Going Postal, XIV

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,” “Going Postal, IX,” “Going Postal, X,” “Going Postal, XI,” “Going Postal, XII,” and “Going Postal, XIII.”

Ron was just your average sort of guy: tallish, wideish, oldish, kindish. He drove his reliable old pickup with the reliable old hardtop around the neighborhood every day; often, he drove around several times a day.

Some of the residents talked to Ron. Most did not. Most didn’t notice him or his truck, despite its nearly always being full to bursting with their latest Amazon packages and Domino’s pizza coupons.

Mrs. Hempsworth remembered the last time she’d spoken to the mailman, although she couldn’t recall his name. She thought about their odd, stinted conversation as she peered at her community mailbox from behind her lace bedroom curtains.

Not only had she not seen the white-haired, blue-eyed mailman much lately; she’d not seen her packages for two weeks. When she phoned the post office, no one picked up. Didn’t they know she couldn’t drive? Didn’t they know she didn’t own a car? Didn’t they know that a lady like her couldn’t trust a driver these days?

Mrs. Hempsworth shuddered.

In her seventy-two years of life, she’d never imagined life the way it currently was. Even her father’s tales of The Great Depression or the racial tensions of the 60’s and 70’s didn’t seem as bad as now. “Oh, how I miss it!” she sighed, thinking over her childhood, happy marriage to Lloyd, and lonely retirement.

She’d had Bunco. She’d had an eventual prospect of Happy Meadows Retirement Home. She’s had Days of Our Lives, for Pete’s sake. Now, she had a television full of bad news. She had neighbors who’d left or barricaded their doors. She had nowhere to go because nowhere was safe.

A noise from downstairs startled her from her reflections. She didn’t move; the old, heavy bureau was already in front of her bedroom door and all her necessities were in the room with her.

She sighed. “May as well get it over with.”

The sounds from below increased: furniture moving, drawers opening. She closed her eyes and imagined her phoning the police; imagined a time, now gone, when the police both existed and responded to home robberies.

Expecting masked mobs or bobbing flashlights, Mrs. Hempsworth opened her eyes and looked down at the street outside her front walk. The street, however, appeared mostly empty. The only thing she could see was a white, covered pickup truck, parked at an odd angle to the curb.

THE END

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Going Postal, XII

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,” “Going Postal, X,” and “Going Postal, XI.

Art perched in his favorite, familiar location doing his favorite, familiar thing: scouting for the mailman. Ron had been unpredictable over the last few weeks; if the government wouldn’t use it to spy on him, Art had considered installing a camera. Maybe he could ensure the feed stayed on a closed circuit. His brother, Larry, knew a guy who knew about that sort of thing.

An approaching white pickup truck grabbed his attention. Art raised his binoculars; yes, it was Ron. It was also Ron’s usual time and his usual parking spot. Art frowned as he saw Ron exit the vehicle and scan the area -that was not usual.

A rustling came from behind the porch, followed by a thud. Art had enough time to drop the binoculars and turn before a strong, dark arm pulled at his neck and a sharp, bright blade glinted across his view. The arm tightened. The blade brushed against his cheek, then poked into his neck.

“Arthur Jackson Williams,” a tough voice said.

Art tried shifting but the knife turned painfully. This guy knew what he was doing. “Who are you?” Art whispered.

The guy gave a short laugh. “Yeah, right. Let’s just say I owe your man, Larry, a thank-you.”

“Larry? Uh -we don’t talk much… I barely see him-” More pain came from Art’s neck, cutting off what he thought to say in a deep intake of breath.

“Don’ waste my time lyin,’ man. Larry talked about you all dah time. He talked about you’ deals, about you’ connections, about you’ weapons -” Right next to Art’s ear, the man added, “Even about you’ precious Rachel.”

Art’s mouth felt dry. He didn’t know how this guy knew about Rachel. He didn’t even know who this guy was.

“I think you know enough to share some of that stuff you’ve been hoarding. If not…” Another twist. “If not, I think you know where your body’s gonna end up.”

Art swallowed.

