A Mailman Drinking a Milkshake
BY WILLIAM TODD SEABROOK
It is getting late and my mail truck is soaking up the heat of the day, but I can’t bring myself to leave the Dairy Queen parking lot. My milkshake is thin and the machine-crushed cherries plug up the straw. Across the street there is a person in a cow suit holding a sign for the Ranchero Restaurant, a filthy place with filthy food. Filthy customers, too. The floors are cleaner than the customers. Not that I’ve ever eaten there. I am not so filthy as to be caught dead in a place like that, a place where they would grind up my corpse with the peppers and stuff it in the enchiladas. A place where they send out a guy in a cow suit to burn alive on the side of a road just so they can advertise their greasy meats.
When I move to Hollywood, that cow will be in my first film. I’ll put him in a short, haunting scene toward the end, and when the critics see his pathetic form they will weep and say, here is a disgusted man. The manager at Ranchero’s will see his name in the credits, next to mine, and he will fall to his knees under the weight of his mistakes. Lo, I knew him when.
There is still mail to be delivered, but that is not enough to move me. There is always mail to be delivered, whether I shove it in mailboxes or not. All the names are the same, and the addresses repeat. I could burn the lot of it and they would still fill this truck to the brim. Heap it on by the shovelful, bury me alive in it, see what I care.
A strip mall blocks the horizon to my left. The other way stands St. Anselm’s church. A cemetery next to it, choked in trillium.
All of it retched.
I tap the cherries out of my straw and spill some shake on my uniform. I pull a direct mailer out of the pile to wipe it off. It is coated in pictures of meat, and the address smears but it’s still there, like the cow suit across the street. I can’t look at either of them without seizing in terror. My liver throbs when I look west. My gall bladder swells when I look east.
If whoever’s in the cow suit collapses from the heat, I am sure I will move. I have to. I will crank my engine and bull through the traffic lanes. I will haul him into my truck, tilting the rest of my milkshake down his throat to bring him back to life, and then we will go—Ohio to California in one shot. When we are free of the county line, he will take off his stinking suit, and I will throw stacks of letters into the wheel wells.
That is what I will do.
I clutch the milk-stained mailer to my chest like it’s one of my very own organs and pound my head against the steering wheel.
Fall, please! Don’t you see the world is eating us alive?