Return to The Post Office Box, a short story reimagined with alternate endings #paranormal #realisticfiction

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by Pamela Schloesser Canepa, copyright 2016. Part 1 originally posted on kurtbrindley.com

Originally a Flash Fiction response in 250 words, now followed by two alternate endings; choose your preferred genre, or read both.  Thank you for reading!

Tussling with the dog. That was Jasmine’s story, this time. The scar would dissipate in a week, she knew. It did hurt. This was so unfair, yet, all too familiar.
Driving to work, Jasmine noticed she’d inadvertently put on one navy blue shoe and one black. An understandable mistake; they were almost identical, and those colors were close. I wonder if anyone will notice?  She realized the light had turned. I sure don’t need a ticket.
To her left was the post office. Darn, I forgot that electric bill. Rick will lose it. Do I go back? She worried it might make her late, yet she didn’t need one more fight about the mail.
Her thoughts drifted to the invitation that had arrived the week before for her ten year high school reunion. Of course, with a four-month-old baby and a full-time job, she hadn’t seriously considered. Still, she had thought of going.
“You just want to see all your old boyfriends! You wench!” Rick had screamed, holding the baby in his arms.
“No, Rick, don’t worry, I don’t need to go.” That’s how it always went. Keeping the peace. When she never received any in return.
Abruptly, she pulled into the post office. “I need a post office box,” she announced to the clerk. JUST for me.  With receipt of the key, she found the assigned box. It was cool inside. She imagined fitting inside of it, this doorway to distant places.

Alternate ending A, paranormal/speculative fiction:

She slipped her hand in a little further.  It seemed to pull her.  Where would she go?  No doubt, someplace cooler than South Carolina.  The pull was quite strong, but she pulled back against it.  The baby!  I can’t leave the baby.

Realizing that this might be even more real than she had imagined, Jasmine slammed the door to her post office box shut.

“Everything okay, Miss?”  A young girl with hair the color of pink cotton candy and earbuds in her ears asked.

Jasmine turned around.  “It’s been a strange day.”

“Your mailbox isn’t all the way closed, by the way.  I’m Wilma, but my friends call me Freddie.”  She held out her braceleted hand.

Jasmine shook it and turned to make sure the post office box was closed all the way.

“That was a nice pinkie ring, your wedding band, too.”  Freddie called.

The wedding band was replaced after Rick had tossed it down the disposal in a drunken rage.  He spent three times as much on it, in hopes that would make his night of terror less memorable.  Of course, Jasmine didn’t say that to Freddie.

“Thanks.”  Jasmine looked around, feeling cornered.  This girl noticed too much.

“If you have that door open too long, it really works.  It takes you away.”  Freddie whispered.  “You only come back if you want to.  I swear.”

It was as if this girl knew her secrets, Jasmine thought.  She also seemed to know her exact thoughts on what was at the other side of that P.O. box.  Jasmine shivered.

“I have to go home.”

“Yes, of course.  But just so you know, it’s here.  It’ll still be here the next time you come back, no matter how long it’s been.  Once you feel the pull, you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.  I sense you need it even more than I did.”  The young girl put the earbuds back in her ears.    “Ciao,”  she called, as she turned and pulled her hoodie over her head and left the post office.

Jasmine rushed home, but Rick was, indeed, in rare form, ticked off over her being fifteen minutes late.

“I got stuck in traffic.”  She lied.  Telling the truth about what was going on in her mind was not safe at all.

“Yeah, right.  You were probably hanging out, talking to those guys you work with.”

“Rick, I’ll do better.  I’ll find a new way home.  Just let me get the dishes done.  Ross is fine over there in the playpen.  Please, just no more.  Don’t wake him.”

“I’m out of here.  You had your fun, I’ll have mine.”  And he walked out, slamming the door.

Rick came back four hours later, noisily.  Jasmine feigned a deep sleep.

Three days later, Jasmine walked into the post office with her baby, Ross.  The box was empty, of course, but she stuck her arm in as far as it would go.  Then, she had Ross stick his hand in.  “Doesn’t it feel cool, Ross?”

He giggled, taking his hand out and then putting it back in.

An elderly woman looked at them strangely.

