by Than Pence
Cramp Winner: Gary and Lucas are stuck.
|“Why does a post office have an airlock?”
“What? What are you talking about?” Lucas pulls the first door open and holds it, letting Gary in first. “This isn’t a space ship. It’s a post office. Now come on.”
Gary pulls the second door open, holds it. “This space we’re in right now. This is an air lock.”
Two inches from his friend’s face, he sees Lucas squint as he squeezes by him. “Dude, it’s just a door.” A noise outside draws Gary’s attention; he releases the door. When it closes, the ground shakes slightly, disorienting Gary.
Inside, he sees Lucas brace himself, feet apart, bent at the knees, an eternal linebacker. “What the hell…?”.
“An… it’s… over.” Gary sighs. “An earthquake?”
Lucas looks through the sturdy glass at Gary. “An earthquake? Really?”
Gary nods. He pulls the handle.
It doesn’t move.
His heart lurches as he swiftly turns and pushes on the other door. It’s frozen.
“What the hell, man!?”
“The doors. They’re stuck!”
Lucas sighs, proceeding to the counter. “Whatever, man.”
Looking inside, Gary notices the main counter is already closed up. “What are you doing? There’s no one in there. Help me!”
“I know there’s no one in here. They’re closed. I needed to drop a letter.”
Gary, incredulous, says, “What are you talking about? Y-you could’ve done that out there,” he says while pointing toward the blue mailbox they drove by.
Lucas frowns. “Nah, man. That’s slower out there.” He pulls the giant metal handle on the wall inside the office. Dropping his envelope, he adds, “And I need this to go out today.”
“You’re crazy. Why do you think one is faster than the other?” Gary feels his blood pressure rising, but isn’t sure if it is the tiny air lock or his friend’s ridiculous ideas surrounding the postal service.
Lucas, walking toward the door, shrugs. “It just… is. What the hell? What’s with this door?”
Rolling his eyes, Gary says, “That’s what I said. I think the quake jammed the doors shut.”
“That’s not possible. The lobby is supposed to always be open.”
Gary shrugs. “Mother nature doesn’t think like you, Lucas.”
“But I’m trapped in here!”
“Yeah, and I’m trapped in here! Because you have some idiot notion that the mail you drop inside that damn box is somehow faster than the giant blue one outside.”
Lucas rolls his eyes. “You just answered your own question, bro.”
Gary analyzes his immediate thought. “I didn’t ask a question.”
“The big box outside is big. They only empty that one out there when it’s full. And it takes forever for it to fill up. Because…” he trails off while holding his arms wider.
“Because you’re… crazy?” supplies Gary.
“Because it’s so big. I could fit in there. Maybe even you could fit in there,” says Lucas, causing Gary’s neck to prickle with heat. He hates that Lucas brings up his weight all the time; even more so now that they’ve graduated.
“Whatever, man,” he says, hoping to let the casual insult slide. Sitting on the floor, Gary pulls out his cell phone as Lucas starts to pace inside. Cellular service in the area is spotty at best. Gary concludes the earthquake must have eroded the signal completely.
“You tryin’ to call Professor Trape? Let her know we can’t come into class tonight on account of us bein’ trapped inside the post office?”
“I don’t have any signal,” replies Gary as he puts his phone away.
Lucas heaves a breath. “Well that’s just great. Craptacular Cellular wins another endorsement. At least you can play something. I left my phone in the truck.”
“It’s hot in here. I don’t feel like playin’ anything.”
“What do ya mean? It’s kinda cool in here.”
“No, dingus. In here. It’s hot,” but Gary already regrets mentioning it. Lucas was going to pull it back to his weight and how he wouldn’t be so hot if there wasn’t so much of him. “And don’t even say it, Luc.”
“Say what?” he says from the other side of the door as he sits cross-legged, facing Gary.
“Say… how I’m hot… because I’m fat.”
“I…” and he stops. Gary looks at Lucas through the glass at his friend. His face is animated and silent.
“What’re you doin’?”
Lucas isn’t quick to respond, but when he does, it surprises Gary. “I’m… sorry I bring up your weight. A lot.”
“I’m s-sorry. I do it. A bunch. And I shouldn’t. And I’m sorry.”
Gary, his jaw loosening, says, “That’s what took you so long to respond?”
Lucas meets Gary’s eyes. They’re bloodshot suddenly, on the verge of tears. “Th-that’s what I was thinkin’ you’d say. “
Gary, confused, asks what he’s talking about.
“You just called me stupid.”
“With your tone. I ‘eard it. I know I’m not the brightest kid in the crayon box. And I was just thinkin’, jus’ now, about the fat stuff. And it got me to thinking about why I do it.” Gary starts to feel warm again, but he knows it’s not because of the heat. He knows that Lucas is verging onto an idea that Gary had settled on some time ago: they both put each other down in subtle ways because they both hated something about themselves.
“I point it out because I know I’m not very smart, or whatever. And you are. And I think… that you’ll realize you’re too smart to be friends with me.”
Gary, stunned, starts to sniffle. He pulls his sleeve to his cheek and wipes water away.
“Dude, we’re friends. Best friends. We’re never going to be anything else.” He sniffles again. Lucas does, too. “I’m not even that smart.”
“You’re not that big, either, man. I’ll be catching up ‘fore long.”
It is several hours, almost dawn the next day, before they’re discovered. They once entered the post office annoyed at themselves and each other. When finally they leave, they’re closer than ever before.
Word Count: 1,000