by Daniel Watts
Joe Schmoe was a regular fellow who delivered the post every morning to the same houses on the same nondescript streets. Plain hair. Plain walking shoes from Sketchers™ in a reasonable but daring (as his wife would describe them) black with a singular streak of electric blue. Uniform pressed neatly every morning by Mrs. Schmoe. “I packed a little extra something in your lunch pail,” she’d say, waving a white handkerchief to her handsome knight.
At lunch Joe reached into the back of his truck pulling out his lunch pail with extreme anticipation. Two sandwiches. An apple. A handful of carrots. A small tin of assorted pills—for your heart, dear—and wait, what was this? Joe pulled out a small bottle of chocolate milk. That woman spoils me!
Despite everything that was mundane about Joe, his thoughts were anything but. He was constantly thinking of the individual worlds tucked away behind the assorted doors and mailboxes of his route. Mrs. Abigail Petunia always received letters with official stamps stretched across brown envelopes. Definitely an undercover agent. Harry S. Stepford had at least thirty adverts delivered each morning. Compulsive buyer. Or perhaps convenient source of toilet paper? Ms. Agnes Grange was a jewel thief. Joe didn’t know how he knew this, but he attributed it mostly to the white, daintily embroidered gloves she held out to him each morning as she impatiently waited for her mail.
“What you staring at boy? I ‘aven’t got all day.”
One morning, as Joe plodded along—red door, blue tin mailbox, brown door, plastic mailbox, white door, metal mail slot—he got caught up in his thoughts. Approaching Pine Drive number 4530, Joe pulled out a stack of letters and absentmindedly sorted through them. He dropped them neatly into the gold mail slot in the black door. Mr. and Mrs. 4530 were new to the town and moved here to escape a recent con gone terribly wrong.
Then Joe had a wild thought. I’m going to prove they’re guilty. He put his hand on the cool metal doorknob and slowly turned it in his grip.
Joe stepped inside, his shoes making slight squeaking noises on freshly cleaned tiles. Was there a car in the driveway? The silence was palpable, much like his wife’s oven-fresh buns: hot and heavy, a dangerous combination.
He made his way into the kitchen and grabbed a banana from the counter, peeling the yellow dress back languorously. Lovely kitchen. I could do without the wainscoting, a bit over the top if you ask me. But of course no one was asking, for Joe was both alone and not an accomplished interior designer (it was, in fact, a backsplash and not wainscoting to which he was referring).
He traveled to the most sacred of spaces: the bedroom. He dropped his heavy satchel to the floor, and taking one look at the large bed neatly done in indigo satin, he plunged. Ten for ten. Good show, good show. I should consider doing this professionally.
Diving, as anyone knows, is strenuous work, and Joe promptly fell dead. Wait, something doesn’t seem quite right. Ah yes. Joe promptly fell asleep. Sorry ole’ chap. No harm, no foul?
Fortunately, due to the stunning array of pills Joe consumed every morning thanks to Mrs. Schmoe, Joe was gifted with excellent hearing. Or perhaps those two things aren’t quite related and he just had good hearing. He jolted awake to the steady click of high heels on the tiled floor. Three inch high heels. Size seven. Black patent leather. Ooo, very chic. Too dressy for the office? What’s this? A small gold clasp? Unexpected. Daring, as my wife would say. Thoughts, upon waking, are never quite spot on as the tiny tendrils of dreamy fog curl around them and distort the mind. The heels were in fact, three and a half inches high and they were coming straight for the bedroom.
Joe’s eyes shuffled about the room in a mad dance as he looked for an escape route. The window was firmly shut and decided he might rip his uniform if he busted through the glass, which looked so easy in movies, but Joe was a postman and not a stunt double. The bathroom wouldn’t be ideal as women do indeed use it (this he learned in his first few years of marriage). The closet was even less ideal as women live a large majority of their lives fluttering weakly to its gentle glow. That left two options: face the intruder or duck under the bed.
“Must he always leave the bed in such a mess?” A woman’s rich voice filled the room. “For once, oh never mind.”
She kicked off her heels, black stockings dropped neatly beside them, along with a sleek red skirt. Joe, frozen to the spot, breathed shallow breaths, thoughts scampering off in wild directions.
Eventually, the woman left the room and Joe began concocting stories. Well, you see, I made a mistake and dropped in a letter not addressed to you. I thought I heard a dog whimpering and as an animal activist could not bear the thought of it being in pain. I’m actually with the police. Your life is in serious danger and we need to run away together at this very instant. The last seemed most plausible and sensible to Joe. He readied himself and began slowly inching his way from beneath the bed.
He stopped. The door opened and in walked a man. Size eleven. No heel. Well perhaps a slight ¾ of an inch. Brogues. Brown, but unpolished.
“Pumpkin? Is that you?” the woman’s voice, faint, called from the living room? second bathroom?