“He likes playing, feeling the temperature change in there,” Jasmine explained.  The woman gave a fake smile.  Jasmine asked, “Have you seen that young girl, with the bright pink hair, and….”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about, sorry.”  The woman spoke with a thick accent.  Should I ask where she’s from?  Jasmine pondered.  Maybe that’s where I should go.

Then it hit her.  I’m really considering doing this.  I am thinking of leaving.  How?  How can I leave?  Where will I go?  I guess it starts with daring to think of it, daring to believe I could do it.  How could she turn back now?

The woman walked off and left the post office.  Jasmine was left alone with Ross, and the open mailbox door.  Lights were beginning to dim.  It was late this time.  She’d taken off while Rick was out on one of his drinking binges, to return God-knows-when.  The only light she saw now was inside of the box, on the other side.

Letters, packages, notices all get sent from out here, to in there, ending up with loved ones or important people across the sea, in other states, far-away places.

She closed her eyes and held Ross tightly.  I will never leave you, Ross.  If I go anywhere, I go with you.  But how will I fit this diaper bag full of formula and diapers in there?  Opening her eyes, she saw the light still glowing within.  “Here we go, Ross.”  She put her thin arm into the box, and he followed suit with his chubby little baby arm, a big smile on his face.  She held him close and closed her eyes.

“Mam?  We’re clos-“ Manny, the late shift postal worker announced, to no one.  He had just seen her there, and now there was no one.  Perhaps the dim lighting was playing tricks on his eyes.

He didn’t see the woman on the other side of the box, holding a baby, carefully opening an envelope addressed to Canada.  If he had, he would not have seen it for too long.  She and the baby had disappeared inside of it, arms first, seeming to be sucked in by a powerful light that was nothing more than the power of sheer determination, free will, and a strong ability to believe.

Whatever happened to Jasmine and Ross?  One thing is for sure, Rick never saw or heard from them again.  He seemed distraught at first, and then, just seemed to forget to be distraught.  Meanwhile, Jasmine found herself with very little money in a coastal surfing town called Tofino, Canada.  She made up a believable story since there was still a shiner under her eye that only showed when she went without makeup, something she did a lot more often now.  One call to work, informing them she wouldn’t be back, and a request that her boss call her parents and inform them she was alright.  That was the last time anyone from her old life heard from her.

She took up odd jobs in tourist shops, then found a room above a coffee shop and eventually started working there, pouring coffee in the morning and babysitting children in the afternoons.  It was a very simple life, but this town felt like freedom to her.  She recalled nothing of how she got there.  Nor did it matter.  The memories of who she used to be were fading as well.  Little Ross was happy playing with other children in the cozy little tourist town.  She planned to teach him how to surf one day, as she was taking a lesson on it every week.  She also took up knitting, as the locals informed her it would get quite cold in the next month.   People around town would take to more indoor activities, and that was okay; she loved the people here.  Yes, this sure felt like freedom.  And it was there for her, only because she dared to chase it.

Rumor has it, that every few months, the postal workers at Postal Office B in Charleston, South Carolina, would see a strange glow in the mailroom at night behind the P.O. boxes, just around closing time, accompanied by the sound of a woman and her baby laughing without a care in the world.  Perhaps they were simply between destinations?  Or, perhaps it was a reminder of the power of imagination and belief.  Manny, tired, overworked, and always the stooge of his peer group, was starting to feel the pull himself.

 

Click here for Alternate ending B, realistic fiction following the intro.: https://pamelascanepa.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/the-post-office-box-flash-fiction-limit250-words/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Post Office Box,” Flash Fiction, Limit:250 Words

By Pamela Schloesser Canepa. Featured on kurtbrindley.comPObox800px-Busselton_post_office_gnangarra_14