“So, you’re gonna tell me dah combination to that room downstairs, nice and slow. Then, you’re gonna put on some fancy bracelets I’ve got for ya. Then, you’re gonna keep your trap shut with this tape till I get what I want.” The guy spoke so close to Art’s ear that Art felt his hot breath. “Otherwise, I kill you and bust into dah room anyway.”

Art’s instincts failed him. “You won’t hurt Rachel?”

“Only you, princess.”

He gulped, then slowly whispered, “Oh three. Fifteen. Sixty-seven.” It was the birthday of one of America’s greatest leaders. Art recalled that fact with happy pride just before the world went dark.

…..

The world still looked dark when Art awoke. His head hurt so badly he rolled to the porch’s edge and vomited into the hedge. Through spotty vision and throbbing headache he scanned the area but saw no one. “Eurgh.” Unsheathing his favorite knife, he stumbled to the front door and opened it. He stumbled into the house. He stumbled down the stairs. He stumbled to the end of the hall and stopped at the open, swinging door to the armory.

No sound came from the dark, open door. He moved forward, still blinking against intense pain. Stopped. Sighed. Yes, many of his guns and a few ammunition cases were gone; but, there -still in her place of honor- hung Rachel.

Art groped forward to the Springfield Model 1816 Musket and stroked her barrel. “Rachel,” he whispered affectionately.

Continue to “Going Postal, XIII.”

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Going Postal, X

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.”

“You know,” Stan tried to say through his mask, “This job stinks.”

Nobody in the sorting room answered, but he was certain they all felt hot and tired like he did. They must all hate waking up and going to work in the dark, even if they were sick. For sure, they hated wearing masks and gloves and having to sit through stupid lectures.

This morning, the lecture had been which last name came before a different last name.

“We all went to school, ya know!” he’d told Dave, right after.

Some of us did!” Ian had answered, loudly. Ian always spoke loudly.

If they didn’t have to wear the personal protection equipment, Ian wouldn’t have heard Stan’s comment. If jerks like Ian also didn’t tattle like a little girl, Stan wouldn’t have to wear the itchy things all the time.

A roar of engine and screech of brakes sounded, scaring him out of his thoughts. He and the four other guys in the room turned to see a familiar white pickup truck pull up outside. The truck pulled up faster than usual; Ron the wannabe mailman also parked in three spots and almost smashed the cement posts. They didn’t usually pay much attention to the old man -who would?- but Stan, Ian, Dave, and the two temps stared as the truck door popped open and someone else got out.

The new person walked like he could hear music, with his head moving, his feet sliding, and his body going from one side to the other. Stan felt nervous and scratched at his mask. He squinted to see this new guy better.

“Who’re you?” Ian practically shouted.

The music-guy came up to the table across from Ian. He put tattooed hands on top of Ian’s neat piles and leaned in. “Hey, Pal.” Stan thought he saw a glint of metal in the smile. “I’m Marty. My uncle -Ron- said I come here to pick up dah mail.” Marty looked at the letters in front of Ian, looked at the mailers in front of Stan and Dave, and looked at the piles of boxes in front of the walls.

All the guys looked at Marty. Marty reached into a pocket and Stan expected a knife or a gun. Instead, Marty pulled out an I.D. badge on a blue rope. “Got ‘is badge an’ truck. Unc- Ron‘s at dah hospital an’ I gotta do his route till he’s back.”

Dave walked closer. “Marty, huh?”

Marty slid into a standing position. He put his hands on his hips and glared. “Yeah?”

Dave stopped, then turned and walked over to the loading area. “You get your assigned mail over here. Ron’s route’s all put in this area.”

Marty music-walked to Dave. He stood close and Stan thought he saw Dave lean away. Dave’s gloved hands definitely moved, like he played an air guitar at his hips.

“So -” the Marty guy said, and leaned toward Dave, “Get ’em in dah truck.” He spun and walked his walk back to the pickup, punching a full box of coupons on the way. Even though the cardboard was double-walled, Marty’s fist made a hole and a route’s worth dumped out onto the floor.

“Right,” Dave said.

“Okay,” Stan said.

“Yessir,” Ian said.

The three ran over and fought a silent battle over the wheeled bin, glancing at the frowning Marty. Marty watched them from behind the windshield. Once they got the loaded bin to the truck, they saw Marty tapping at the steering wheel. On the last trip to fill the covered bed, Stan saw Marty cleaning his nails with a knife.

