map The Post

by Owen Wynne Jones

Published in Issue No. 194 ~ July, 2013

Photo by Laresa Rodriguez (Austin, TX)

The old lady with the little feet stood comfortably and watched the wall for a while.

The old lady with the little feet smiled.


What clean hell is this? What watered down Devil takes his place among us? What fresh hell is this? The postman allowed the words to trickle through his consciousness as he went on his round. Words from a book just read, a book well read, well consumed, devoured, but little understood. It was a bad book, by all accounts, but the postman liked it despite himself. He found the lack of comprehension something that appealed to him in a perverse way. He whistled to himself in the midday sun, as he took his route comfortably from memory. He paused outside the door of number 13 North Road. Foster, Foster… Nothing here? Nothing here. Nothing at all? He took out a leaflet. I’ll give them that. Make sure they feel wanted. And posted it. He liked the Foster family. A good family, a nice house and a nice knocker. All houses should have a nice knocker. It makes the front so much more appealing. I can’t imagine being comfortable going to a house if there is no nice knocker. Of course, in this Job – He capitalised job, a biblical pun to emphasise his suffering – in this Job there are plenty of bad knockers, but that is something I have to cope with. At least I don’t have to go in. The pity is the Parker’s knocker. They are really a pleasant family, with a lovely child, a lovely mother, an indifferent father, a lovely garden, and yet such a lonely doorknob. No knocker. What a pity.

William Foster went to the door and sighed. I hate that postman. Oh, he’s nice enough personally, but why on earth does he have to put something through the letterbox each day? Especially when there is nothing to give. William took the leaflet from the floor and ripped it up. He looked around. That picture frame could do with cleaning. I’ll do that later. The mirror could use a clean too, might be an idea to hire a cleaner after all. Jon may be right. Jon came down the stairs – What is it? – Nothing, just some rubbish. Charlotte followed him down. He had been making her a castle from wood, something Charlotte acting insouciant about around Jon, but would rave about it to William. Poor girl, she really does get spoilt. Maybe we should tone it down a little? Who knows, there are no rules to parenting, as they always remind you. We’re doing fine, I’m sure we’re doing fine. But what if she grows up to be awful? The other day, that boy on the bus, boasting about all the people he had robbed just to get some money for sweets and draw, what kind of boy is that? What kind of parents raise that? What if Charlotte, despite all the love and care ended up like that? What if Charlotte was worse? Jon’s eyes smiled – Are you going to stay here all day or are you going to make the builders some tea? – Of course. Tea. Sandwiches? What would you like? He took orders and went to the kitchen, looked down at Charlotte who was putting water in the kettle and couldn’t stop himself from hugging her.

Next house along was the Bridge house. That terrible Bridge woman, she’ll be out, no doubt, working, no doubt. Not a word to the co-workers, not a civil word to anyone. A curt reply, a terse ticking off. And she always has so much mail! What does she do again? I can’t for the life of me remember. Oh, yes, she works for some newspaper. A big-shot, a Dame now. Dame Dorothy Bridge. Must admit it has a nice ring. I’ve never seen anyone ring her bell. Never seen her with anybody. She’s a revolting pig of a woman. She puts the whole street out of kilter. Such a nice street, so well built, such a good neighbourhood, so nice, but then there is the odd man or woman who just looks evil. She acts evil too. What a cow. The postman delivered his mail as quickly as he possibly could.

Dorothy looked face to face with herself. What awful posture I have. She raised her shoulders, and scratched her right earlobe. Her impeccably painted nails traced her impeccably sticked lips. My lips are too fat, I look like an angry gorilla. My eyebrows look vicious. My nose is too long, far too long, it would touch the ground if it were much longer. My arms too, they are too long, shoulders down, arms passed my knees, knees passed my ankles. She smiled. Teeth of steel. She gathered her things for work, her bag with pen, pad and phone, no nonessentials and went down the 28 stairs to the hall. A pity I have no one here, this house really is too big for one person. I keep on telling myself, get married or get a flat, I’ve been telling myself for a year or more. It would be two now, time goes so fast when all you do is work. I think I’ll start looking for a flat today. Pity I have to go to work, I’m sure Jeremy could have worked it out without me, but no, he needs a ‘higher authority’ present. All I’ll do is agree with him, probably multiple times and then sit in my office. Mind you, there’s always work to do, and if I have a break, I’ll find myself a flat. Dorothy opened the door and walked out.