Tussling with the dog. That was Jasmine’s story, this time. The scar would dissipate in a week, she knew. It did hurt. This was so unfair, yet, all too familiar.
Driving to work, Jasmine noticed she’d inadvertently put on one navy blue shoe and one black. An understandable mistake; they were almost identical, and those colors were close. I wonder if anyone will notice? She realized the light had turned. I sure don’t need a ticket.
To her left was the post office. Darn, I forgot that electric bill. Rick will lose it. Do I go back? She worried it might make her late, yet she didn’t need one more fight about the mail.
Her thoughts drifted to the invitation that had arrived the week before, for her ten year high school reunion. Of course, with a four month old baby and a full-time job, she hadn’t seriously considered. Still, she had thought of going.
“You just want to see all your old boyfriends! You wench!” Rick had screamed, holding the baby in his arms.
“No, Rick, don’t worry, I don’t need to go.” That’s how it always went. Keeping the peace. When she never received any in return.
Abruptly, she pulled into the post office. “I need a post office box,” she announced to the clerk. JUST for me.
With receipt of the key, she found the assigned box. It was cool inside. She imagined fitting inside of it, this doorway to distant places.

Alternate ending B, realistic fiction:

Upon fitting her arm into the box, she felt instantly calmer, surrounded by that cool air.  A man and a woman approached the box near her, talking.  Jasmine quickly took her arm out.  This must look plenty weird, she was sure.  Of course, their arrival was also a reminder of the passing time.  If she was too late getting home, Rick would lose it again.   Lord, she sure didn’t want him to lose it, because that was never pretty.

Still, an idea brewed in her mind on the way home.  She would head to the grocery store after work, under the guise of picking up something special for dinner.

Three days later, she got up the nerve to execute this plan.  Rick was game; he said it was fine as long as it included a London broil.  So she had forked out the extra money that had been intended to help with the late fee on their credit card, bought a London broil along with vegetables and potatoes, and picked up one solitary envelope and a notepad.  On it she scribbled the grocery list; on the next page, she quickly wrote a note to Holly, of the High school reunion committee.

Sitting in the car at the post office, she left the car running and wrote:

 

Holly,

I miss your constant laughter.  I regret that I cannot attend the high school reunion.  My husband and I have had a bad year financially, but I should make it to the next get-together.  Please note, any future mail should be sent to me at P.O. Box 426-A880, Charleston, SC 12354.  I do hope you will keep in touch!

 

Sincerely,

Jasmine

 

Rick would flip if he found out.  He’d accuse her of telling lies about him, of trying to get sympathy, of….God only knows what; it was all ridiculous and it didn’t matter.  She stepped out of the car quickly to dash in, slap on a stamp, and mail the dangerous letter.  Why it should be so dangerous to want to keep in touch with a high school friend no one around her would understand.  Why did she feel like she was flying through the air on a trapeze, slaying a dragon, or suddenly sprouting wings; they didn’t get that or the look of glee on her face as she dropped the letter into the slot in the wall.  This is why she knew getting the P.O. Box was the right thing to do.  She felt ten pounds come off of her shoulders the minute she had put the letter in the mail slot.   As she left, a young, dark-haired man opened the door for her and smiled.  She remembered him from the other day.  A glance backward, and she saw him approach the box right next to hers.

It was a banner night back home.  A drunken rage that night over the London broil not being cooked enough, a broken toy that was left on the floor and then shattered into pieces when Rick purposely stomped on it.  Tension was mounting.  She felt as if a storm was coming again.  She shuffled around quietly, glumly, saying very little, trying as always to keep the peace.

The next day she bought another envelope on the way to work.  Tore another piece from the notepad.  She wrote:  “I am trapped in a hateful marriage and I feel my husband is going to harm me again, soon.  I really need help, and I can’t tell my parents because they will inform him in their intentions to set things right with us.  He cannot know I am seeking a way out.  If you know of a lawyer that can help me get out quickly and show me a place to go, it would really help me greatly.”  She addressed it to: The mail service customer at P.O. Box 426-A879.  She wrote her P.O. Box with only her first name above the return address.  She mailed it on the way home, after picking up the baby from daycare.  The air inside of her post office box was as cool as ever, calming, welcoming.  She let her son, Ross, stick his chubby hand in there for a moment.  He giggled, as if he felt the cool air of freedom as well.  She kissed his hand and took this to be a sign.

It was a week later when she received return mail.  It was from Holly.  What could she do?  Rick would hit the ceiling if he found it.  So she left it there, as if she had been unable to check the mail.  It had brightened her day, but being unable to retrieve it brought her right back to reality.

