The temptation was to turn them in for harassment, but an angel changed her mind.
|Writer's Cramp: Write a STORY, any genre, where the main character is a female letter carrier. The story should be set in a large city, and must include a feather, a harp, and a lost package. The theme of your story should be "TEMPTATION."
Feathers of Conscience
“Darn, they did it again!” I shrieked. The two idiot mail clerks always played tricks on me. Last week they'd glued my stack of letters together so that all of “C” Street was solidly attached to the mail bin. The week before that they'd sprayed water on the addresses so I couldn’t read them. This time, they’d poured something sugary all over the envelopes. My fingers and hands were sticky with it.
I kept walking. I had one hundred-thirty-three more offices to visit before I could stop off at the post office to clean up. But I'd get even this time. I was going straight to the supervisor. Gonna slap those guys with a big, fat sexual harassment suit. Enough was enough!
I dropped off the rest of the sticky letters -- the ones that hadn’t been too badly contaminated -- while thinking how deliciously sweet revenge would be. As I was imagining it, I heard harp music playing overhead. I looked up, but I couldn’t see anything. I was walking between office buildings. Only sky was above me.
I shook my head to clear it. Peter was the worst of the tricksters. I hoped my boss would strip him of his job. Peter was always begging me to go out with him, dropping slips of paper with his phone number, eyeing me with those puppydog eyes of his.
I turned the corner. The music started up again. I knew that song. I remembered it from my Sunday school days. Dang, why should I be remembering the tune right now? I shook my brain even harder, but it was if a harpist kept repeating the same lines over and over: I’ve got joy. I’ve got love in my heart.
“Cut it out!” I cried out, staring up at the clouds. The music stopped.
I sighed and walked on.
Peter’s friend, Billy, was a nightmare case, too. I’d get him fired as well. Then he and Peter could live on unemployment for awhile. See how they liked that!
The music started up again. I halted. “What the. . .?” My eyes searched the sky and the buildings. There was nobody around. City streets are like that, crowded one moment and then the next -- completely deserted.
The music grew louder. The fingers of the invisible harpist plucked without stopping, the music so real, so embracing, the sound of it was all around me. I did another inspection of the area.
“All right. I’m having a nervous breakdown,” I said to myself. “It’s no wonder with the way those two have been tormenting me!”
A single white feather drifted down. It wasn’t from any pigeon, I can tell you that. This was a big feather, like from an owl or an eagle -- except Chicago doesn’t have either of those.
Someone was still plucking away at the strings. A voice picked up the melody and added the words: I’ve got love in my heart. I twirled around, ready to catch the joker.
Once again, nobody was there.
I breathed in deeply and held the inhale. I thought over what I’d had for breakfast. Had the custard doughnut been off? Was I hallucinating due to ptomaine poisoning?
I’ve got joy. I’ve got love in my heart the beautiful tenor voice sang.
“Yes, I know,” I shouted out. “What’s that got to do with me?”
Images flashed through my mind. I was seeing Billy with his two little boys and his wife, Katy.
I moaned. I’d forgotten about Billy's family. Maybe I shouldn’t go after him. Maybe I should just name Peter. Billy would probably leave me alone after that . . .
Another feather dropped from the sky. I caught that one, too.
Then I remembered the package -- the one I‘d lost. It had been one of those special boxes, the kind a customer had to sign for, one stamped with a thousand dollars of insurance!
It was embarrassing to recall how I’d cried in front of everyone, and then to make it all worse, Peter had been the one to find the darn package. I’d believed at the beginning that it was Peter's fault -- another practical joke -- but it hadn’t been. The package had fallen out of my bag on the route, and Peter was the one who tracked it down. In fact, he’d mobilized everyone to go looking for it. I didn’t get in trouble that day -- only because of Peter. I could have been fired for the incident . . .
The singer stopped, and the harpist's plucking faded. “I don’t understand,” I cried out. “What are you trying to tell me?”
But I knew.
I returned to the post office and marched Peter and Billy into the backroom. “Listen, you guys, I’m fed up with this. No more pranks. You hear me?”
Billy looked miserable. I let him off real easy. Peter, I held onto. “Look, buddy,” I said. “I'm resisting the temptation to turn you into the supervisor and slap a sexual harrassment suit on you.”
Peter fidgeted and stared down at the floor. I let silence carry the weight of my words.
Finally he looked up. “You’re right,” he said. "It was dumb. I just wanted you to notice me. How come you didn’t go to the supervisor?”
“Cause of this," I said, pulling out the two feathers, except they weren’t feathers anymore. I stared at them.
“You got tickets to see the Cubs?” Peter cried out in disbelief. "You’re not asking me to go with you -- are you?”
I have no idea how two feathers turned into Cubs tickets, but I thought about the package Peter had found and about the harp.
“Sure am . . .“ I said. “If you promise no more honey on the letters.”
“Deal,” Peter agreed, shaking my hand eagerly.
It wasn’t until he’d walked away that I realized he'd left my hand sticky with raspberry jam. I licked it off and laughed.