll save you the trouble of filling out a form online.”
“Um, I need to leave the notice in the mailbox with the flag up got it.”
I blink. Twice.
“But not Saturday’s, though. I already know about that one. You can throw it away.”
“I can throw it away got it.”
We look at each other for a moment. His eyes are open to the appropriate width—not dazed, nor lidded, nor crazy wide. He looks perfectly lucid. My gaze keeps tracking back to those prodigious white eyebrows that tremble subtly with his every word.
“Well, then, here’s your mail. Sorry about that again, have a nice day.”
He takes the bundle and looks at it like it’s a handful of marbles. He looks back up, nodding vigorously. He approves.
“Have a nice day.”
The door closes. I stand there for a moment, somewhat stunned. I don’t even smell the dog piss anymore as I shut the fence behind me.
Nope. They never go the way you imagine.
Some stories have characters that could only exist in that story. Sometimes characters are so weird or quirky or stupid that they fail to suspend disbelief altogether. I used to balk at oddball characters in novels and fiction in general, but not anymore. They exist. There’s much worse out there.
Now, I’d like to think there is nothing wrong with this man at all. I sure hope he doesn’t have a cognitive disease, and that he’s free from the clutches of senility. I walk away from his home imagining he’s chuckling his ass off at the confused postman, or perhaps carrying on with the game of Starcraft I interrupted, fidgety hands moving at two hundred actions per minute while he mouths off the poor sod that challenged him. I was but a blip in his existence, a quickly dismissed annoyance in the grand tale of his life.
That is the reality I choose to believe.
I know kung fu,