Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Mailman

The Mailman
By Michael Cannata

           The mailman neared the end of his long daily route feeling completely drained. He sat at a table in his favorite cafĂ©, sipping a late cup of coffee, hoping for a boost that would get him back to the post office and then home where he could finally relax.

            For over 40 years he'd worked the same route, the same neighborhood, delivering the daily mail to the same people. He used to know virtually all of them by name. They weren't just names on a mailbox, they were friends that welcomed him and greeted him by his first name.

            During Christmas week he would often end his day carrying more packages than he delivered; Gifts from his regular customers. A lifelong bachelor, he considered the people on his route his family. He'd had more than his share of daily trysts with lonely housewives over the years. Even the dogs seemed to like him. He'd loved his job when he started and looked forward to going to work.

            But the world of 40 years ago was long gone. The homes along his route had slowly slipped into disrepair and strangers began to replace the familiar faces. The close knit feeling he felt as he walked the streets had disappeared to the point where the term "neighborhood" was a misnomer. People today shared the homes on the streets, but they were far from neighbors.  Now he was impressed if he found two tenants in the same four unit building that knew each other.

            His doctors had been telling him to retire for years and now the postal service was forcing the issue. His health was affecting his ability to complete his work in his usual timely manner.  Most of the people he knew the best, the ones that always had a smile and the time for a chat or to share a glass of lemonade on a hot summer morning, had passed away or moved to safer places.

            Still, spread among the surly and poor people that took over once friendly and prosperous area, there were a lot of old friends along his route that he cared for. They had grown old together as he watched their children grow and move on to lives far away from their parents. Now, alone in their empty nests, they stayed inside and rarely opened the door when he came past. He hated to see them barricaded in their apartments living in fear of a world that had turned against them.

            He spent his lifetime delivering their mail. Now he would deliver their souls. He couldn't leave them behind to waste away slowly. He came up with a plan to take them to a place where they could all be together and happy again.

            Today he would deliver the letters laced with the poison, Ricin, to all his favorite tenants. They would be the last letters they ever receive and tomorrow would be his last day on the job. If he was lucky, it would be his last day on earth as well. It was the first time in a decade that he could recall being excited about tomorrow.

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