He retreated to the shadows of his new dominion and watched as brown shoes were joined on the ground by navy trousers and a grey silk tie. Now what?
The interesting thing about taking up residency underneath someone’s bed is that while one sees very little, one hears a lot. Bedrooms are littered with secrets much like the clothes that lie strewn about on the ground, dirty—to varying degrees—and openly exposed. Eventually, they are gathered and done away with, but there seems to linger in the room the reminiscence that they will soon reoccupy the space, an endless cycle. Medium, cold-cold, delicates.
Days turned into weeks. Joe’s thoughts were consumed with clothes, with intimacy, with betrayal. Pumpkin wears a size 34 waist and those Bermuda shorts certainly suggest otherwise. But Pumpkin and Honey had their gushing nights as well; Joe was often rocked to sleep by the strainings and groanings of the bed. It must have been a lovely evening. An emerald silk gown fluttered to the floor, an ephemeral treasure trove that was quickly stashed away. It was quickly joined by a sharp, black tuxedo that rested in a jumbled passion.
His wife was worried sick: the post stopped being delivered, and the town was on the hunt for the missing man whose mail truck was stationed on the corner of Pines Drive. This he knew because he heard it from Honey. Pumpkin was disinterested and decided that Joe was probably just sick of his wife and needed a vacation.
“The woman is a loony, I’m not surprised he’s run off. He’s probably on some island in the sun. Wouldn’t that be swell? Honey, can you help with this cuff?”
Joe did his stretches every morning, shopped for breakfast in the sleek fridge and polished cabinets, and read a number of books. He began stockpiling small amounts of food within the springs above his head for when he got hungry in the evening, although he desperately wished he could join Honey and Pumpkin for dinner as the aromas often engulfed him in his shadowy lair. Cereal was highly inconvenient because the plastic was too crinkly, and chewing too crunchy. Oranges, far too aromatic. Leftovers, too suspicious and he lacked a microwave. Maybe I could fit one right over here. Add in a small fan here for the stifling summer nights. Perhaps I could squeeze in a small lamp as well.
What Joe did not think of was that Honey and Pumpkin were generally meticulous with their cleaning. He only had managed for so long because they hated the demeaning task of kneeling in submission to the thing which they already attributed so much of their life. But the task had to be done.
Honey reached a long, slender arm beneath the bed in search of any articles that had been fed haphazardly to the gaping maw of the indigo beast. Of the articles that had been devoured, Joe would promptly spit them out (he couldn’t really afford the encroachment on his space) but Honey didn’t know this. Neither did Joe know that there was a hand snaking towards him as it was half past four (near the end of his mid-afternoon nap, which meant REM cycle number 3—or, the most pleasant of dreams). Honey screamed as she felt the warmth of Joe’s arm and Joe screamed as he was rudely ripped from his waltz with Keira Knightley.
He emerged in a dramatic swoop from underneath the bed—a move he had mastered within the months of rigorous training—facing Honey. They both stared at each other with baffled expressions on their faces. Honey, for the obvious reason of witnessing someone emerge from underneath her bed; Joe, because he had never before seen above the ankles of this woman he felt he knew rather well.
She was beautiful. A shapely body, deep brown eyes framed by late autumn hair, elegant lips parted in a gentle gasp. Freckles adorned her skin. She was wearing a muted gold shift dress that caught the late evening sun. A golden charm bracelet whipped about her delicate wrist as Honey frantically waved it in front of Joe’s glossed eyes.
“Hello! What are you doing in my house?”
Joe came up with the only reasonable explanation. One that he had gone over the lonely nights under the bed. “Honey. Your life is in jeopardy. But this is no game. We’ve got to go now,” he said with a Sean Connery-esque terseness. He swept her into his arms for dramatic effect and looked at his watch for even more dramatic effect.
What would Pumpkin have said had he walked in just at that moment? He didn’t so we shan’t dwell on that thought.
What would Mrs. Schmoe have said? What would Mrs. Schmoe say? Joe dropped Honey to the ground with an abrupt thump and scurried out of the room.
Needless to say, entering into houses that do not belong to you can often create interesting situations.
Joe continued to deliver the mail day after day. Mrs. Schmoe upped the pill dosage because Joe seemed rather excitable these days. Pumpkin continued not caring. And as for Honey, well, she delivered a beautiful baby nine months later. The neighbors cooed and awed at his dimpled cheeks and professed that he looked just like his father. Pumpkin, however, wasn’t convinced. But then again, you can never quite tell with babies.
Daniel Watts: I’m terrible at these things. What am I supposed to put here again? I like long walks on the beach, romantic candlelit dinners, and slow dancing to… wait no, this might not be the best place for this. I’m a Junior at BYU studying sociocultural anthropology (that doesn’t entail working at that furniture/clothing store). I aspire to be a writer by day and Batman by night. Or something along those lines.