In the Keweenaw, we experience deep snows, and occasionally get snow days that allow people to stay home from school or work. But not mail carriers. US Postal Service operates by the creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Writers were asked to imagine the kind of extreme conditions mail carriers could face. Some stories are based on real people, others fictionalized.
The following are based on the January 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a postal carrier in an extreme situation.
PART I (10-minute read)
Island Postal Service by Anne Goodwin
The islanders turned their backs initially; they’d never had a woman ferry across the mail. But braving squalls and breakers earned their trust, and gratitude. Eventually, they greeted me with smiles.
The day my boat capsized, they rowed out to help me right it. Swapped my uniform for blankets, warmed me by the fire. When I lamented letters lost, they stopped my mouth with whisky, coffee, cake.
They shared their family stories. I kept quiet about my wife. Our friendship wasn’t strong enough to divert their chapel’s warnings. I’d tossed the island’s equal marriage ballot papers to the waves.
Postman by Anita Dawes
I have the best postman
No matter the weather
Rain or snow
Pushing his post trolley
Getting more snow
Around the wheels
As he goes
He’s not so young these days
Five foot tall
I think he’s a super man
He has a shiny red nose
I decided to have a hot cup of tea
Waiting for him
Warm his back on my hall radiator
Thaw out for five minutes
We have a lot in common
Not least, my favourite place
It’s the one place he likes to take time off
No matter what the weather…
Broken Monotony by Allison Maruska
I sling the bag over my shoulder, adjusting the weight. With a sigh, I trudge to the first box. Open it, put in the mail, close it. Then to the next box, then the next. Open, fill, close, over and over down the street.
I thought delivering mail would be interesting. I’d meet people, pet dogs, enjoy the sunshine. But nothing ever happens.
Open, fill, close. Open, fill, close. Open–
A squirrel leaps out and bounces off my chest.
Breathless, I watch my furry attacker dart across the road.
I hope there aren’t more surprises waiting for me.
The Attack on the Exeter Mail by Curious Archaeologist
Night had fallen as the mail coach pulled up in front of the Inn, the ostlers ran out to change the horses, postbags were exchanged, and mugs of ale were passed to the driver and guard.
The lead horse screamed, in the gloom the driver saw that something had leapt onto the horses neck. He could see blood flowing, but what was it? The terrified ostler swung his lantern round, and they could see. Now it was for the men to scream, it was impossible!
In Wiltshire, in 1816, the Exeter Mail had been attacked by a Lion!
Postman Pat by Ritu Bhathal
Postman Pat steeled himself as he walked towards the door of The Bite, 13 Ruff Lane. If there was one thing he was good at, it was delivering post, and no one had ever created a situation that he couldn’t get through, to make sure his letters reached the correct hands.
Since the new owners had moved it, ten different postal workers had been taken off this route, through stress.
A large, ferocious pet, apparently.
Phooey! No dog had ever hindered his job, no matter the size.
Then he heard the growl – Was that even a dog?
Confrontation by clfalcone *
New route plus fresh spring morning equaled walking.
Going old-school, he parked the jeep and hoofed between boxes at cottages, ranches, bungalows, whistling Bach.
The adobe hut was a hand-delivery though, so he slipped in, gate clicking behind him. Then he heard that low, mean growl.
Guarding the door was Satan. How he disliked chihuahuas.
More growls echoed as chihuahuas flooded around the corner, a mass of beady eyes, sharp teeth, pointy ears challenging him.
He flinched. They charged. He bolted out the gate, down the road, mail streaming from his bag, some fifty chihuahuas nipping at his heels.
Route 6 by Sascha Darlington
The blue car in the driveway’s different. Usually just Mrs. Drake’s old minivan leaking oil. Must be her husband’s. He’s got his finger in a lot of pies. None hers.
Never seen him in the six years I’ve carried this route. She’s nice, though. Warm smile, kind words. Cold water in summer. Hot coffee in winter.
Inside glass shatters. I imagine big hands around Mrs. Drake’s throat. The door handle gives under my hand. A blue-suited man stumbles out. Mrs. Drake threatens him with her Louisville slugger.
