Thursday, February 16, 2017

Story 173: Return to Sender

            Every day, she received mail that was addressed to previous tenants.  Usually they were circulars or random offers, so on the ones that did not include the phrase “Or Current Resident,” she entered her own phrase “Return to Sender” and put the postal service to double work.
            The past-due bill concerned her: didn’t the former tenants have their mail forwarded?  Oh well, not her problem, “Return to Sender.”
            Three months after she had moved in and the mail not addressed to her still was being delivered steadily.  She knew the mail carriers were obligated to deliver as addressed, but she wondered if they thought she was running a frat house before receiving her response, “Return to Sender.”
            She was surprised one evening when there was a knock at her door; that just didn’t happen in her building.  She peeped through the peephole and saw a woman standing in the hallway: she searched her memory and recalled seeing this person once, in the distance, climbing the main staircase.  She opened the door to this neighbor, keeping her carving knife out-of-sight on standby.
            The neighbor’s arms were full of mail.
            “Hi,” the neighbor said, “we’ve never met before today, and we’ll probably never speak to each other again after this, but I saw these letters were piled on top of your bursting mailbox and I couldn’t just leave them like that.”  The neighbor passed the letters into her arms; the latter kept staring at the former.  “You might want to get in touch with some of these guys so they’ll stop sending you stuff – I’ve never seen it this bad in my life.  Good luck with that!”  And the neighbor disappeared from her world forever.
            She continued staring as she held the falling mail.  She seems nice, she thought, then returned to the kitchen to inflict writer’s cramp on herself, “Return to Sender.”
           The next night, a thump sounded against her front door.  She peeped and saw no one, so she opened the door to see a package had been left behind.  The label listed her address but a different, although familiar, name: she looked up in time to see the delivery truck screeching off into the night.
            She called the number of the company listed on the label but they were closed.
           As is often the case in life, she found herself in an unsought-after moral dilemma: normally she would never open someone else’s package, but this one had an extra label of “Live Specimens – Open Immediately Upon Receipt!!!!”  The dilemma had the added layer of her not wanting to deal with live specimens.
            She opened the box so as to be responsible for the lesser charge of mail fraud over the greater one of negligent homicide.  As she did so, the landline that she had never replaced rang.
            “Hi, is this the new tenant?”  The voice asked.
            “Who wants to know?”  She hedged.
            “I’m the previous tenant – listen, I made a mistake the other day and had a box sent there, did it arrive yet?”
            “It sure did, and I don’t think I can ‘Return to Sender’ it.”
            “That’s all right, you can leave it outside and I’ll come pick it up right now.  You didn’t open it or anything, right?”
            “It’s extremely important for your own safety and for all of humanity that the contents of that box stay in that box.  Please tell me you didn’t open it!”
            “It said ‘Open Immediately!’  They were alive, I couldn’t leave them to their fate!”
            “Oh no, where are they?!”
            “Right here – ” she looked in the box and saw it was empty.  She then saw that the curtains at the open living room window had rustled, even though the air was still.  “Actually, I think they’re on the loose.”
            “Oh no!  We’re all doomed!”
            “Well don’t go looking to blame me because you can’t remember where you live.  What are those things, anyway?”
            “They’re everyone’s problems now.  I’ll be around soon to try to track them down – keep your windows and doors closed and don’t go outside for at least the next two hours.  Thanks anyway.”  The call disconnected.
            Oh well, she thought as she broke down the box for recycling.  Whatever happens to the world because of those things, she probably still will be receiving that guy’s mail until the bitter end.


  1. great take on the "dreaded" previous tenant's mail. it is amazing how many people fail to change their address. good story.