Stuck

Photo by Pam Wells ©2010

Audrey pulled into the drive-thru lane at the post office. In front of her, an old car was stopped in front of the bank of mailboxes. Noxious fumes pumped out of the tailpipe.

She glanced in her rearview mirror as another car pulled up. She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel.

HONK.

Audrey wasn’t a honker, but the guy behind her was.

“Come on, come on,” Audrey said. “Pick a box, any box.” She looked over her shoulder; cars were now backed up to the streeet.

A hand clutching a stack of mail reached toward the slot, but the car was too far from the box. A piece of mail dropped to the pavement. Audrey jumped out, ran to pick it up and forced a smile. The driver, a middle-aged woman with dyed black hair, was sticking Love stamps on a pile of greeting card envelopes.

“Do you need some help?” Audrey asked.

The woman snatched the card. “What’re you doing with my mail?”

“I just—you’re blocking the whole driveway.”

“Well, ain’t I special.”

HONK.

As Audrey stomped back to her car, huffing a string of cuss words under her breath, the woman managed to jam the mail into the box. She screeched off in a cloud of smoke.

Audrey pulled forward to the same box. She quickly pointed her letter toward the slot… and saw a Love-stamped envelope stuck inside. A corner of it had wedged under a seam in the metal. Ha. This letter does not want to be mailed… or does it? Is it illegal to put your hand in the slot? Your hand could get stuck… arrested with your hand stuck in a mailbox…

HONK.

She mailed own her letter—making sure it dropped—and sped away.

• • • • •

Audrey walked into her kitchen. Serenity.

“Hello, house,” she said.

She turned on the kettle, then stretched out on the cold, hard floor. The knot in her back began to relax. What a nutcase, she thought. I wasn’t honking. What’s her problem?

The kettle whistled. Audrey sat up, rolled her head in circles—miserable woman—and made a small pot of Earl Grey tea. While it brewed, she ran outside—Love stamps?—to her own postbox. Junk, junk… good, a pizza coupon…bill, postcard. Postcard? She was staring at the Eiffel Tower when Carl drove past her down the driveway.

• • • • •

Audrey put the nine of hearts stack on the ten of hearts and flipped three more cards. She calculated moves as she sipped her tea. “Got a postcard from Jeannie,” she said. “Can’t get out of Paris.”

“What a shame,” Carl said, and pried the bottlecap off his beer.

Eyjafjallajökull.”

“Gesundheit.”

Audrey’s solitaire game wasn’t going well, but she could see a few more moves. “Carl?”

“Hmmm?”

“If you met someone you instantly despised, would you do something to help him—or her—anyway?”

“Depends.”

“On what?”

“What’s in it for me.”

Audrey laughed. “Zippo. It could even put you at risk.”

“Oh, well then. Sign me up.”

Audrey flipped through the stockpile again. Only half the cards on the table were laid in the correct descending order by suit.

“What if not doing it would actually benefit the person you can’t stand? Or, or, what if doing it doesn’t necessarily help that person but could help somebody else down the line?”

“Gesundheit, dear.”

Audrey was out of moves. She squared the deck and stood up. “I’ll be right back,” she said. “There’s something I need to mail.”

©2010 Pam Wells

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