“Stinking cheater. It’s over. Don’t come back.”
And there’s always a surprise.
Inspiration from Dr. Suess’s Peter the Postman from Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! by Cara Stefano
Early morning; a faint blush shows on the horizon. Peter sits on the ice rimed bench beside the door, stamping his feet into heavy ski boots. Buckled up, Peter clicks into his skis; grips his poles. The villagers are counting on him for news from the outside world. Calming breaths, he thinks; don’t freeze, stay alert; gotta go! Peter begins a slow glide down the slope towards the village across the lake. A nod of his head, a wave as he passes the fishermen in their lonely shanties; Peter fervently hoped he would not encounter an angry seal again.
Special Delivery by JulesPaige
Stan was the rooster of his route. He even made friends with the nasty fowl goose that Mrs. Lucy Chang had as a pet. He worked in fair and foul weather. The hardest, most extreme day was when he had to tell his customers he was retiring. They had all become his second family. Being a mail carrier had brought him a comfortable life for him and his wife.
Stan’s coworkers had raised monies to pay the fare to see the Grand Canyon up close and personal. That’d put his daily strides to good use on the happy trails.
Restraint by T. Marie Bertineau
The Jeep listed to the right. So many packages. Too many. They overwhelmed the old jalopy. Overwhelmed him. He shook his head, pinched his lips. She had really done it this time, the hoarder on Pinkston.
Enough was enough.
He turned left at the corner, toward the thick, droopy elm, eased curbside at the peeling, yellow bungalow, the same way he’d done the past thirty years.
Today was the day—this had to stop.
Armed for bear, he grabbed his first load, headed to the door.
She waited there, tattered robe, kerchief. “How kind,” she said.
And he nodded.
Plans Change by Susan Zutautas
Excited for the night ahead, Joe had a romantic wedding anniversary dinner planned for the Mrs but first, he had to deliver his last piece of mail to Martha Perkins.
As Joe placed Martha’s mail in her mailbox, he noticed that the mail was starting to build up. This worried him and he rang the bell but there was no answer. Mabel, her neighbor saw Joe and came out to tell him that Martha was in the hospital.
Martha was 98 and had no family. Dinner would have to wait. Joe was going to visit Martha in the hospital.
Sometimes the Old Ways Are the Best by FloridaBorne
My father owned a moving company until he could no longer strap a piano on his back and walk up a flight of stairs.
He was hired to sort mail in 1964, when your 100% accuracy rate meant more than having only a 5th grade education.
Then, the unions took over and he had to pass a test to keep his job.
Test anxiety meant failure.
Demoted to janitorial! The people hired to fill his job laughed at him while his former boss said he was a better employee than all three combined.
Sometimes, the old ways are best.
Rita’s First Day by Joanne Fisher
It was Rita’s first day working for the Fairyland Postal Service. She flew off feeling incredibly excited with a full mail bag.
“Hello Mr Grysluk!” she beamed a smile at the gnome while handing him a letter.
“They’re now allowing pixies to deliver the mail? What are we coming to?” he rudely replied as he stomped back to his home.
Slightly crestfallen, Rita flew on only to encounter similar comments through the rest of her route. Nobody liked pixies.
Regardless of how she was treated, she resolved she would carry on with this job until they all accepted her.
Carrying Mail by D. Avery
When he first started, his route rolled through the seasons, each the same in turn. Christmas catalogues, seed catalogues and boxes of yellow chicks, postcards from traveling friends and relatives, fall catalogues; often letters, always bills. He knew his families by what he left at the end of their driveways.
Driving the same route, he now felt disconnected. He rarely saw a postcard anymore, seldom a letter, even had fewer bills to deliver.
Thank goodness for Helen. She and her son exchange letters every week. She says he’s doing well, was himself working in the mailroom at the penitentiary.
An Overworked Poem About the Post by Chelsea Owens
is never late.
‘gainst earthbound weight.