And still watching them.

Stan stood by the emptied bin. He felt silly and exposed but definitely didn’t want to turn his back on a guy with a knife.

Marty rolled down the window. “Nex’ time, I’m not gettin’ out,” he said, and spat. “You ladies got it?” Without waiting for an answer, Marty gunned the engine and peeled out of the parking lot.

Continue to “Going Postal, XI.”

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Going Postal, IX

Continued from “Going Postal, I,” “Going Postal, II,” “Going Postal, III,” “Going Postal, IV,” “Going Postal, V,” “Going Postal, VI,” “Going Postal, VII,” and “Going Postal, VIII.”

“I know you’re thinking, Ron. Out with it now.”

He didn’t look at her right off, just rocked back and forth on those big, capable feet in their big, capable shoes. His hands clasped from one hold to another behind his back.

“Ronald Richardson! Don’ you keep your back to me!” She used her I-love-you-but-you’d-better-answer-me tone, sure he could feel her scowl through his flannel shirt.

Rock. Rock. Stop. Ron’s shaggy head of white bent to stare at his toes then turned to cough in his hand. “Dunno, Carol.” He looked back at her and his smile didn’t reach his eyes. “You sure he needs to come here?”

Carol tried to stand up straighter. Standing straight hadn’t been easy since her surgery, but she managed. Still, she sighed. “Yes, Hon’. That’s what he said. That’s what we ‘greed.”

He faced the door again. “Just a few months?”

“Yes.”

“He knows?”

Yes, Ron.”

A nod.

Then, they both heard it: a car engine outside. Wheels stopping. Engine stopping. Doors opened and shut. Feet walked up the sidewalk and Carol pictured her prized daffodils and pansies to either side of the coming feet.

*Knock* *Knock*

Ron paused to cough again; he’d been at it for weeks now. Breathing out, he shuffled to the door and opened it up. There, on her clean front porch, stood a man in a suit and mask and gloves and …a hooligan. The hooligan smiled. “Uncle Ron!”

When he spoke, Carol saw that this was her sister’s daughter’s boy -why her sister hadn’t intervened when her daughter turned up with that biker years ago, Carol had never known, and now look at where it’d led…

For his part, Ron stepped forward with a hand out. “Hiya, Marty.” She heard the friendly smile in Ron’s voice. “Hey, Marty’s …

“State-assigned escort,” the man in the mask said.

*Hm-hmm* “Hello, Marty’s escort. Come on in.”

And, just like that, The Suit and The Hooligan walked into her front room. She tried a smile; tried a friendly way of greeting without shaking. Marty -little Martin who snitched an extra cookie and stuck his tongue out at her; little Martin who’d dug up her flowers and thrown them at the mailman; Martin who became Marty and whose mom had called Carol’s sister in tears so many times it was no wonder they both passed on before Carol- that Marty smiled right back at her and walked forward with his arms wide out.

“Aunt Carol! How are ya?”

She let him hug her and patted at him in return, grateful she wasn’t wearing any valuable jewelry.

Continue to “Going Postal, X.”

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Going Postal, VIII

Continued from “Going Postal, I,” “Going Postal, II,” “Going Postal, III,” “Going Postal, IV,” “Going Postal, V,” “Going Postal, VI” and “Going Postal, VII.”

“Hello?”

“Aunt Carol!” Marty put all the sweet he had in his words. “How’s it been??” Static punched the line. He shoved the cord up into the phone in his hand, admired the printed *Y*O*U*R*F*A*C*E* inked on his knuckles, flexed.

“…Who is this? …Martin?”

Some air leaked before he shut his mouth. He didn’t want to be like that stupid case worker, always breathing out ‘stead of doin’ somethin’ about a guy. “Yeah! It’s me: Marty!”

Static again. He shoved the other end further in the wall.

“Aunt Carol?”

He heard a pause. Maybe he’d given the old bird a heart attack. He hoped not; he didn’t know who else to call.

“Aunt Carol? You ali- you all right?”

