My apologies to my regular readers for the lateness of this post (due on Friday, out on Monday). There will be another, short post, tomorrow evening. But until then...
Here's the story.
I was at the post office one morning. I had my route all sorted, and I was just about to pull it all down out of the rack and head out to the street for delivery. One of the last things you do before you pull your route down is go get your parcel hamper. This morning when I went to fetch the hamper, there was something in there other than brown cardboard boxes: one of those white postal tubs was in there too. I checked the tub and found that it was full of yet another package, and I mean full. The box in there seemed to be exactly the right size to fill the tub, and was actually snugged right down in there.
The top of the box looked a little funny, a little weathered, actually a little wet. I gave the cardboard a gentle poke and it parted like... well, like wet cardboard. Okay, I thought, this package must have been caught in the rain somewhere along the line, and the clerks slipped it into this tub to keep the whole thing from falling apart. Probably a good plan. I hooked my fingers through the handles on either side of the tub and puled it up out of the hamper.
It came up with a wet sucking sound, kind of like when you pull a stuck boot out of deep mud. I looked down into the bottom of the hamper and saw a pool of some sort of fluid, thick and syrupy, glistening as more of whatever it was dripped down in a steady stream from the corner of the tub I now held high. It smelled a little sour, a little rancid, and just plain bad. Snugged down in the tub like it was I could only see one actual side of the box, and that was the top, but I could see that on that one side alone the box had been stamped "Perishable" three times. Someone had decided to ship some fruit or something, and had thought stamping it like that would cover all the bases. Unfortunately, the contents of this box were no longer perishable.
They had perished.
I brought the whole mess over to my rack and sat the tub on top of my trash barrel on a bit of an angle. The leaking corner of the tub was aimed down into the trash-bag-lined bin, and you could hear the steady drip-drip-drip of the badness juice leaking into the trash. I went to get a few handsfull of paper towels and mopped out my hamper as best I could, then wheeled it over to where the mess awaited.
It did not wait alone.
My supervisor that day (and not, I feel compelled to note here, my regular boss, of whom I have written before) was standing by my trash barrel, looking into the tub of Nasty with an expression of faint disgust.
"Do you want me to put that in a bag for you, so you don't have to touch it?"
It was kind of him to offer, but I pointed out that putting it in the bag to keep me from touching it was just going to require his touching it. He claimed he had the solution. He fetched a trash bag from the storage room and simply up-ended the tub, dumping the whole mess directly into the bag. He then put that whole mess into another bag, showing a lot more sense than the last teen-aged boy who bagged my groceries for me at the supermarket. (I'll save the story of how I designed new and creative curse words as cans rained down through the broken plastic bag and on to my feet when I was half-way up the stairs for another day.)
I was impressed with his technique, and thanked him profusely. He merely walked on, brushing off my thanks and compliments, and went about his job. Honest to God, all he needed was a black mask and a buckskin-clad sidekick and it would have been just like the end of an old episode of the Lone Ranger.
Well, maybe not, but you get the point.
So it was with confidence that I went out to load my route into my truck, the box-in-a-bag riding in the cargo area in back. It was with trepidation that I looked forward to delivering the box-in-the-bag later in the afternoon -- I didn't want to just drop the whole mess on their porch and drive away. Well... alright, I really did, but it wasn't the responsible thing to do. I'd have to ring the bell and try to explain.
The problem was, the box. Over the course of the day it apparently lost all of its boxiness and decided to just pack it in and relax, disintegrating into nothing more than bits of wet cardboard floating about in the bag of funky fluid and bits of decay, like oyster crackers floating atop the vegetable soup from Hell.
Just like Satan's mother used to make.
So eventually, there I stood, ringing a doorbell with an expression of guilt on my face that I just couldn't shake. In my hand was a bag of liquid horribleness with those bits of cardboard floating in it, a trail of fetid leakage leading back across the boards of the deck toward my parked truck and pooling next to my feet.
While I was standing there, waiting for someone to answer my ring, a van pulled into the driveway. The man behind the wheel saw my squelchy burden and I saw him mouth the words "Uh-oh!"
Took the words right out of my mouth.
He parked the van, hopped out and made his way back to the porch where I waited. I could see him eyeing the big bag of nasty in my hand as he walked, and I tried to prepare myself for a tirade. Harsh words. Unfair criticism. 'What have you done!?'
I braced myself.
He got to me and stopped, still staring at the bag. Then he looked up at me and squinched up his face and spoke with a quiet, resigned tone.
"Didn't make it, huh?"
It was the understatement of the century.
I burst out laughing.
Talk to you later!