From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage.
Melanie had given thought to exactly what time she’d arrive at the post office. On top of the usual business post, money withdrawals and general enquiries, with the season’s festivities in full swing, one might expect a very long weight indeed. Eleven forty-five accounted for a decent margin of error ahead of the morning rush hour and before any sensible person’s lunch break. Pulling the front door towards her, she could see two people already in the queue and an elderly gentleman gathering up some paperwork about to leave.
Not a perfect walk in – walk out, she thought to herself with a barely audible sigh, but hey, it’s that time of year, I could have joined a line leading out of the shop and around the corner! Challenging initial, negative automatic thoughts had become a habit for Melanie only recently. She imagined her therapist observing, seated in a wingback armchair surrounded by clouds, hands resting on lap, a satisfied expression evident.
Looking ahead of the man in front of her, she scrutinised the retirement aged woman now at the front, approaching the counter and unhooking a large leather handbag from her shoulder. Melanie pondered to the reason for the visit and how well organised the transaction would unfold. Please keep small talk to an absolute minimum, she imagined herself saying through a young child’s toy megaphone.
“Good morning to you, Mr Chaudrey – it is still morning isn’t it?”
The postmaster examined his wristwatch. “Good morning Mrs Dumbrelle, yes – just about so.”
“I have some cards to send off, some normal ones to England, one to brother George in America and one to my son and daughter-in-law in New Zealand. So I need to sort through these and make sure I put the right stamp on the right envelope.” Clasp unclipped, a hand delved inside.
“That’s alright, take your time, I can help you.”
“Thank you, that’s very kind. My eyesight’s not what it used to be,” Mrs Dumbrelle’s foraging continued with a mild air of frustration.
Resigned, turning away, Melanie scrutinised the display shelves on the wall. Considerable stock presented in neat rows of different coloured post-it notepads, disposable ball-point pens and envelopes available in a variety of sizes, failed to raise her spirits. A minuscule flicker on the fluorescent strip light directly above, drew her gaze upwards. Why, she wondered, would you cover the ceiling and walls in a lurid green paint?
She watched as Mrs Dumbrelle thumbed through her retrieved cards, holding each one up to squint closely at the hand-written addresses, before sliding them through the gap under the glass screen towards the postmaster. Melanie’s gaze blurred. After several seconds had passed, a small white rectangular shape appealed for her attention. Uncertainty snapped her back into fully engaged consciousness and she identified a clothing label, sticking out from the collar of the man in front.
The upside down script font presented no obstacle for reading the label, despite its frayed edges. Even so, she did not recognise the brand, while the “L” printed within a black circle seemed a right enough sizing, going by the man’s stature.
Now seen, she couldn’t place it outside of her mind. The magazines she had no interest in, lining racks to her right, had little chance of providing any solace. Then she remembered her phone, slid it out of a pocket, unlocked the screen and began opening a series of icons. Okay… she thought, no new notifications on Facebook. Let’s check Instagram… no… no new posts there since this morning, I need to follow more people. Snapchat, no nothing, emails nothing. Christ, just that tiresome label sticking out, that’s all there is that’s new in my world right now.
Melanie began reasoning with herself. If someone tapped on my shoulder to tell me my label was sticking out, I’d be grateful. It’s never happened to me, but if it did, I would turn around and immediately thank that person – even if they were a complete stranger. But then – that’s me. What would someone else think? Who can I text and ask? Her best friend Taylor came to mind. So, how would she phrase her text?
Hey Taylor, you ok? I’m stuck in the post office, this guy in front of me, his jacket label is sticking out, do you think it’s ok for me to just tuck it back in?
So, I’m in a queue with a guy in front of me and his jacket label is sticking out. Should I ask him if it’s ok for me to tuck it back in for him? That’d be ok, wouldn’t it?
A photo, Melanie decides, would seal the message, demonstrate the pressing need for appropriate action to be taken. Holding her phone up, close to the back of the man, she tapped the screen to focus the image, then pressed the red button to take the photo.
Next moment, there was a ka-shick sound that cut through the post office customer area. Melanie had forgotten to engage the silent mode function on her phone. “Oh cripes!” she said – bringing her hand holding the phone down quickly and her free hand, as the man turned around, up to cover her mouth.
“Did you just take a photo of the back of my head?” He asked, staring at Melanie quizzically.