“Ye -yes, Marti- Marty. I’m fine.” He thought she gulped. “You just caught me by surprise. I think it’s been …it’s been at least a year, Dear.”

Dear…?

“Sorry, Marty. How are you? How is …prison?”

He stuffed *U*R*C*E* in his mouth to stop a snort. ‘How’s prison?’ There was no way an old broad like Aunt Carol could handle ‘how’s prison.’ But he couldn’t hear her sayin’ anything, so he had to answer… “Uhh… prison’s …good.” He coughed. He looked around for what else to say and saw the clock. “That’s why I’m callin’ today. I only get ten minutes then it’s the next guy’s turn, an’ I already tried Sis -Aunt Rachel and a cousin…” Marty heard shoes down the hall, heavy ones. A boss.

“Oh-okay, Marti- Marty. I’m heading out to work anyway, once the aspirin kicks in. What do you need, Dear?”

Dear again… Shoes were gettin’ closer. And shadows. “I’m -I’m getting out soon, Aunt Carol.”

He heard that pause that wasn’t static.

Officer Wilson and Snakes came around the corner. Marty turned his back on them and leaned on the phone and the wall. “Listen: I need somewheres to go. -Just for a bit. I -I got nowhere else, Aunt Carol.”

“Mennet!” Officer Wilson sounded right behind him.

“Marty…” Aunt Carol didn’t sound happy.

“Listen, I gotta go-”

“Mennet! Time’s up!”

“…I don’t know, Marty…”

“Just think about it! Please!” he sputtered out, right before Wilson yanked the line from his grip and slammed it back on the wall.

Continue to “Going Postal, IX.”

 

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Going Postal, VII

Continued from “Going Postal, I,” “Going Postal, II,” “Going Postal, III,” “Going Postal, IV,” “Going Postal, V,” and “Going Postal, VI.”

“Are you listening, Mr. Mennet?”

Marty jerked his head up to squint at the broad. She didn’t look happy; she never did. Probaby could do with a lift. She frowned again; maybe some mesc and a don juan. Maybe Freddy’d consider…

“Mr. Mennet!”

“Yeah!” She did that thing of letting air out from behind her doctor getup and looking at the lights above. What was ever interesting about the lights, did she think?

“As I said, you’re being released, due to risk of contagions…”

Marty couldn’t stop from grinning. He tried. He didn’t want the eager all over his face or maybe they’d send him back. Back wasn’t bad but out was better. He twisted his mouth like he was sucking a wad to wipe the smile.

Mizz Case Worker droned on; he caught a word or two: “tracker,” “check in,” “job restrictions,” “travel restrictions.” He flipped his head up and down when she stopped reading her paper to check if he listened. Of course he heard. He was getting out ’cause the feds crowded the joint with innocents like him. He would’ve been catching the chain awhile ago if Larry hadn’t snitched last year.

“Mr. Mennet!”

“Marty…”

Mr. Mennet, it is imperative that…” She caught his eyes leaving her face. “Nevermind. Do you have any questions?”

He flexed his fingers and wiggled his toes in their government shoes. Questions? Nah. Maybe. “Where’s my stuff? -No, wait. Where’m I going? Half-way?” She let masked air out. She was a f***in’ coffee machine, wasn’t she?

“As I sai-” Eyes roving again. “No, Mr. Mennet. You’re to be released into the care of family-”

“Fam’ly? Who??” No one’d talked to Marty in months. The last blood who’d answered had been old Aunt Carol, too sick to loan him anything.

“Well… that’s skipping ahead of procedure…” *Sigh* “You find someone to call.”

He squinted, thinking.

“Otherwise…” He swore a smile pulled at her flat, fat face above the mask. “You can’t be released from custody.”

“F-” Her face scrunched; eyebrows scowling. “Um, I mean- damn.”

Air again. She stood, tilted her head, scrunched her papers in those blue-gloved fingers of hers. “I suggest you think about all of your options and have a list ready, or you’ll lose your place in the consideration process.” She left.

Marty listened to the echoes the closed door left behind her exit. He slumped in the plastic chair. She might still be watching through that fake-mirror wall. “Damn,” he repeated.

Continue on to “Going Postal, VIII.”

 

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens