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/