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For want of a letterbox

Shackled on October 1, 2023.

Tuesday this week delivered to me an ultimatum: Either make the trek to the nearest letterbox in order to deposit a letter into the U.S. Mail, or face the possibility of increasingly petulant dunning letters sent to me by another particularly miffed merchandise monger. In this case, I owed no small amount of moolah to the horse factory on Hobbyhorse Lane, from which I had finally purchased a much-needed new collection of asshats. Horse’s asshats, to be precise. My own mailbox was in the shop—something about a zipcode-recoding mishap taking out the entire sidewalk and all the mailboxes in a hundred-smoot radius. So, my only choice was to find the nearest U.S. Mail collection box, pray I arrived in one piece, actually arrive in one piece, deposit an envelope-enveloped check without getting my hand stuck in the gaping maw of the mailbox, and retreat home—hopefully with all fingers and both hands still attached to my Pnårpy frame.

Millions of other men, women, and children had accomplished this task over the past 170 years. Most of them had lived to tell the tale—so, why shouldn’t I?

I rounded a corner on Hegelian Avenue, plodding along stodgily, but with a sense of panic slowly rising in my craw. I had circled the entire downtown area, six times, in a classic spiral search pattern which was actually shaped more like a pile of soggy pretzels wrapped in yarn which had been hastily unspooled by an overexcited feline. I had yet to find a single letterbox. Nary a one was in sight—it was as if they had all decided to go the way of the disco-dancing dodo.

I did find someone dressed as Mike the Headless Chicken at the corner of Grimpley Street. He was standing very still and clucking wanly. But I wasn’t sure what to make of that find, so I resumed my search for a letterbox without a single word to the man in a chicken suit.

Still, other than those big, dark green mailboxes that don’t have a mailslot anywhere on them, none were to be found. No one knows what those are even for—but they certainly aren’t for placing letters into!

I got to surmisin’—certainly there was an explanation for the dearth of letterboxes. I first theorized that perhaps President Piggy-Man had ordered all the mailboxes be carted away on flatbed trucks. The knave had done it before—would he do it again? I then surmised that perhaps September 26 was some kind of postal party, and all the blue collection boxes had gotten together down at the post office to eat, drink, and be merry, leaving the green ones out here alone and abandoned. But no, after my brain-monkeys reminded me that boxes can’t move about on their own, let alone throw a party or drink booze, I realized what happened: The downtown area had suffered a horrible zip-plus-fouring accident. And it made the smaller philatelic mishap on Bouillabaisse Boulevard look like a walk in the goatburping park. Clearly this explained the destruction of all mailboxes in a six-mile radius. Clearly.

So, off to the post office itself, I must go. I didn’t relish trying to drop my letter directly in the gaping maw of an actual postal clerk, but what else could I do?

I stood in an endless line of sullen, defeated men and women. The line snaked from one end of the building to the other, then back again, around and through itself a few times. A man in his forties waited to purchase more stamps after his pet moose had eaten the ones he had. A young woman waited to mail a parcel shaped like a swordfish, which neither FedEx, nor UPS, nor even the obscure and mysterious DHL would touch. Someone dressed as Mike the Headless Chicken was in line ahead of me, clucking wanly. People from all walks of life waited in this queue, in mutual despair and despondency. Truly, the waiting line in a government office was the great equalizer. And at the far end of the line, a single postal clerk was present, hard at work eating his lunch.

A life-sized cardboard cutout of Kevin Costner still dressed as a postman stood in the corner trying to sell stamps and stamp accessories. The real Kevin Costner had long since apologized profusely for that movie—and defenestrated himself in guilt and shame, if memory serves—but here he lived on in glossy cardboard.

Ungodly, eldritch Muzak was being piped in over the PA system. The USPS had apparently commissioned Electronic Bufonic, a local EDM band, to compose postal-themed music. This piece was apparently about Every Door Direct Mail®, the world’s leading garbage delivery service. Or it was about a horrifying army of ancient frog–human–things rising from the deep to reconquer the planet for Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones. It was hard to tell.

The line moved another six inches. “EDM/EDDM” continued to play over the loudspeakers. The clerk had gone on break but another one had come out to take his place and have lunch at his desk. The line moved a few feet now—sideways, to let the first rather portly postal clerk waddle by on his way to his break.

This was truly Hell on Earth.

The day was ending and my philatelic adventure had finally come to a close. I, with a mere three dozen paper cuts, a bent cornea, and a crumpled letterbox wedged in a place letterboxes have no business being, considered it somewhat of a success. At least that check made out to the horse factory would get delivered in a timely manner—even if accomplishing this needed task did result in more fisticuffs, much clucking and squawking, defenestration, and finally a dented letterbox being shoved up my…

“Well, that’s rather consterning!” A sudden realization intruded into my ruminations: A month ago I mistook an herb for the name of the city where one of Charlie Witherspoonworth’s nemeses lived. “Whatever shall I do now? I look like an idiot!” I meeped shrilly, panic rising. I did the only I could do: I lifted the nearest storm drain, dove in, and hid down there for three days. Becasue would probably wonder where I was. Mail would go unanswered. More dunning letters would arrive and go unanswered. Even the porcupine nesting in my dishwasher and judging all my stupidity and insipidity would go unanswered. But the sacrifice would be worth it.

Oh, no! Moose rutting season begins today! And I haven’t a thing to wear!

Returning home after three days in that storm drain, I found myself locked in mortal combat with the U.S. Postal Service once more. My mailbox was bursting at the seams. The endless tide of junk mail again washed up on the shores of 229B Bouillabaisse Boulevard. I grimaced: The U.S. Mail—the nation’s complement to every city’s solid waste department. It truly was the finest garbage delivery network in the nation. In 2019, I had written to the Postmaster General and explained how much efficiency could be gained by simply parking every postal truck aback every garbage truck, akin to mating insects, whereupon the mailmen could simply hurl their stacks upon stacks of junk mail directly into the waiting maw of the garbage truck. I implored him to explore going this route rather than delivering a sack’s worth of garbage to every home in America every day. He did not write back.

“Christ on a crinière!” I fulminated mightily. September 26 wasn’t a postal holiday, but September 30 was International Blasphemy Day. I had a lot of catching up to do. That oblique reference to a French horse’s ass armor also reminded me to tell my big little blond huzzey-muffet that brasseries confusingly do not sell brassieres. And those waiters were quite shocked to learn that, too! “Fleas, flies, and friars! Fuccant! Illegitimate butts! Slechtstschrijvend!!

Someone dressed as Mike the Headless Chicken ambled by, clucking wanly. This time I had to confront this man—or whatever man–thing was inside that chicken suit. What man would dress in a such an absurd costume and put on such an absurd display? Certainly not a sane man. I leapt off my stoop and began my pursuit, refraining from clucking madly myself. But the man in the chicken suit had gone around a corner and when I bumbled around the corner myself, he was nowhere to be found. I grimaced. Mike the Headless Chicken had won this round again.

The week ended. It had been a long, strange week, but there was one thing I learned that made it all worth it: That clawed, skinless, eye-ridden demoness who haunts my dreams nightly, who flogs and tortures me in my nightmares until I wake up and defenestrate myself each morning in a shrieking panic, has sure taught me the value of putting a second mattress outdoors beneath my bedroom window. This lesson terrified me, so I stopped writing here.