The New Rural Route

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It was Al’s last day of work. He was ready to retire after 32 years of delivering mail in Scranton.

The postmaster turned over his regular route to the new man replacing him. All Al had to do on his last shift was deliver mail to a newly added small rural route south of town.

He suspected it was some kind of prank. A new route? First he’d heard of it. He’d play along though.

The postmaster and he were not friends. More like antagonists. The two tangled many times over the years.

It sure will be nice to not have to see his ugly mug anymore, Al thought as he hopped into the van.

As soon he turned onto Highway 33, he began looking for the road sign. It was supposed to be about three miles out. He almost passed the small blue sign that said Rural Route 47. He’d should tell the postmaster about that. Not that he’d care.

The exit was paved, but just a mile down the road the pavement gave way to a hard packed dirt road. The Post Office doesn’t supply 4-wheel drive vehicles, he thought, this road will be hell in the rainy season.

The road wound through a dense forest.  Rays of sunlight struggled to pierce the trees dense canopies on either side. He slowed down, straining to see a mailbox. A house would do too.

Finally. He came upon a row of twelve mailboxes. This might not be so bad if the other 24 addresses were going to be this easy he thought. Pulling out a bundle of letters he began stuffing them in the neat standard mailboxes. So easy.

In no time, Al was heading down the dirt road. He noticed it was becoming narrower as he progressed. It was down to a single lane when he saw a house on the right. It looked like something the Addams Family lived in. No mailbox either.

He parked the mail van in the poorly maintained driveway and walked the rest of the way to the front door. A mail slot. He pulled out a thin package (that really smelled bad) and a couple of standard size letters when a green tentacle shot out of the mail slot and snapped up the package!

Al stumbled backwards in shock. What the hell? What was that thing? He wasted no time in getting back to the van. Once inside with the door locked, he started taking a series of deep breaths.

I must have hallucinated, Al assured himself after a few minutes. But that smell sure seemed real. Steeling himself, Al shook off the incident and backed up onto the road. A short distance from there was another house that looked like it was built-in Victorian times.

It was more run-down looking with paint chipping off the wooden exterior. No mail box. This address had a small square package and several standard-sized letters to deliver. This time he had to leave the van parked on the road while he trudged to the front porch.

He set the small package down and slipped the envelopes into the door’s slot. Suddenly there was a loud unearthly howl! It sounded like a wolf. No. Worse. A pack of wolves! He didn’t stop running until he got back into the van.

Back on the road. No choice, but to go forward. Nowhere to turn around at. Al was done delivering mail to this creepy route. He passed another old house, but didn’t slow down. Still nowhere to turn around because of the densely packed trees!

Panic set in when he saw things chasing him. They were grotesque-looking things and more kept joining the race after him. He could hear shouts – almost human-like – demanding the mail!

The new guy at the post office asked about how Al did just before starting work the next day. The post master struggled to conceal a grin of satisfaction, and said, “I’ll bet he misses his old job already.” 

As It Stands, this story is dedicated to my buddy Larry, a post office retiree.

 

Author: Dave Stancliff

Retired newspaper editor/publisher, Vietnam veteran, freelance writer, blogger, married 43 years with three sons and five grandchildren.

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