Monday, December 12, 2005

The Post Office


DATELINE: Somewhere near the Grand Canyon / Arizona 1994 Summer/Fall

"What do you mean you mailed it? To where? I live in a fucking van. What did you use for a zip code, my license plate?"

"No. You said that you were on your way to The Grand Canyon, so we sent it there."

"Oh. I wasn't aware there was a post office at the bottom of the Grand Canyon."

"Look, Western Union wanted like sixty bucks to send that much money. We weren't going to spend that, so we found the town closest to where you said you were going, and sent it. It's addressed to you, general delivery."

"You're an idiot. What town did you send it too?"

"Tusayan, Arizona."

"I'm not sure where the hell that is, but I know it's not where I am. I'm deducting my gas to Tusayan and back from what you sent. You're fucking stupid. You say you trust me and ask me to send you some shit. Then in an effort to save a few fucking dollars you send me forty miles out of my way to go get It."

"Fuck you man. Take it or leave It."

"What? Screw you Eric. What if I decide to just leave it? You'll be out a hundred bucks for sure. I'll let it sit in that fucking post office for twenty years. I'm sure you were too paranoid to put a return address on it. At this point, Dickhead, you'll be lucky if I send you a post card."

Silence.

I hung up.

*********************************************************

"So what's up man?"

I was cursing to myself as I got back into the van. "They're fucking idiots. Instead of wiring it, they sent it through the mail."

"To where? We live in a god damn van!"

"Tusayan. Where ever the fuck that is." I hated complications. This was enough of a complication for me to forsake friendship for economics and not feel much guilt about it. It was possible this side trip was going to cost us more money than we stood to make, and more time than it was worth.

"Hey it's not far from here according to the map. Lets go get it. We'll be there in an hour and it's not that far out of our way." Todd cut in.

"Fine, but its spending money now. They're idiots and I'm not sending them anything." I told him.

As we pulled onto the road, I was handed a few hits of acid. It felt dry and comforting on my tongue. As it soaked up the saliva on my tongue, I watched the desert fly past my window. It had been a few days since I had eaten any LSD, and my head was clean. This would hit me strong and quick. It would definately make the ride to the post office a little more interesting. By the time we got there it would really be kicking in and by the time I had the money in my hand, it would be time for a beer, or twelve.

*********************************************************

As we pulled into the parking lot across the street from the post office I was putting my boots on; no socks, laces loose. I wouldn't need to be in them long. In and out, then off to the beer store. I was feeling the acid working in my skull for sure now. As I climbed from the back of the van, I was momentarily hypnotized by the flashes of sun reflected from the windows of passing cars. Each time a car raced passed, a miniature sun bounced off its window and slammed into my eyes with enough force to render me momentarily blind. A swirling, liquid light show danced across the back side of my eyelids each time I blinked at the flashing glare. It was incredibly bright out, and I can feel the sun heating my skin. Instantly there is a glisten of sweat on my body that was vented away by the breeze, almost as quickly as it formed.

I took a minute to gather my thoughts. This was the type of situation that would make most people on acid shrink away. Social contact with those not under the influence of the drug can be a mood shattering adventure. Fear and paranoia can quickly destroy any good feelings and render the rest of the trip unpleasant and tense. This is where I usually shined. I always thrived on the knowledge that I alone was on drugs, and those around me are simply actors in my play. Fear and paranoia are the demons of the weak, and would not influence me. Always in the back of my skull I could hear a soothing voice telling me "Be calm. All that you are experiencing is the effect of the drug you took. It will pass and you will be OK. Be calm. All that you..." An endless loop of sanity; there to keep my subconscious grounded and in control.

I crossed the street and entered the building. The air conditioning washed over me in a cold wave. Blinking as my eyes adjusted to the change from blinding sunlight to flickering fluorescent lighting, I scaned the room. It was pretty deserted. The one clerk at the desk was selling some stamps to an old lady with a cane and I could here the sounds of boxes being sorted and classic rock music leaking from behind a wall of mailboxes. Other than that, the place was dead.

I reminded myself that I am master of all I survey and they are all mindless sheep as I step into line behind the old lady. The clerk eyed me for a second. He knew I was not local instantly. I was wearing a pair of camouflaged cargo pants, cut off below the knees with a worn out black T-shirt. My boots were open and flopping off my heals as I walked. I'm sure the air in the room was filled with the scent of body odor and patchouli oil as soon as I opened the door to enter. When the old lady steped to the side to leave she looked at me with a startled, nervous glance. Holding her purse and stamps close to her body as she passed. I fought the urge to lunge toward her, just to see her try to run away.

"Can I help you?" he asked. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he knew that I was his superior.

"Yes you can. I should have some mail waiting here for me. It was sent 'General Delivery' a few days ago." I handed him my ID. He looked at the ID and stepped behind the wall to look for it. I could hear Steve Miller shaking peach trees in the back room.

"Yup, just came in this morning." he told me as he returned from the back. "We don't get much mail sent 'General Delivery' here. Are you camping near here or something?"

"Yeah. Something like that." retrieving my letter and ID, I headed for the door. Near the door I paused to throw the envelope away once it was empty. There was no cash in it. When I reached in expecting to pull out bills, all I found was a postal money order. "What the fuck is this?"

"Excuse me?" A guy wearing a badge had just entered the building and overheard my conversation with myself.

"Nothing. Just talking to myself."

"Well, watch your mouth boy. No one wants to hear you talking like that. If you want to use that kind of tongue, go back to where you're welcome. Do you understand me?" He was looking me directly in my eyes. He could instantly tell I was on something by the size of my dilated pupils and red eyes. He stared into my eyes for a long moment. Scanning my face. Perhaps he was flipping through a stack of wanted posters in his mind, quickly comparing my features with those of wanted murderers and child molesters. "Son, are you on drugs?"