In backward cars
down country roads
with cloud-held loads
The smart-dressed man
The barefoot clan
(Or, smart wò-man)
(And –true– bare-hand)
Come round each day
Cavort and play
to drop a note
Whilst ‘letters’ float
turn down a flag
From heav’nly bags
When winds blow
‘gainst wingèd pain
nor gloom of night
Always in flight
stays these couriers
from the swift completion
Our mail tote: depletion
of their appointed rounds.
Soaring o’er the rabbl’ing ground.
PART II (10-minute read)
Turning Point by Hugh W. Roberts
Putting his right hand into the trouser pocket of his postal carrier uniform, Mike felt the outline of the handle of the revolver. He knew his jealousy was forcing an extreme situation to develop.
Two floors above, Sophie wished she could wish herself back to the postal depot where she and Mike worked, so she could escape the extreme situation Doug was putting her in.
Just before deciding now was the right time to smother Sophie’s face with the pillow; he was holding, Doug’s vision became a little blurry. Why had Sophie put them both in this extreme situation?
Lucy’s Letter by Padmini Krishnan
Lucy woke up, optimistic, knowing that something was about to change. She ran down the street when she heard the postman’s bike a couple of streets away. A letter from her wayward son! The postman looked at the 90-year old Lucy jumping up and down and realized that his efforts had been worth it. He had braved the storm, the governmental warnings, and a pickpocket to reach his destination. He smiled at Lucy. At this, Lucy became self-conscious and looked angrily at the postman. The grinning dumbo! After all, how would this man know how important her letter was!
Dead-Letter Drop by Bill Engleson
He was a spy fan, old Clarence was. Mailman by day, James Bond in his head by night.
Life held few mysteries for Clarence. No adventures. Just methodically serving his regular route in our hamlet, getting to know the people, forming friendships, sharing part of their lives.
When a customer died, word would spread, correspondence would stop, time would move on.
For a few, the lonelier ones, the occasional letter still showed up.
Before he’d return to sender, he’d steam open the envelope, visit the grave, read the epistle in the sinking twilight, reseal, send it on its way.
That Knock by Geoff Le Pard
Jem hated his left foot. Clubbed, they called it. ‘It’s okay, son,’ they said. ‘You’re useful. Post has got to be delivered.’
He’d got at white feather, too, from the woman he’d given the telegram to. ‘We’re sorry to inform you…’
Couldn’t blame her being bitter. Might have been him if they’d let him go.
And now there were two telegrams for Mrs Cutts. The ‘sorry’ one and one saying Petey’d got the Military Medal. Petey Cutts used to tease him about his foot. She took both, hands shaking like she’d the palsy. Petey didn’t seem so cruel now.
Changing Vocations by Susan Sleggs
In the PTSD group, a young war vet hung his head. “I quit nursing school because I had a panic attack every time I got near patients.”
Michael nodded with understanding, “Nothing to be ashamed of. What drew you to nursing?”
“I wanted to feel useful and help other people plus I’m good with details.”
“Admiral strengths. Well suited to a mailman. Delivering in all sorts of weather would be like serving.”
Six months later. “I dig my mail route and I met a gal that asked where and when I served, not what I did in the Army.”
Turning Points by Saifun Hassam
After college, Arlene returned to Nolan City, to hiking the SeaSquall Mountains. Freelancing in computer graphics, she also worked as a postal worker. Her favorite mail deliveries were to the rural residents along the winding mountain roads.
Today, a frigid January day, her last stop was for Mr. Travis, a retired forest ranger. He was unconscious, sprawled on the deep snow in the backyard.
Her mountain experience kicked in. She called ER. She piled warm clothes on Travis. When the ER Team arrived, the battered barbecue grill was ablaze with firewood.
A grateful Travis recovered. Arlene became a paramedic.
Mail Carrier by Colleen M. Chesebro
“Mr. Prichard, are you home?”
Jeanine nudged the door further ajar. Why was Mr. Prichard’s door open, she wondered? Her instincts kicked in. The hairs on her arm stood on end.
