Marty read ‘The Post Office’ by Bukowski and decided to become a postman. He applied for the job, got a call back, passed all the tests including Exam 473. He knew he would because 473 are the last three digits of his social security number and that was surely a sign. Marty is an avid reader. As a new postman, he reads all the postcards before he places them in the mailboxes. People are skiing in Colorado, France and Switzerland and are happy about it. He would be, too. Somebody witnessed a street mugging in Mexico. Or was it New York? Marty wonders where would Bukowski go on a winter holiday. Marty is starting a book. He is going to call it ‘The Mailman’. It’s going to be about his adventures at work. He’s been at the job for a month now and has never met any of the mail recipients. Nobody is ever home when he delivers. Everybody works so no sex for Marty. His book is stuck. A postman’s job was supposed to be exciting. Where are all the women? One day he rings the bell of an apartment to deliver a small package and a man opens the door. He is Asian but Marty cannot tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or Korean so he doesn’t know from where. Even the food is the same to him. He sees that the man wears a kimono.
‘Are you Japanese?’ asks Marty handing him the package.
‘Yes’, says the mail recipient in a kimono. He signs the receipt.
‘Is that a book?’ asks Marty.
‘Yes’, says the Japanese man.
‘Oh, I read a lot, too.’
‘I don’t read a lot.’
‘What book is it, if you don’t mind me asking?’
‘The Art of War.’
‘Oh, are you going to war?’ Marty’s attempt at a joke flies unnoticed by the Japanese man.
‘No, I just read’ he says.
Marty looks at his Japanese signature on the receipt sheet. It looks like a delicate piece of art surrounded by bureaucracy.
‘It’s beautiful’, says Marty. ‘Your signature is beautiful.’
‘Thank you’ says Japanese mail recipient.
A door next to his apartment opens and a young woman walks out. She says ‘hello’. The Japanese man nods. Marty says ‘hello’ back and smiles. She smiles, too. She is not pretty but Marty finds her beautiful. She lives in number 5 and nobody ever writes to her. She receives bills and advertising. Her name is Myra. Marty thinks that’s the most beautiful female name he’s ever heard. Sometimes Myra receives lingerie catalogues in the mail. Marty thinks she’s probably ordered something from them before and now they keep sending her catalogues. He wonders what she ordered.
Marty buys a book at the bookstore and mails it certified to Myra. He puts the city as the sender. He also buys a ‘thank you’ note to include and wonders what to write in it. After some thinking he writes ‘thank you for keeping the neighborhood safe’. He then wonders if that makes any sense and what is Myra doing to keep the neighborhood safe. Presumably she is not committing any crimes, so that’s her way.
The next day, the book for Myra appears in his mail batch. He rings Myra’s doorbell to deliver it. He hopes that Myra is home and is happy when she opens the door. Myra is surprised to receive a package. Marty hopes Myra will like the book. He tries to start a conversation. Like most people he mentions the weather. It’s cold. ‘It’s the end of January’ she says, ‘It’s supposed to be cold.’ She hands him back the signed confirmation. She looks at him straight but does not smile. She’s prettier when she smiles. Her lips part as she takes a breath and Marty thinks about kissing her. She says ‘bye’ and shuts the door in his face.
Marty knows all the names of all the people in the neighborhood. Myra Smith is his favorite. Today she received a new credit card offer with zero percent interest rate. She must have a good credit and Marty is glad for her. He drives his funny mail truck very slowly when he passes by Myra’s condo. He hopes to see her but it never happens. He wonders if she’s read the book.
One day Myra gets another certified package. Marty shakes it. It could be a book. Or a box of chocolate. He checks the sender’s address but it’s a PO box in the city and the sender’s name is ‘sender’. He takes the package to Myra and rings the bell. Myra opens. She wears a terrycloth robe. Marty thinks that there is some black lace peeking underneath but he cannot stare so he’s not sure. Myra also wears red lipstick and Marty watches her beautiful lips as she signs the receipt. She is not surprised like last time. She hands him back the receipt and looks him straight in the eyes. Her eyes are dark but feel like looking at the sun. He looks away.
‘Thank you’, she says softly.
‘You are welcome’. He glances at her wishing he could take her cherry lips and keep them forever.
‘It’s very cold outside’ she says.
‘It’s February. It’s supposed to be cold.’ He immediately regrets those words wishing he’d said something more friendly, more agreeable.
‘Not on Valentine’s Day’, she says.
The Japanese man hears voices outside and peeks through the fisheye. Marty is ready to leave but makes himself look at her ruby lips again. A memory for the road.
‘Would you like to come in?’ says Myra. She smiles and gently bites her lower ruby lip. Marty looks at her not pretty but so beautiful face with cherry lips. He smiles. She’s read the book. She wants her mailman.
‘Yes’ says Marty, ‘I would like that very much.’
Through the fisheye, the Japanese man watches as Marty enters and Myra shuts the door behind him. ‘That sonofabitch’, he thinks in Japanese.