Skewed Postal Perception

May 25, 2009
By Kara Zappitelli BRONZE, Saint Charles, Illinois
Kara Zappitelli BRONZE, Saint Charles, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Every day follows the same routine for Alan as he drives his bleach white U.S. Postal truck along the streets of Millview, stopping briefly and frequently to stuff the mailboxes. He has been a mailman for over 20 years and hadn’t the slightest intention of doing anything else with his life. He lives completely alone in a small two bedroom apartment on the east side of town, where he spends the majority of his time watching late night TV and cooking for one. He often realizes how lonely and boring his life appears, but never has the motivation to make a change. Alan does the same things each day, simply going through the motions of life without actually stopping to enjoy the details.

He pulled up to his next mailbox. The Tillman’s. Alan presumed they were a happy, elderly couple based upon the AARP newsletters he placed in the box, alongside the Medicare statements and letters certainly addressed by somebody under the age of ten. Sometimes he would see them stroll down the driveway, hand in hand, to get the mail from the box shortly after Alan had placed it in there. They moved slowly, as if they never had anywhere to rush off to or uncountable things to get done. Their yappy white dog would jog alongside them, and they would wave to Alan as he pulled away. He would wave back and smile politely, for the sincerity of the exchange could not be disproven at such a distance.

Next, he went to the Jones’ and the Smiths’ mailboxes, emptying numerous envelopes and magazines into the metal contraptions. He went through this routine for hundreds of houses the same way he did every single day, except Sundays of course. Alan’s job didn’t take much effort on his part, but that was just the way he liked it. Caught in his own thoughts, he failed to realize that a car was backing out of a driveway as he sped down the street. Alan slammed on the brakes, and the truck shook violently. He let his weight bare down on the horn and held it there for a good ten seconds, letting his horrible temper get the best of him. After the man in the Civic pulled back in the driveway, Alan sped around him fast enough to make a point but slow enough so that the man could see the obscene gesture that Alan threw his way. It didn’t take much to send Alan into a temper tantrum, and he needed some definite anger management lessons.

Alan shook off the incident as he turned down Prairie Street, stopping at a mailbox just around the corner. From where he had stopped, he could see her. Rebecca A. Perry, as most of her mail was addressed. He looked forward to this part of his route every day. She was a very thin lady that didn’t appear a day over 40. Alan often saw her digging in her extravagant garden or washing one of their multiple vehicles with a bright green hose. The way she carried herself drew Alan’s attention like no woman ever had, and like no woman ever would. Her whispy blond hair was almost always piled on top of her head in a messy-but-classy sort of way, revealing the sharp angles of her cheek bones. She had fair skin, but it had been tickled pink from the sunlight due to the afternoons she spent outside.

As Alan pulled up to her mailbox, she turned and waved. Her smile was friendly and sweet, and he couldn’t stop himself from returning the gesture. Despite the fact that he is an essentially cold man, Rebecca can warm him up in a way that makes him forget how miserable he actually is. She lives in a quaint little ranch house with her husband, Dr. John Perry. Alan hasn’t had a single pleasant experience involving John, whether it was a scowl from behind the wheel of his Mercedes as Alan pulled away from the mailbox, or the rude way the man yelled at his wife from inside to get him “this” or “that”. Alan often caught himself pondering why someone seemingly wonderful, like Rebecca, would marry such an egotistical pig. He imagined what it would be like if he were married to her. They would sit on the porch and drink tea, or walk their golden retriever around the block just before the sun set for the evening. None of these things have the slightest appeal to him now, but he feels as though Rebecca would extract a whole new person from his tough outer shell.

Alan looked down at the stack of mail he had prepared to stuff into the Perry’s mailbox. There was a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition postmarked to John. Alan smirked in disbelief at the thought of this man, who was supposed to be a successful doctor. There was also a Good Housekeeping magazine in the stack, and he knew that Rebecca would sit on the porch and look it over while enjoying some fresh lemonade. He flipped through the glossy pages of the magazine and imagined how fresh and inviting the inside of her house must be if she modeled it after these ones. She had also received a letter from one of those World Relief organizations. Alan smiled as he realized that she had a sponsor child in South America.

Alan looked up. He had been unaware of how long he had been parked at her mailbox and felt his face flush when he noticed Rebecca staring at him. Quickly, he gathered up the rest of her mail and gently placed it in the box. He never really cared how he treated the mail, but he treated her mail like he would treat her, given the chance. He saw her move closer to mail truck to pick up a sprinkler in the middle of the lawn. From this distance, he could see the creases of her forehead and a little dirt smudge on her left cheek. He had never seen a woman so beautiful, no matter if she was covered in the elements. Unfortunately from this distance, he also noticed some dark bruises on her arms. With this, he also noticed a sadness in Rebecca’s eyes that could easily be overlooked by anyone else.

Concerned, he rolled down his window and called out to her. “Have a good day Ms. Perry ” he called out, aware of his uncharacteristically cheerful tone. She smiled brightly and returned the greeting, the sadness in her eyes lifting, if not just for a brief moment. Alan was satisfied, having made the woman he was in love with forget her troubles for just a little while. Pulling away though, his mind raced with thoughts of her. Why had she been so down? If I had a woman like that, he thought to himself, I would do everything in my power to make sure that she was never short of content.