She pondered on the way home whether she’d made a mistake trusting the man whose box was next to hers.  He was always very polite to her, and he looked like a professional.   She felt the chances were high that he’d know of a good lawyer.  Still, she only went to the post office at odd hours now, for fear of seeing him.  What if he did nothing with her plea?  What if this was only fodder for his water cooler gossip at work?  Could he be that cruel?  Maybe he’d be afraid to help in any way at all.  She had to stop worrying, and start believing things might work in her favor.  It proved to be no small battle.

On her next visit to the post office, the man was there.  “Your mail was left in my box by mistake.”  He looked at her somberly, and walked off.

No, it actually was addressed to her from him.  She went to one end of the post office that was empty, leaned on a counter, and read it.

“I have seen you with a child.  You must make sure that child is with you next week.  Tuesday, after work, I will meet you here.  Please be here by six o’clock with your baby and anything he needs for a week.  I have a good lawyer, but I also believe you need a police officer present.  I am hoping you don’t need much from your home.  I am a parole officer and have some connections that can help you with your situation.  We will put you in a safe place during the proceedings.  There is more that you need to know about the process.  We will discuss that when I introduce you to the lawyer at a neutral location.”

A parole officer?  Who knew?  It sounded like he was just the one to help her.  Jasmine left the letter in her own P.O. Box, and walked out of the post office as if on air.   The whole world felt lighter, and it got her through the rest of the night with her husband’s whiskey breath and bitter complaints.

A year later, Jasmine sat in a lawn chair with little Ross.  The air was a crisp, cool autumn flavor, and there were mountains surrounding them.  A screen door slammed as a young man, Vincent, the parole officer, came out with his hands full of a tray of meat for the grill.

“Are you sure he won’t eat any of this?”  He asked, playfully.

Jasmine looked down at the baby she held with her bare hand, free of any jewelry or wedding band, and smiled.  Not knowing where this would go with Vincent was all part of the fun of life now.  He had said he wouldn’t rush her, yet seemed to put her and her son as a number one priority.  This house in the hills, the old burly neighbor and his wife down the road, all made her feel safe from the past and never truly alone, even when Vincent went back to the city to work.  Her undefined relationship with Vincent didn’t even worry her when she realized how much she had needed him at one point in her life.  She marveled at the chances of finding a P.O. Box right beside just the right person to help her, and even more so at finding the nerve to ask the right person for help.

“Really, Vincent!  He’s too young for a steak!”  She giggled, and so did little Ross, as she rubbed noses with him.  She looked to see Holly driving up in her Camaro, here to enjoy dinner and to introduce her new beau.  Jasmine and Holly had just reconnected in the last six months, Jasmine having shared her new post office box address and her new cell phone number, now that there was no fear of being found out and accused of any atrocities.

“Well, you’re the boss, Jasmine.”  Vincent winked at her and waved to Holly as she walked up with a very buff, blonde young man.  Again, Jasmine marveled at Vincent’s ability to say those words, and at the turn of events which found her here.   It all started with P.O. Box 426-A880, a little bit of rebellion against the cage that had surrounded her.

 

For Alternate ending A, please see the 9/24 entry!  Thank you for reading! -Pamela

 

 

 

Not for Me, the Wives’ Social Circle

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*Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Have you ever felt like a caged bird?  I’ve even felt that way in the midst of several other people.  They didn’t seem to be caged.  At times, I was just accustomed to it, and I made do, laughing and enjoying myself.  Though I must admit, there was always an underlying feeling of being trapped, and perhaps, a knowledge that I chose this trap myself.  This entry is not about marriage being horrible, and it is not to rant about the atrocities of my marriage, nor is it to slam the wives I was acquainted with while married.  It is just my experience, brought up by a thought that popped in my head after eighteen years, “Where are they today?”

This social circle of wives was something that formed whenever our husbands all went out together, or when there were celebrations, such as my son’s second birthday, or someone moving to a new house.   We bonded when our husbands made long treks to refill on beer or liquor so the party could go on. It made sense, though.  Most of our husbands had worked together in the Navy.  Many of them got out in their early twenties to pursue education, a job, a life in one place.  This was the age when we were getting engaged and married, and then pregnancies and babies came along.  We were all around the same age.  I was cut off from my high school friends.  Part of it is how shy I was in high school, another is, I never really attempted to keep in touch with any but maybe two close friends.  I can gladly say I’ve gotten better about that, though.

