“You sons of bitches are crazy,” I told the two guys, “that dog’s a killer. Get rid of him or keep him off the street!”

I would have fought them both but there was that dog growling and lunging between them. I went over to the next porch and re-routed my mail on hands and knees.

As usual, I didn’t have time for lunch, but I was still forty minutes late getting in.

The Stone looked at his watch. “You’re 40 minutes late.”

“You never arrived,” I told him.

“That’s a write-up.”

“Sure it is, Stone.”

He already had the proper form in the typer and was at it. As I sat casing up the mail and doing the go-backs he walked up and threw the form in front of me. I was tired of reading his write-ups and knew from my trip downtown that any protest was useless. Without looking I threw it into the wastebasket.


Every route had its traps and only the regular carriers knew of them. Each day it was another god damned thing, and you were always ready for a rape, murder, dogs, or insanity of some sort. The regulars wouldn’t tell you their little secrets. That was the only advantage they had—except knowing their case by heart. It was gung ho for a new man, especially one who drank all night, went to bed at 2 a.m., rose at 4:30 a.m. after screwing and singing all night long, and, almost, getting away with it.

One day I was out on the street and the route was going well, though it was a new one, and I thought, Jesus Christ, maybe for the first time in two years I’ll be able to eat lunch.

I had a terrible hangover, but still all went well until I came to this handful of mail addressed to a church. The address had no street number, just the name of the church, and the boulevard it faced. I walked, hungover, up the steps. I couldn’t find a mailbox in there and no people in there. Some candles burning. Little bowls to dip your fingers in. And the empty pulpit looking at me, and all the statues, pale red and blue and yellow, the transoms shut, a stinking hot morning.

Oh Jesus Christ, I thought.

And walked out.

I went around to the side of the church and found a stairway going down. I went in through an open door. Do you know what I saw? A row of toilets. And showers. But it was dark. All the lights were out. How in hell can they expect a man to find a mailbox in the dark? Then I saw the light switch. I threw the thing and the lights in the church went on, inside and out. I walked into the next room and there were priests’ robes spread out on a table. There was a bottle of wine.

For Christ’s sake, I thought, who in hell but me would ever get caught in a scene like this?

I picked up the bottle of wine, had a good drag, left the letters on the robes, and walked back to the showers and toilets. I turned off the lights and took a shit in the dark and smoked a cigarette. I thought about taking a shower but I could see the headlines: MAILMAN CAUGHT DRINKING THE BLOOD OF GOD AND TAKING A SHOWER, NAKED, IN ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.

So, finally, I didn’t have time for lunch and when I got in Jonstone wrote me up for being twenty-three minutes off schedule.

I found out later that mail for the church was delivered to the parish house around the corner. But now, of course, I’ll know where to shit and shower when I’m down and out.


The rainy season began. Most of the money went for drink so my shoes had holes in the soles and my raincoat was torn and old. In any steady downpour I got quite wet, and I mean wet— down to soaked and soggy shorts and stockings. The regular carriers called in sick, they called in sick from stations all over the city, so there was work everyday at Oakford Station, at all the stations. Even the subs were calling in sick. I didn’t call in sick because I was too tired to think properly. This particular morning I was sent to Wently Station. It was one of those 5 day storms where the rain comes down in one continuous wall of water and the whole city gives up, everything gives up, the sewers can’t swallow the water fast enough, the water comes up over the curbings, and in some sections, up on the lawn and into the houses.

I was sent off to Wently Station. “They said they need a good man,” the Stone called after me as I stepped out into a sheet of water.

The door closed. If the old car started, and it did, I was off to Wently. But it didn’t matter—if the car didn’t run, they threw you on a bus. My feet were already wet.

The Wently soup stood me in front of this case. It was already stuffed and I began stuffing more mail in with the help of another sub. I’d never seen such a case! It was a rotten joke of some sort. I counted 12 tie-outs on the case. That case must have covered half the city. I had yet to learn that the route was all steep hills. Whoever had conceived it was a madman.

We got it up and out and just as I was about to leave the soup walked over and said, “I can’t give you any help on this.”

“That’s all right,” I said.

All right, hell. It wasn’t until later that I found out he was Jonstone’s best buddy.

The route started at the station. The first of twelve swings, I stepped into a sheet of water and worked my way downhill. It was the poor part of town—small houses and courts with mailboxes full of spiders, mailboxes hanging by one nail, old women inside rolling cigarettes and chewing tobacco and humming to their canaries and watching you, an idiot lost in the rain.

When your shorts get wet they slip down, down down they slip, down around the cheeks of your ass, a wet rim of a thing held up by the crotch of your pants. The rain ran the ink on some of the letters; a cigarette wouldn’t stay lit. You had to keep reaching into the pouch for magazines. It was the first swing and I was already tired. My shoes were caked with mud and felt like boots. Every now and then I’d hit a slippery spot and almost go down.

A door opened and an old woman asked the question heard a hundred times a day:

“Where’s the regular man, today?”

“Lady, PLEASE, how would I know? How in the hell would I know? I’m here and he’s someplace else!”

“Oh, you are a gooney fellow!”

“A gooney fellow?”


I laughed and put a fat water-soaked letter in her hand, then went on to the next. Maybe uphill will be better, I thought. Another Old Nelly, meaning to be nice, asked me, “Wouldn’t you like to come in and have a cup of tea and dry off?”

“Lady, don’t you realize we don’t even have time to pull up our shorts?”

“Pull up your shorts?”

“YES, PULL UP OUR SHORTS!” I screamed at her and walked off into the wall of water.

I finished the first swing. It took about an hour. Eleven more swings, that’s eleven more hours. Impossible, I thought. They must have hung the roughest one on me first.

Uphill was worse because you had to pull your own weight.

Noon came and went. Without lunch. I was on the 4th or 5th swing. Even on a dry day the route would have been impossible. This way it was so impossible you couldn’t even think about it.

Finally I was so wet I thought I was drowning. I found a front porch that only leaked a little and stood there and managed to light a cigarette. I had about 3 quiet puffs when I heard a little old lady’s voice behind me:

“Mailman! Mailman!”

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