Okay, so here's the story.
There came a day a few years ago when I took my route out to the street for delivery, and in my truck I carried something practically guaranteed to make my morning interesting, if not downright terrible. I had a registered letter for The Terror.
Now, the thing about the registered letter is that the recipient has to sign for it. I fill out a slip, they sign it, I trade them the signed slip for the registered letter. Sounds simple, right?
But this meant that rather than sneaking in and out of the entrance to the terror's building, slipping the mail into the boxes in the front hall with all the silent stealth of a ninja made of feathers and shadow, I had to knock on the door to the Terror's lair.
As I approached the home of The Terror through the crisp, cold January morning, I knew she was home long before I ever even touched the doorknob, never mind actually entering the hall. Women yelled and men bellowed. Tires screeched and doors slammed. There was a burst of music, and someone started going on in gushing tones and amazing volume about Folgers coffee.
The Terror was watching television, the sound turned up so high it was clearly audible outside the brick building that was all bundled up for winter, even though I had ear buds in and was wearing both a watch-cap-style hat and the hood from my sweatshirt. The Terror was, suffice to say, a little deaf.
There are sticks and stones that wouldn't have needed the television turned up quite so loud. A corpse would have winced at the volume levels.
I entered the blisteringly hot hall without my usual stealth, banging the wall-boxes open and filling them with that day's mail delivery. I held on to the mail for The Terror, though, and had it in hand as I knocked on the door to her unit. Inside I could hear a man professing his long-time love for a woman while she rebuffed him, haughtily, their slightly stilted language causing the phrase 'soap opera' to float through my head.
I knocked again, louder this time. Inside a different man and woman plotted the death of another man, as a way for the two of them to be both together and rich. This confirmed my 'soap' suspicion, but did nothing toward getting my slip signed and me on my way. The heater built into the hall wall was working overtime, and I was dressed for weather around 20 degrees, so the thick warmth of the hall was starting to get to me. I yanked off my hood, unzipped my coat partway, and drummed my knuckles against the door with all the authority of an angry landlord trying to collect the rent, or maybe a Jehova’s Witness who’s been given a quota.
Inside the conspirators discussed the effects their poison would have on their target in hushed tones that could be heard for better than a half a mile.
I sighed, blinked, and under the row of the Terrible Television heard a soft squeak-squeak sound. I listened closely, blinked, and heard it again, a sound like the world’s tiniest windshield-wipers scraping across dry glass. I realized the heat that was blasting out of the wall unit and rolling about the hall had dehydrated my eyeballs almost to the point of desiccation, and I broke and fled the hall, stuffing the mail into The Terror’s box and bursting out into the clear, cold air.
I moved on to the next building (there are four units per building in this development) and delivered the mail to the boxes in their front hall. The heat in this hallway was, I was relived to find, only turned up to “Hard to Believe”, rather than “Completely Ridiculous”, and I made it in and out of the building without having to remove my hood. I exited the building and started for the next one in line when I was brought up short by a sound like a train whistle… if there had been a train whistle designed to mimic the raw-throat sound of a cawing crow, that is.
“Heeeeeey! Heeeeeey! Heeeeeey!”