This a photo is of a mailbox up the street from my house. It’s not my mailbox. It is my prompt for today’s writing.
Jessica got out of her mail truck. She walked to the collection of boxes-on-a-post, Jerry’s name for the mailboxes, and inserted her key in the back and opened it. That small amount of activity caused sweat to drip down her lower back and bead on her upper lip. When she retired, she was going to live someplace that was not 89 degrees and 100% humidity at 9am.
Next to the boxes-on-a-post were the lockers-on-a-stick. Jerry had the route adjacent to her’s and his own name for everything. She was Ca. As in JessiCa. Lockers-on-a-stick were for larger parcels. She’d put the parcel in the locker and the locker key in the mailbox. The top box of the lockers-on-a-stick had had its key stolen and the key-elves (her name this time) had left her a new key.
She inserted the key and opened the box, making sure the key worked. There was a parcel inside. She had not put it there. Thank the Lord it wasn’t rotten dog poop! She took the parcel out. It was a rectangular box, about the size of a shoe box, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. There was still someone alive that used string? She looked at the postage. It was self-applied stamps. She hefted the box. More postage than necessary. Red flags. The parcel was addressed to Joe Blow. For real?
She held the package and stood still, unnerved enough to be worried about putting it down and worried enough to be unnerved about holding it. Sweat dripped down her temples. She saw writing on the side and tilted her head to read it.
“Old buddy, if you can read this, I’m dead.”
She carefully set the parcel on top of the lockers-on-a-stick.
“Protocols,” she said. “We have protocols for this.”
She looked at the other side of the parcel, and the writing there said, “Open now!”
She licked her lips. The fear was only a tiny whisper in her ear and “Open now,” was a sexy voice begging for her.
Her phone rang and she jumped. “Jeeesus!” she said and answered it.
“Where are you Ca?”
“Sure as shit. Why?”
“I have a parcel.”
“Most USPS dudes do.”
“It’s got too much postage.”
“Stay cool, Ca. I’m calling then I’ll be there.”
She hung up. The box wasn’t a… no way. The key had gone missing two months ago. People were creative. The pranksters were the most creative and no, dog poop was not creative. Those people were just cretins.
The lockers-on-a-stick were good hiding places. They were USPS property and items in them belong to the USPS. It was against federal law to mess with the property of the USPS. That included parcels. The parcel was officially in her possession. As an agent of the USPS, she could open the parcel in exigent circumstances. Right?
She untied the string. YOLO. Nothing happened. She used her pocket knife to cut through the brown paper and tape. Nothing happened.
“Well, if all y’all had wanted me dead, you’d a blowed me up by now.”
Jessica opened the box. Jerry rolled up as she reached into it.
Jessica pulled out a sheaf of papers and looked into the box. A pile of photos remained.
Jerry was at her side. He plucked a photo out of the box and read the first page of the papers she held.
“Holy crap!” he said.
Jessica shook her head, not understanding what his exclamation was about.
“This changes the world,” Jerry said.
“What?” She heard sirens coming. They weren’t far.
“Run!” Jerry said
“Really?” she said tossing the papers back in the box and closing the flaps.
“Run for you life! Meet me at the coffee place at lunch! Go, go, go!”
Jessica ran, crushing the box to her chest.