"Well, if I was on drugs, it would be none of your business. Taking drugs is not against the law. Possessing drugs is against the law. I assure you, I don't possess any drugs." Who the hell did this pig think he was? Did he not know who was the master and who was the servant here? "Excuse me officer. I have things to do."

"Watch yourself." he warned as he approached his mailbox. "I'm sure you're just passing through, so I'll leave you alone. Don't give me a reason to look at you closer."

"Not a problem. I'll be moving on in just a few minutes." This said over my shoulder as I made my way back to the counter.

"Can I cash this here?" sliding the paper over the worn surface of the service desk. It had a vertical line down the middle, dividing the sheet in two equal halves. One side of the line was for the person who bought the money order to fill out. The other was for the person receiving it to fill out. Both were blank.

"Sure you can. Just fill it out with your name." He handed me a pen on a long chain that was screwed to the counter top. The chain made an omenous rattlesnake noise as it slid over the aluminum edge of the counter.

I heard the bell above the door ring as the cop exited. I turned to watch him go and saw a few people pass him on their way in. "Stupid pig" I thought as I eyed the new arrivals. More locals dressed like cowboys. I wondered if they really owned any cattle, or if they just thought suede fringe and tassles were cool.

Gripping the pen loosely in my fingers, I dutifully filled each line on the right side of the paper with a flourish and ease that would have made Shakespeare envious. "Ignorant sheep people" I told myself. When I was done I flipped the paper into my fingers deftly and held it out for the clerk.

"You have to fill out both sides." he stated. "Like you are sending it to yourself."

My mind stuttered. The confidence I had enjoyed just nanoseconds ago flowed out my toes onto the cool tile floor like a drained bladder. Frosty cold tingling crept in from my feet. "Huh? What? Why?"

"So we know who bought it."

"What? I didn't buy it. It came out of that letter I just picked up. You saw me open it. I didn't send it." What was happening? Did he know something? Did he know why the money was sent? Was he working with that cop? He must be. He's just trying to get information from me. Who is this guy? He looked a little different now. Was he the guy that had handed me the letter two minutes ago, or had he been switched? Sweat oozed from my palms. The bell rang again and I spun toward the sound like it was a gunshot. More people filed in the door. Where the fuck had all these people come from? There were now 15 people in line behind me, all staring at me coldly.

"Sir?" I spun again to look at him. Sweat now flowing freely. My forehead was cold. My face was on fire. "Sir, there are people waiting." I turned and saw puzzled stares again. Angry eyes cut my flesh like lasers. Would they attack me? It was no longer safe here. I had to get out of here, but I had to keep him from knowing more than he already did. He would tell them everything. Paranoia gripped me so hard I could barely breathe. I heard my knuckles crack from the pressure I was applying to the shaft of the pen.

I turned my attention back the money order. I was required to fill in the blanks, but I knew in my soul that doing it would spell my doom. I was shaking now. The chain ticked against the countertop with the steady, racing rythm of my heart. I clutched the pen so hard my knuckles turned white from the pressure squeezing the blood from them. I had no escape. Without this money we would be trapped here. It would get dark tonight and they would come for us. By morning our bones would already be picked clean by dirty, hungry fingers.

"Sir?"

"OK, OK. Sorry. So just my name and stuff here, on this side?"

"Yes sir. Just like the other side." A look somewhere between sympathy and burning hate was on his face.

Panic was setting in. My hand trembled at it's own rhythm. It scratched at the paper with slow determination. The words were unreadable to even me. I stopped. I had to calm myself. I could feel the beings behind me, what ever they were, sniffing at my neck. They could smell my fear and it made them eager to feed. They would suck the flesh from my spine in another minute. Sweat dripped from my nose as I stood staring at the paper.

"Are you OK? Do you need help, sir? I can smell your liver and I'm going to eat it raw."

"What?" I almost screamed at him.

"Are you OK, sir? You look ill."

"I'm fine. It's just...hot in here. That's all." I slowly finished filling the lines.

When I was done, the left side was totally incomprehensible while the right side was penned perfectly. I handed it to the clerk, pulling my hand back as quickly as possible once he had a suitable grip on it. He looked down at it quietly, then into my eyes. He knew everything about me now. I had tried to elude his gaze by looking at the door. It was blindingly bright outside. I could see silhouettes moving around the room and imagined what grotesque faces they had. I was going to die here. I knew that.

"Here is your money, sir." I turned to the clerk. He was watching me closely. As he handed me the money, his fingers brushed the palm of my hand. They were as cold as ice. He was as pulseless as everyone else in the room.

I made my way toward the exit. I could here whispers behind me. Were they making their move? I wasn't going to give them the chance. I knew if I could just make it into the sunlight they would be powerless to stop me. I started to run ten feet from the door. As I stumbled onto the wide sidewalk outside, I felt a hand try to pull me back. It was too late though. I had escaped. I crossed the street carefully. I did not want attention. Once I had made it to the parking lot the panic took over again. I began to sprint toward the van. Once I was close enough to be heard I began screaming.

"Open the door! Open the fucking door!"

The van's engine roared to life and the side door swung open. I was still screaming as I jumped into the van. "GO! GO! GO!"

Not knowing what had happened, everyone was scared. Had I just robbed the post office? Why was I in there so long? There was no way I could tell them what had happened. I didn't have the heart to tell them that they would be dead by morning if we didn't leave immediately.

"Just drive. I'm OK. Don't give them a reason to slow us down."

12 comments:

Lisa's World said...

Another good one! I can totally picture the guy! Keep 'em coming!

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I think this one might be one of my favorites.

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Lisa said...

Waiting patiently! :)

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