That night, Alan could not get his mind off of Rebecca. Everything about her drew him in, and the fact that she may be in some sort of trouble made it even harder for him to restrain himself. Being a man, he no doubt felt the need to fix whatever it was that ailed her. He bet it was the husband, John. That man was trouble. Alan couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was about the man that caused himself to feel so hateful, but there was definitely something there. It sent an alarm off in his head every time he made eye contact with John. He almost felt like Rebecca was trying to reach out for help, that she trusted Alan and maybe even loved him too. He looked up at the blank white ceiling, trying hard to drift off to sleep. It took almost two hours for his mind to stop racing so he could finally close his eyes and rest.

The next day, Alan was in a hurry to get to Rebecca’s. He was convinced that he had been up late worrying for a valid reason and didn’t want to waste an extra minute. As soon as he rounded the corner of Prairie Street, Alan could feel that something was wrong. He did not see Rebecca out in the yard like usual. He kept looking to see if she was just around back, but she was definitely not outside. He saw John’s black Mercedes parked sloppily in the driveway, the door still open. He pulled up to the Perry’s mailbox and rolled down his window. He didn’t stare directly at the house but strained his ears for any sign of Rebecca. After about a minute, he started to hear yelling from inside the house. The yelling quickly elevated into a frenzy of screaming from both a man and a woman. Alan heard what sounded like shattering glass and suddenly began to panic.

Within seconds, he was outside of his truck. He knew it was stupid. He hardly knew the woman, and had only had a handful of exchanges with her for the last five years she’d lived on his route. How was a fight with her husband any part of his business? He knew it wasn’t, but that unsettling feeling he hadn’t been able to rid himself of the day before had returned full swing, and he couldn’t ignore it. After all, he knew her somewhat. He knew all the magazines she read, the people she wrote to, the electric company she used, the catalogues she ordered from, the charities she donated to. If that wasn’t good enough, Alan didn’t know what was.

Feeling an innate sense of urgency, Alan rushed around the back of the house to peer in a window. Through it, he saw the couple screeching at each other at the top of their lungs. Rebecca was bawling. The tears streaming from her eyes had latched onto her mascara, causing black streaks to run all down her face. John was standing close to her, his face not more than two inches from hers. As he yelled, Alan could see his saliva hit Rebecca as she tried to turn away from him. He was squeezing her arms with a white-knuckled grip sure to hurt anyone, not just the fragile woman who struggled to break free.

Alan felt his temper surging, and his heart began to beat rapidly, as it always did when he got worked up. Who did this guy think he was, treating his wife like she was an animal Alan didn’t know or care what they were arguing about, and the reality of it all started to melt away with his rising anger. He began to fixate on John and a foul taste began to form in his mouth. He was disgusted. Rebecca was able to wriggle her right arm free and with retaliation, struck John in the jaw. John staggered backwards, but it didn’t take him long to raise his fist. Alan stared red faced at the scene unfolding before him, but as soon as John’s fist drew back, Alan felt something inside him snap. He burst through the back door and found himself staring at John, a beast like snarl across his face. Both John and Rebecca appeared shocked, but Alan hardly noticed any change. His eyes locked onto John, and he stared into the man’s dark brown eyes.

Memories of how John had treated Rebecca in the minutes before, and images of the bruises on her arms from yesterday began to race through Alan’s mind as he absentmindedly reached for a kitchen chair to his right. In a fit of adrenaline, he thrust the chair up over his head and swiftly brought it down on John. Over and over again, he hit john with the sturdy wooden chair. With each blow, Alan sought revenge for the defenseless Rebecca, his true love. The passion behind his outrage could be seen in his crazed eyes as he beat the woman’s husband over and over again. At first, John would get back up, yelling for help. But after awhile, his body was strewn limp on the kitchen tile. A small pool of blood started to form around his battered head while he twitched, and then finally, he was still.

Alan still stood above John’s body, the chair raised above his head. His respiration had not slowed, and his face was crimson with anger. Trying to catch his breath, Alan looked around for the woman whose honor he had defended with every ounce of strength in his body. If she didn’t before, she had to love him now. He had taken care of the main stress in her life and ensured that she would never endure John’s abuse again. She would be so grateful, he thought to himself. They would get married. Alan would finally have the life that he had always subconsciously wanted.

He turned his head to see Rebecca frozen in place, a cordless phone pressed against her ear. Tears dripped from her eyes, but her skin was whiter than Alan had ever seen it, and it seemed as though she did not breathe. In the still and quiet of death, Alan could hear someone pick up on the other end of the phone. “911, What’s your emergency?” the voice said on the other line. He moved towards her with his hand outstretched. Blood pulsed in his fingertips as they reached out for her in longing, but he stopped cold as she spoke her next words.

“A strange man just broke into my house and beat my husband with a chair,” Rebecca sobbed into the receiver, still trying hard not to move. “I think he might come after me next. Please, please help me.”

The author's comments:
The original idea for this piece stemmed from a discussion I was having with my English teacher. She was trying to help me come up with an idea for a short story, and mentioned that she had always wondered if mailmen developed "relationships" through the mail that people received. I sort of latched on to this idea and took off with it, hopefully creating a piece that is engaging and surprising, but does not fall short of description and characterization. I thought long and hard about adding clarification to the ending, but decided to leave it abrupt so it would be more intense. If you didn't get it the first time, hopefully after you glance over it again, it will make sense.

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