Regulations required postal workers to be alert for older patrons. If they didn’t pick up their mail regularly, a call to the police was mandatory.
But Mr. Prichard was her friend, and she couldn’t leave without making sure he was safe. She stepped inside the kitchen. The old man lay on the floor in a pool of blood. Without thinking, she dialed her phone.
“911 what’s your emergency?”
Mail Theft by tracey
Rhonda stood in the windy monsoon rain and stared at the back of the mailbox in dismay. Twenty-three years on the job and she was still shocked every time she encountered mail theft. Her own sense of integrity was so innate that she could never quite believe people would steal mail.
She tried to remember what she had delivered the day before knowing the thief was most likely looking for drugs.
With a sigh she called her supervisor and then carefully stowed the current mail back in the truck before removing all the remaining mail from the damaged box.
On the Horns of a Dilemma by Margaret G. Hanna
“It’s easy. Everyone here does it.”
“It’s theft. And not everyone does it.” I glanced around. The mail room was bustling. Would anyone notice?.
Joe slit the parcel open. “Jackpot! A digital camera!” He took it out and retaped the box, then handed me the knife. “Your turn. Pick a parcel.”
I was new, bottom of the ladder. Would I be shunned, or worse, if I told the supervisor? Could I live with myself if I didn’t?
I pushed the knife away. “No thanks.” I wouldn’t steal but I wouldn’t blab. I needed the money for my wife’s medical expenses.
Working Conditions (BOTS) by Nancy Brady
Recently, a postman climbed out of his truck, grabbing a package to deliver. Although his vehicle was pulled to the side of the road, he was sideswiped by a driver who wasn’t paying attention. The driver didn’t stop; he hit the man and kept going.
Sustaining injuries that included two broken legs and a crushed pelvis, Carl was off work recovering for more than a year.
Now, all the post office trucks around here sport a red flag. The flag is a recent addition, but became necessary to protect the men and women who deliver the mail, particularly packages.
Vestiges of Forgotten Purpose by Jo Hawk The Writer
Tristao shifted the heavy pack, gnarled fingers burrowed under the frayed strap as he eased the pressure on his stooped shoulder.
Once, he bounded through town, nimbly negotiating steep steps, winding ascents, and narrow passageways like the goats that climbed the mountain protecting his birth city. The residents greeted him, eager for the letters he carried. He was their noble messenger, their link to far-flung family and friends. They shared the latest gossip and a welcome snack.
Now he met only faceless receptacles. He fed blank gaping mouths, with empty messages no one wanted. Tomorrow, Gaspar collected the garbage.
Dead Letters by Annette Rochelle Aben
Ted nonchalantly punched in the access code and waited patiently for the arm to rise. The maze of storage units could be confusing but not to Ted, as he had been coming here nearly once a day for several months.
Without a care in the world, he began tossing the white plastic bins in left and right. Laughing, Ted thought about how much he hated everything about being a postal worker. The weather, the barking dogs and he especially hated the mail! He hated it so much that he hadn’t delivered any in months, except to this storage unit.
The Tenacious Mailman by Ruchira Khanna
Jimmy squinted his eyes and took laborious steps towards the last drop out.
Sweat dripping from his grey sideburns and his tongue hanging due to thirst under his sun hat.
He dropped off the post in the mailbox of the mansion-like house and admired the manicured lawn while wiping sweat off his forehead.
Walked back to his postal van and sat gingerly on the seat. After gulping a copious amount of water, he let out a deep sigh with a smile as if he did a touchdown!
“Ten more days until I retire, and all this will be history.”
Express Mail by D. Avery
“Frankie! Dang! Cain’t believe ya ventured through this blizzard.”
“Had to. There’s letters for Carrot Ranch.”
“Can we git ya anythin’ Frankie?”
“Yes, Kid, get me a glass so I can keep an eye out. I’m eyein’ that glass a whiskey too, Pal. Ah, thanks. Now. How ‘bout you read them letters I delivered?”
