The Postal Service

ImageJeffrey took an interest in the mailman when he was seven years old.  It was summertime and so he was free to sit by the bay window at one o’clock each day to wait for the truck, refusing to return to his toys until the mailman had visited our mailbox.  He waited for three hours one Sunday before Dad told him the mailman wouldn’t be coming.

Jeffrey claimed his fascination for the mailman stemmed from a social studies lesson about the United States Postal Service.  He was carefully observing the mailman each day because he was considering a career in the mail business.  We told him he’d have to wait a couple years before he could career-shadow a mailman.

I happened to come home at a quarter to one on a Tuesday and saw Jeffrey marching to the mailbox with what looked like a letter in hand.  We made eye contact as I pulled my bike into the driveway.  He spun on his heels and walked back inside.

I found him pouring over an episode of SpongeBob like nothing had happened.  Asked him about the letter.  He didn’t hear me the first time, so I asked again.  He said he didn’t know what I was talking about.  And, could I please be quiet so that he could pay attention to SpongeBob?  He didn’t observe the mailman from the bay window that day.

I found him at his post the next day.  Sitting on the loveseat.  Staring expectantly, through the bay window, at the mailbox.

The mail truck crept into view.  A mailman with a bushy grey mustache sifted through envelopes, grabbed a few, and opened the door to the mailbox.  He furrowed his brow when he looked inside.  He pulled out a sheet of paper and read it.  Then he looked at our house and considered it for a moment.  His face was forlorn.

Jeffrey chuckled and left the room.

The next day, I announced that I would be running some errands.  I could feel Jeffrey’s eyes boring into my back as I marched out the front door.  It was a quarter to one and I had nowhere to go.  So I rode my bike around the block.

When I came back, Jeffrey was visible through the bay window.  He jumped to his feet as I approached the mailbox.  I found a folded sheet of unlined paper inside.  In the erratic penmanship of a second grader, Jeffrey had written:

dear maleman,

i hate you and nobody ever loved you

yours truly, jeffrey

Jeffrey had fled his perch by the window and before I could walk the driveway the mail truck pulled up beside me.  The mailman opened his mouth to say something but shut it again when he saw Jeffrey’s letter in my hand.

He said, got more hate mail for me?  Well I got mail for you, too.  Then, he shoved our mail in my face and drove away.

Jeffrey stopped writing him.

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Christopher McPhail

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Christopher McPhail rode his bike to Brevard Community College on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Always spotted him on my drive to work.  Puffing and pumping and sweating on his Huffy.  Taking up too much room on the shoulder.  Everybody knew him by sight because no post-adolescents rode bikes in Melbourne, Florida.

Christopher was roughly six foot six inches tall and weighed about a hundred pounds.  Sported auburn hair cut like a bowl.  Had a row of oddly spaced chickpeas for teeth.  He must’ve been twenty-one or twenty-two.  Give or take five years.

I know his name because he was always doing his homework at the Java Shack.  He’d walk in on stilts, clutching his bike helmet, and stare at the menu for a long time.  Dripping sweat all over the counter.  He’d order a panini, pick a spot by the window, and play on his laptop for a few hours.

One time, a cashier named Carmen interrupted my smoke break to tell me that a customer wanted to speak to me.  He had a complaint.  I told her to tell him to wait it out another five minutes so that I could finish my cigarette.  She complied.

A minute later, a cashier named Rebecca interrupted my smoke break to tell me that a customer wanted to speak to me.  He had a complaint.  I explained that Carmen had just told me about his complaint and that I would be inside to deal with it as soon as I was done with my cigarette.

Rebecca said that this was a different customer.  I told her to just go on inside and I’d be right behind her.  Once I was finished with my smoke.

Just as I was about done, a cashier named Alina interrupted my smoke break to tell me that there was a herd of customers who wanted to speak to me.  I put out my cigarette and went inside.

There were thirteen retirees pacing in front of the bakery.  An old man in golf gear ushered me close.  He said, I don’t wanna jump to any conclusions.  But I do believe that young man over there is, uh, is…

I asked the old man to explain what the young man was doing.  He winced and pointed to the dining room.

All was quiet, save the sound of jazz on the muzak.  Six old ladies had pulled together a couple of tables to play bridge.  Their Tuesday afternoon ritual.

But they weren’t jovial.  They were frozen.  Eyes bulging, clutching their cards, staring at Christopher McPhail.

Christopher McPhail was in his usual spot, staring at his computer with the whites of his eyes.  His bike shorts were hiked and his wiener was exposed and he was voraciously masturbating.  Like a novice camper trying to start a fire with a wet twig.

They’d never said anything in shift supervisor training about how to handle sexual deviants.  So I marched over to him.  Tried to look intimidating.  Bit the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing and crying and puking.

Christopher noticed me approaching and slammed his laptop shut.  He sunk into his chair.  I pointed a finger in his face and told him not to ever ever come back ever.  If I caught him in the Java Shack or anywhere in the shopping center I would have him arrested.

He agreed to never come back.  Put away his wiener and his laptop and left.  I made Kevin, the busboy, bleach the table and chair.

I never saw Christopher McPhail riding his bike on Wickham Road again.