“Yes, mam?” I asked.


I looked down at my pouch and sure enough, I had left the leather flap open. A drop or two had fallen in from a hole in the porch roof.

I walked off. That does it, I thought, only an idiot would go through what I am going through. I am going to find a telephone and tell them to come get their mail and jam their job. Jonstone wins.

The moment I decided to quit, I felt much better. Through the rain I saw a building at the bottom of the hill that looked like it might have a telephone in it. I was halfway up the hill. When I got down I saw it was a small cafe. There was a heater going. Well, shit, I thought, I might as well get dry. I took off my raincoat and my cap, threw the mailpouch on the floor and ordered a cup of coffee.

It was very black coffee. Remade from old coffeegrounds. The worst coffee I had ever tasted, but it was hot. I drank 3 cups and sat there an hour, until I was completely dry. Then I looked out: it had stopped raining! I went out and walked up the hill and began delivering mail again. I took my time and finished the route. On the 12th swing I was walking in twilight. By the time I returned to the station it was night.

The carrier’s entrance was locked.

I beat on the tin door.

A little warm clerk appeared and opened the door.

“What the hell took you so long?” he screamed at me.

I walked over to the case and threw down the wet pouch full of go-backs, miscased mail and pickup mail. Then I took off my key and flipped it against the case. You were supposed to sign in and out for your key. I didn’t bother. He was standing there.

I looked at him.

“Kid, if you say one more word to me, if you so much as sneeze, so help me God, I am going to kill you!” The kid didn’t say anything. I punched out. The next morning I kept waiting for Jonstone to turn and say something. He acted as if nothing had happened. The rain stopped and all the regulars were no longer sick. The Stone sent 3 subs home without pay, one of them me. I almost loved him then.

I went on in and got up against Betty’s warm ass.


But then it began raining again. The Stone had me out on a thing called Sunday Collection, and if you’re thinking of church, forget it. You picked up a truck at West Garage and a clipboard. The clipboard told you what streets, what time you were to be there, and how to get to the next pickup box. Like 2:32 p.m., Beecher and Avalon, L3 R2 (which meant left three blocks, right two) 2:35 p.m., and you wondered how you could pick up one box, then drive 5 blocks in 3 minutes and be finished cleaning out another box. Sometimes it took you over 3 minutes to clean out a Sunday box. And the boards weren’t accurate. Sometimes they counted an alley as a street and sometimes they counted a street as an alley. You never knew where you were.

It was one of those continuous rains, not hard, but it never stopped. The territory I was driving was new to me but at least it was light enough to read the clipboard. But as it got darker it was harder to read (by the dashboard light) or locate the pickup boxes. Also the water was rising in the streets, and several times I had stepped into water up to my ankles.

Then the dashboard light went out. I couldn’t read the clipboard. I had no idea where I was. Without the clipboard I was like a man lost in the desert. But the luck wasn’t all bad—yet. I had two boxes of matches and before I made for each new pickup box, I would light a match, memorize the directions and drive on. For once, I had outwitted Adversity, that Jonstone up there in the sky, looking down, watching me.

Then I took a corner, leaped out to unload the box and when I got back the clipboard was GONE!

Jonstone in the Sky, have Mercy! I was lost in the dark and the rain. Was I some kind of idiot, actually? Did I make things happen to myself? It was possible. It was possible that I was subnormal, that I was lucky just to be alive.

The clipboard had been wired to the dashboard. I figured it must have flown out of the truck on the last sharp turn. I got out of the truck with my pants rolled up around my knees and started wading through a foot of water. It was dark. I’d never find the god damned thing! I walked along, lighting matches—but nothing, nothing. It had floated away. As I reached the corner I had sense enough to notice which way the current was moving and follow it. I saw an object floating along, lit a match, and there it WAS! The clipboard. Impossible! I could have kissed the thing. I waded back to the truck, got in, rolled my pantlegs down and really wired that board to the dash. Of course, I was way behind schedule by then but at least I’d found their dirty clipboard. I wasn’t lost in the backstreets of Nowhere. I wouldn’t have to ring a doorbell and ask somebody the way back to the post office garage.

I could hear some fucker snarling from his warm frontroom: “Well, well. You’re a post office employee, aren’t you? Don’t you know the way back to your own garage?”

So I drove along, lighting matches, leaping into whirlpools of water and emptying collection boxes. I was tired and wet and hungover, but I was usually that way and I waded through the weariness like I did the water. I kept thinking of a hot bath, Betty’s fine legs, and—something to keep me going—a picture of myself in an easychair, drink in hand, the dog walking up, me patting his head.

But that was a long way off. The stops on the clipboard seemed endless and when I reached the bottom it said “Over” and I flipped the board and sure enough, there on the backside was another list of stops.

With the last match I made the last stop, deposited my mail at the station indicated, and it was a load, and then drove back toward the West Garage. It was in the west end of town and in the west the land was very flat, the drainage system couldn’t handle the water and anytime it rained any length of time at all, they had what was called a “flood.” The description was accurate.

Driving on in, the water rose higher and higher. I noticed stalled and abandoned cars all around. Too bad. All I wanted was to get in that chair with that glass of scotch in my hand and watch Betty’s ass wobble around the room. Then at a signal I met Tom Moto, one of the other Jonstone subs.

“Which way you going in?” Moto asked.

“The shortest distance between 2 points, I was taught, is a straight line,” I answered him.

“You better not,” he told me. “I know that area. It’s an ocean through there.”

“Bullshit,” I said, “all it takes is a little guts. Got a match?”

I lit up and left him at the signal.

Betty, baby, I’m coming!


The water got higher and higher but mail trucks are built high off the ground. I took the shortcut through the residential neighborhood, full speed, and water flew up all around me. It continued to rain, hard. There weren’t any cars around. I was the only moving object.

Betty baby. Yeah.

Some guy standing on his front porch laughed at me and yelled, “THE MAIL MUST GO THROUGH!”

I cursed him and gave him the finger.

I noticed that the water was rising above the floorboards, whirling around my shoes, but I kept driving. Only 3 blocks to go!

Then the truck stopped.

Oh. Oh. Shit.

I sat there and tried to kick it over. It started once, then stalled. Then it wouldn’t respond. I sat there looking at the water. It must have been 2 feet deep. What was I supposed to do? Sit there until they sent a rescue squad?

What did the Postal Manual say? Where was it? I had never known anybody who had seen one.


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