“This un’s from thet reliable Ranch hand Susan Sleggs. It’s ta ever’one at the Ranch:
Dearest Ranch Hands,
I look forward to your stories. Lots of times you make me
laugh and there is always some excitement added, or
thought to ponder. You’ve also shown me how to
accomplish meeting the prompt’s expectations, especially
during the Rodeo. You’ve helped me improve as a fellow
Thanks for letting me ride with you.
Thank you for showin’ others how Ranch writin’ works.
Whoa. That’s purty heartfelt. Kid, you read this ‘un. Looks ta be a poem by the Poet Lariat.”
“Roses are red
Violets are blue
Adore all the Hands at the Ranch
That one ‘hudret’ percent true
(Though mine own self I like alot –
Some days the prompts
Put me in a spot…)
We’re all seekin the right combination
To keep our friends attentions
Sharpen’ our pencils
Making sure our pens have ink
‘Specially when we choose
To challenge ourselves
Every week to the edge, the brink
Of what we think are limitations
Of our imaginations…
Keeping our learning sharp
Accepting all for their worth
Because characters matter
As we pursue and fine tune
The Literary Arts!”
-The Poet Lariat
“Don’t thet jist sum it up?”
“Frankie ain’t the only one kin deliver.”
another great volume and variety of flash fiction! fun fact – in New Jersey, mail trucks and emergency vehicles are the only ones that can cut through a funeral procession…
That could make for an interesting story, Jim. A potential what if …
maybe in the hands of someone more creative than me! 🙂
Well done Boss. True to character, you delivered, despite extreme conditions. It is a stellar collection.
Had help with the socializing so I could go work silently in the barn, collecting tales. Needed to keep my hands busy.
Pen Pal (& Kid, et al)
-Hi. The letters that Kid and Pal read in the round up are a result of Jules Paige and Susan Sleggs responding to the following letter that was in the challenge comment section:-
Dear Ranch Hands,
I didn’t like where the first Yarns ended up, that’s what I get for rushing them off in my sleep. Wrote myself into a corner with the arrival of the letter.
So if anyone would like to write that letter, addressed to ANY Carrot Ranch Yarn character* in 99, 59, or 9 words, please do so. That’s right, interactive Yarns.
Just drop the letters off here in the comments. Thanks.
*Kid, Pal, Shorty, Aussie, Doc Ranger, Poet Lariat, Pepe Legume, Ornery Ernie, Wanda, Frankie, Nanjo, Loggatha LeGume, Slim Chance… I think that’s it.
-Susan just left a question for Pepe Legume which I will include here, along with Pepe’s response (in 99 words, no more no less) Please feel free to address any of the Yarn characters here in the comments and I will try to convince them to get back to you promptly. –
“Does Pepe Legume use his scent as a weapon?”
Dear Meez Suzan,
Eet ees I, Monsieur LeGume. I use your question to remin’ one an’ all dat dees ees a very safe place, dees Ranch, dees Buckaroo Nation, so no, dees scent for wheech I am known, eet ees my supar power, but ees not ever a weapon. While day say dat de best defence is a strong offence, I believe in de free range principles of dees Ranch, derefore, no fence. Where I come from we say ‘better a stinker dan a sinker’ an’ ‘just wait, eet weel dissipate’.
Suzan, weapons stink up de world. Try love.
The level of play gets mighty serious around this ranch. Carrots are fortifying.
Loved each and every one!
[…] February 4: Poemed “An Overworked Poem About the Post,” in response to Carrot Ranch‘s […]
Calling in to report for Carrot Ranch. An awesome selection of stories. Well done carrot ranchers. Sorry I didn’t have time to join in this week. Been stressed up to the mega eyeballs. By the time I intended to join in realised I’d missed the deadline. That’s how bad my postman pat is. He’s sacked!
Thanks, Marje! <3
Love the variety! Great job, everyone.
Fantastic job everyone!
such amazing work. I loved all the entries. Great creativity! <3
Missed this week, but I have enjoyed reading everyone’s take on this. Well done, friends!
Thanks, Ranchers! <3
A delicious buncha carrots. All duly delivered. Nice, warming addition to a cold evening’s dark.