“3 weeks.”


“What does that have to do with it?”


I believe the poor fellow actually wanted to kill me. He and Jonstone must have slept together.

“All right,” I said, “Jonstone is a fine man. Forget the whole fucking thing.” Then I walked out and took the next day off. Without pay, of course.


When Jonstone saw me the next 5 a.m. he spun in his swivel and his face and his shirt were the same color. But he said nothing. I didn’t care. I had been up to 2 a.m. drinking and screwing with Betty. I leaned back and closed my eyes.

At 7 a.m. Jonstone swiveled again. All the other subs had been assigned jobs or been sent to other stations that needed help.

“That’s all, Chinaski. Nothing for you today.” He watched my face. Hell, I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was go to bed and get some sleep.

“O.K., Stone,” I said. Among the carriers he was known as “The Stone,” but I was the only one who addressed him that way. I walked out, the old car started and soon I was back in bed with Betty.

“Oh, Hank! How nice!”

“Damn right, baby!” I pushed up against her warm tail and was asleep in 45 seconds.


But the next morning it was the same thing:

“That’s all, Chinaski. Nothing for you today.”

It went on for a week. I sat there each morning from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and didn’t get paid. My name was even taken off the night collection run. Then Bobby Hansen, one of the older subs—in length of service—told me, “He did that to me once. He tried to starve me.”

“I don’t care. I’m not kissing his ass. I’ll quit or starve, anything.”

“You don’t have to. Report to Prell Station each night. Tell the soup you aren’t getting any work and you can sit in as a special delivery sub.”

“I can do that? No rules against it?”

“I got a paycheck every two weeks.”

“Thanks, Bobby.”


I forget the beginning time. 6 or 7 p.m. Something like that.

All you did was sit with a handful of letters, take a streetmap and figure your run. It was easy. All the drivers took much more time than was needed to figure their runs and I played right along with them. I left when everybody left and came back when everybody came back.

Then you made another run. There was time to sit around in coffeeshops, read newspapers, feel decent. You even had time for lunch. Whenever I wanted a day off, I took one. On one of the routes there was this big young gal who got a special every night. She was a manufacturer of sexy dresses and nightgowns and wore them. You’d run up her steep stairway about 11 p.m., ring the bell and give her the special. She’d let out a bit of a gasp, like, “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOhhhhhhhhhHHHH!”, and she’d stand close, very, and she wouldn’t let you leave while she read it, and then she’d say, “OOOOOoopoh, goodnight, thank YOU!”

“Yes, mam,” you’d say, trotting off with a dick like a bull’s. But it was not to last. It came in the mail after about a week and a half of freedom.

“Dear Mr. Chinaski:

You are to report to Oakford Station immediately.

Refusal to do so will result in possible disciplinary action or dismissal.


E. Jonstone, Supt., Oakford Station.”

I was back on the cross again.


“Chinaski! Take route 539!” The toughest in the station. Apartment houses with boxes that had scrubbed- out names or no names at all, under tiny lightbulbs in dark halls. Old ladies standing in halls, up and down the streets, asking the same question as if they were one person with one voice: “Mailman, you got any mail for me?” And you felt like screaming, “Lady, how the hell do I know who you are or I am or anybody is?” The sweat dripping, the hangover, the impossibility of the schedule, and Jonstone back there in his red shirt, knowing it, enjoying it, pretending he was doing it to keep costs down. But everybody knew why he was doing it. Oh, what a fine man he was! The people. The people. And the dogs. Let me tell you about the dogs. It was one of those 100 degree days and I was running along, sweating, sick, delirious, hung-over. I stopped at a small apartment house with the box downstairs along the front pavement. I popped it open with my key. There wasn’t a sound. Then I felt something jamming its way into my crotch. It moved way up there. I looked around and there was a German Shepherd, full-grown, with his nose halfway up my ass. With one snap of his jaws he could rip off my balls. I decided that those people were not going to get their mail that day, and maybe never get any mail again. Man, I mean he worked that nose in there. SNUFF! SNUFF! SNUFF!

I put the mail back into the leather pouch, and then very slowly, very, I took a half step forward. The nose followed. I took another half step with the other foot. The nose followed. Then I took a slow, very slow full step. Then another. Then stood still. The nose was out. And he just stood there looking at me. Maybe he’d never smelled anything like it and didn’t quite know what to do.

I walked quietly away.


There was another German Shepherd. It was hot summer and he came BOUNDING out of a back yard and then LEAPED through the air. His teeth snapped, just missing my jugular vein.


The beast turned and leaped again. I socked his head good in mid-air with the mail sack, letters and magazines flying out. He was ready to leap again when two guys, the owners, came out and grabbed him. Then, as he watched and growled, I reached down and picked up the letters and magazines that I would have to re-route on the front porch of the next house.

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