I started thinking about our little group of wives lately.  I just wondered about “The Millers,” whose baby was born weeks after I took my toddler with me and left my husband.  I even spoke to Mrs. “Miller” after leaving him, trying to be friendly by phone, explaining my side of the story since my husband was incredulous as to why I’d want to leave our marriage.  She gave advice.  Lots of advice, that mentioned seeing my husband, dating him, but living separate.  I was not interested in seeing him or dating him; I was interested in piecing my identity back together without him.  He was not to be trusted with my deepest thoughts; it seemed he would always twist them and use them against me.  I spoke to one other wife, “Mrs. Smith,” whose husband left her a few months after I left mine, and it was mentioned that they were partying together, hinting that maybe my husband’s newfound freedom looked good to him and influenced him to leave.  They also had a child, a one year old, at home.  Now, all of these friends drank heavily.  I am not implying that Navy men are heavy drinkers.  There are some who are not.  My ex-husband simply did not seek them out as friends.  I think I heard him refer to them as nerds, or too straight arrow.

It is not surprising that Mrs. Miller would encourage me to stay with my then husband; her own husband had already put her through all kinds of financial hell, and she stayed, for whatever reason, and that’s her own business.   Not surprising either that Mrs. Smith hinted at my ex-husband’s influence in her husband leaving her.  You see, it came out that she never trusted my husband.  She mentioned his “beady eyes,” and that when he came around (before we met), she knew that he and her husband were going to get drunk and rowdy.  What must she have thought of me?  Did they all think that?  Poor Pam, quiet, patient, she has to put up with all this.  Why does she put up with all this?  She must not feel she deserves any better.  I was a part of a circle of wives who looked down on me.  Who could blame them?  I sure didn’t choose my own friends.  There were many times I felt fear and desperation that I could share with no one, but my mother.  She herself worried that I had no one to really confide in.  At least, toward the end of our marriage, I was chummy with a young woman at work, and a man, who was married and I had no intention of fooling around with, yet it buoyed my spirit being his friend, and feeling I had an identity out of what my husband would choose for me.  Yes, I told my husband about these friends.  Needless to say, they were never invited over for dinner.  He tried to make me feel guilty for having a male friend, and to convince me the young woman must be too wild, because she hangs out at a certain country bar.

So, it is apparent that the wives’ club was in existence for convenience.  Throwing a party meant my husband’s friends and their wives were coming over. It was nice to have gals to talk to that were in similar experiences as mine as far as house buying, family planning, new parenthood.  But when I left my husband, it became apparent that they did NOT see me as a person separate from him.  I could not befriend them.  He would always be a fixture in our conversations.  When my best friend from high school moved back into town, as her husband’s job took them all over the Northeast for years, we’d get together and talk about what a loser my ex was, and yes, hers too. (He eventually became her ex).  We’d talk about what we wanted in a man, without any guilt.  We’d share book recommendations of women standing up for themselves and starting new lives.  That is what a true friend does.  When you envision ill-fortune befalling your ex, it’s so good to tell someone, and have her laugh with you, and say, I get it.  You are not judged; you are encouraged to share.  One good, understanding friend; that is better than belonging to any group of women.

It is only with a small hint of sadness that I think of them, and where their children are now.  College?  Marriage?  Good lives?  Hopefully not trouble?  I don’t pick up the phone or try to contact them on Facebook.  I am a different person now.  I will leave that life behind.  If I should run into them, I will smile and ask all the details about their children; I will truly wish them well.  After eighteen years divorced, I have developed my own circle of friends, through work, church,  former employment, even some high school friends with the help of Facebook.  That, again, is better than belonging to a circle of wives.  I may or may not be a wife again, and there’s nothing negative I imply about being a wife.  The point is, what I want to be is a loving person, a friend, a writer, a lover of life, dog lover, poet, and maybe the best I can be as a teacher.  That’s it; it is all I need to be part of, and I meet many lovely people in my life, several that I would call friends!