In the house along resided David Howard, a man the postman didn’t know but by appearance. A lazy looking man, a Belacqua. Young and nonchalant. Brown curly hair, smoky in front of his eyes, two hazel pinpricks. And despite the serenity exuded by the youth, it is said he is a fine student, fluent in philosophy. Of course, he himself does not own the house, he lives there with his father who is often away, doing the things a father does. The father is a swaggering man, his speech tainted with grandiloquence, especially when it comes to his son. Not that I’ve ever talked to him, I doubt he’d talk to a postman, we’re below him, beyond doubt, buried below him. Six feet below his grave. Still, the son appears to have no such hang ups, not the kind to boast about his proficiency in language or literature or history, or whatever else he is able to command with that beautiful brain of him. I think beautiful brain? What an odd thing to think. Still, no doubt it must be beautiful if half of what people say about it is true. A lovely boy too, from all accounts. A little reticent, but that is by no means a wholly negative thing.

Is Sunday the worst day? Sunday the day when nothing happens most. Sunday that day of empty dreams and unwanted scenes with the family, the dad, in my case. Monday isn’t too much better, but there is something to avoid on Monday, Sunday has nothing but ennui waiting. Here I sit, majestically, like a Napoleon of depression, back arched against the sofa, ruling the only thing that I know how, depression – or does it rule me. Which is more likely? I wouldn’t be seeing a therapist if I ruled it, yet I don’t feel a slave to it. I feel disassociation, a distance. The Ego, the Id, the Superego and Depression, all as different entities. Depression is conscious and unconscious, physical and metaphysical, disparate and yet unparalleled in its uniformity. And this is why I can’t move. And this is why I can’t work. It is all consuming. It is a job in and of itself, being depressed. Can I be sure of my own depression? Well, I can be sure that I am not well, I cannot function properly, I cannot function well enough to get by. I am sure to fail my degree with the amount of work I do, I am sure to fail in life with the amount of effort I put into it. Mind you, life is not a game, you do not fail, you do not succeed, there is no unifying objective objectives (how ugly that sounds), merely billions of subjective objectives and so one failure is almost certainly a success though another pair of eyes. To me getting through the day counts as a small success, and so each day I live I avoid failure. That’s a reassuring thought.

Penultimate was the Parker household. They lived in a large house, a nice house, which had no knocker, such a shame, such a nice house to have no knocker. The house stood back a way from the street, and stood out because in addition to its large size, it was the only house on the road to be painted. A crisp white that had to be redone each year. It strikes me either as a waste of money, or a way in which to show how much money they have. They are always getting it done up, adding a floor here, a garage or two there. Who needs two cars? I mean, she doesn’t work and can’t drive and he only ever drives when they are going on holiday. What an excess. Still, they are nice enough, I would suggest he a bit aloof, a bit nosey, a bit unpleasant, but kind enough if you don’t know him. She is lovely, but then she has all the free time in the world. Doesn’t work, has a gardener, has a cleaner, what a waste of a life! What a way to go! I lived my life in comfort and luxury and all around me worked, even the Dame works! She just went passed me, eyes down, striding along the pavement. She smells of money. It is raining.

Rebecca Parker stood at the front door watching the postman deliver the mail. How stressed he looks this morning, how very unwell, poor dear. Now let’s see, something for Jimmy, must be for his birthday, I’ll keep that to the side, hide it in my desk. Three for Richard and one for me, lovely. Bills for Richard from the look of them. Ah yes, from my karate class, we have a show next month, I had forgotten, how dreadful. Well, I’m sure I’ll be up to speed by then, it’ll be fun! Little Jimmy can come along and see his mummy be awesome. The garden’s looking good today. Rebecca went into the kitchen where Richard and Jimmy were eating their lunch. -Wont you have something dear? -Oh not for me, I’m not hungry. -Please, just a bowl of soup or something. -Not now, maybe later. Richard always trying to force food down my throat, doesn’t he know I don’t want it? Can’t he tell? Men! Useless men! -You have some mail dear. -Oh god, that looks like a bill. What I want to say is, how are we for money dear, how are we doing? But not in front of little Jimmy, they pick up on these things, the little ones, they are hypersensitive and hypernervous about such things. They know though, they always know. So maybe it doesn’t make a difference? Oh, it’ll make a difference, openness is key. -How are we for money dear? -Oh we’ll be fine. He said that too forced, he doesn’t want to talk about it in front of Jim, I can tell, oh dear, I made a mistake. He’ll be at me for that. He’ll be at me.

The last house was the old lady’s. This house too had no knocker, but the postman hadn’t come to knock, or to post. This was the moment he had been planning for. There was clearly no one home. He took the key from under the flowerpot and opened the door, putting his postbag inside the door while he went around the house searching for valuables.

The old lady with the little feet stood comfortably and watched the wall for a while.

The old lady with the little feet smiled.

The old lady with the little feet held the phone in her hand.

This hadn’t gone as planned.

account_box More About

Owen Wynne Jones is a student, living writing and studying in London. He has had several short stories published as well as a play.