Continued from “Going Postal, I,” “Going Postal, II,” “Going Postal, III,” “Going Postal, IV,” “Going Postal, V,” “Going Postal, VI,” “Going Postal, VII,” “Going Postal, VIII,” and “Going Postal, IX,” and “Going Postal, X.”
“I don’t know, Marty.” Ron said. He felt tired and breathing wasn’t easy.
“I’m tellin’ ya.” Marty sat up as he spoke. “They’s -they’re rippin’ you off! Everyone’s been usin’ dah mail -I seen it!- while they’re holed up in their houses. You said dah city said they’d fire you? Who’re they gonna get? They can’ get anyone right now!”
Ron tried to think. He knew Marty wasn’t the most trustworthy guy, but he’d been really responsible the last few weeks. Without Marty, he and Carol -his thoughts broke off and tears started in his eyes.
Marty’s eyes looked bright but dry as he studied Ron. Young people like him hadn’t been affected as badly, after all. “Unca Ron, ya gotta believe me. You saw dem sh- those guys at dah post office! They pushed you around, didn’ they? I got ’em to do their jobs and stop dah dis-respect!”
That was true. Ron’s mother had always said, You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But those guys at the post office hadn’t ever been nice, no matter how nice he’d been first. Whatever Carol’s neice’s son had said to them, they’d shaped right up. Ron fumbled at his seatbelt. He saw and heard Marty drum his fingers on the dash in impatience.
Ron finally got out of the seatbelt, then out of the truck. He leaned in for a last look at Marty. “You can do this, Unca Ron,” Marty said, smiled, and gave him a thumbs-up with those tattooed fingers of his.
After nodding and closing the truck door, Ron made his way up the double-wide steps of the Westside City office building. He walked through the double-glass doors, through the line separators, past the empty front desk, and down the hall to where the city planners met. He opened the doors into a room that looked just like the last time he’d been there, except a black woman sat where Carol Jenkins had been last time.
“Can we help you?” she asked, through another of those paper masks.
Ron tried to stand straight. He smiled in a friendly way as he walked to the blue tape on the floor. “I -” *Hmm-hmm* “I’m Ron Richardson. I’m a contractual mail carrier for the-”
“He’s the temporary mail carrier for The Farmlands Area,” Joe Schlepp interrupted, without looking at anyone.
“Yes, I-” Ron tried again.
“Didn’t we talk to him about poor job service a couple’a months ago?” Bob Spineless asked.
“Well, I wasn’t there, then,” the new woman sounded cross.
Ron tilted his head so the flourescent lights didn’t glare so much and read Miranda Owen on her nameplate. “Yes, Carol Jenkins was-”
“Do you have an appointment?” Joe asked, looking near Ron’s head.
“I’m sorry,” Bob began, “But you can’t get in without an appointment, so-”
“WELL I’M NOT SORRY,” Ron yelled. He paused, his whole body shaking with silent, strong coughing.
Miranda, Bob, and Joe sat in their paper masks and blue plastic gloves, finally silent.
Ron stood straighter than he had in weeks. He walked forward off that stupid tape. “I’ve been delivering the mail for ten years without complaining. I’ve used my truck and carried boxes and done my job.”
Joe leaned back as Ron approached his desk, hugging a bottle of hand sanitizer.
“I’m not temporary.” Ron turned to the next one.
Bob nearly clambered out of his chair as Ron walked up to him.
“I’m not responsible for the post office’s bad sorting, but I try anyway,” Ron told Bob.
Miranda was the most composed as he moved to stand in front of her.
“I’ve done a good decade’s worth of work. I’ve never had a sick day till -” he stopped and swallowed. “…Till my wife got sick and I had to take care of her -but I still had my nephew fill in so I didn’t have to bother anybody!”
They still sat without talking. Waiting.
“Now that my wife’s -now that I’m back to delivering everyone’s toilet paper while they’re too scared to open their blinds, I’m here to ask…” Ron thought of Marty. “No, I’m here to tell you: you can either get me the same benefits as the other mailmen -with the health coverage goin’ back to the start of the term- or you can try to find someone else to do this job.”
©2020 Chelsea Owens