Not many people talked to Art. He liked that. From his steel-toed boots to his copper-lined military cap, Art was practicality and self-made efficiency. He squatted at the dark corner of his covered porch, eyes on the neighborhood. Every fifteen minutes, he raised his binoculars and did a sweep of the area.
Art was waiting for the mailman.
Today, according to the electronic message from Guns, Gurneys, and Steel Blades, his package of ammunition would arrive. He knew what a hot item his purchase was; those who took the coming threat seriously were stockpiling. He’d seen the signs: necessities disappearing from store shelves, people filling extra cans at the gas station, and prices of guns and ammunition rising.
Even his ignorant, soft-shelled neighbors demonstrated mild panic. He’d watched Mrs. Hempsworth looking around as she cradled package after package of toilet paper. The Andersens kept purchasing food supplies. And he, Arthur Jackson Williams, seemed to be the only suspicious one on the street.
There! The mailman’s pickup truck! Art lifted the binoculars and fitted them to his eyes. Amidst the happy-faced brown boxes bursting in the mailman’s cargo space, he spied his package. Setting his shotgun, Bowie knife, binoculars, pistol, and tactical belt to the side, he rose and moved down the stairs at an easy pace.
He arrived just as the mailman exited his truck.
“‘Morning, Ron!” Art’s tan, unshaven face creased into a smile. His eyes remained vigilant.
Ron seemed surprised and turned his whole body to meet Art’s approach. “Oh! Mornin’!”
Art wasn’t fooled for a second. “Nice day, eh? How’s it been so far today?”
Ron considered, frowning. “Oh, not bad. Just -” he paused.
“Just-” his sky-colored eyes searched their source for inspiration. “Just a lot more packages lately.” Ron smiled vaguely and shrugged.
I’ll bet, thought Art. Aloud, he said, “Bet that’s a real pain in the -”
“Yep.” Ron laughed, agreeing. “Yep.”
“Sorry for adding to that, Ron. Really.” Art nodded toward the pickup’s hardtop. “I thought they’d use UPS.”
Ron shook his head. His white hair floated against the movement. “Nah; Post’s cheaper. We’re better, too!”
“Ha! You’re right!” Art folded his arms. “Well! Don’t go overloadin’ yourself with too many o’ these Amazon deliv’ries, alright? These softies can shake a leg and try their chances at a store sometime! -Maybe experience the real world!”
Ron’s smile broadened. He laughed again. “That’ll be the day!” He went to the open-space window of his hardtop and removed Art’s package. Cringing at the weight, he slid it free and walked a step. Art unfolded his arms and came forward.
Taking the box from the old mailman’s arms, he said, “Whoa, Ron. Wouldn’t want you hurtin’ something. You’ve got all that toilet paper to deliver still!”
Ron laughed a third time. “Yep!”
“See you next deliv’ry!” Art turned and headed back home.
Without looking back, Art heard the familiar unlocking of the community mailbox. He heard the familiar whistling of the contented mailman. No one seemed to worry about what Ron delivered; what Ron saw. But Art knew. Art knew.
Continued at “Going Postal, IV.”
©2020 Chelsea Owens