I was first alerted to the arrival of the mail by scratch of the plastic cat’s toy as it moved across the slate floor of the entryway. It was nearing noon, and I’d been napping. In all the time I’d lived in the house at 337 I’d never received any mail: not one bill or package, no surveys from the census, no summons for jury duty, no junk ads, no love letters. I was a postal ghost—a stamped-out phantasm in an abandoned shack.
My knees popped in their sockets when I stood, pressing my face to the cool glass pane of the big front window and peering down the street for clues about who put the postman up to this. But he was long gone, off to retrace his tracks in another neighborhood.
“Hmm,” I said to the cat.
Putrice was a purrer, and I liked to imagine each time I said, “Hmm,” she was saying it back. I looked her square in the jaw.
“Did you do this?” I asked, “This thing? With the mail?”
“Hmm,” she said, and I agreed. I’d have to go out and see for myself.
I slid a sleep-pressed hand down the cat’s back and gave her tail a little squeeze. Her tail had a clump of goop gobbed in it, so I said “hmm,” again and didn’t even notice the foot of the coffee table, which was on course for collision with my little toe. I wailed and cursed—as I did often. What waited in the mailbox was a petition, maybe, from one or all the neighbors, sent to beg my keeping it down. Wouldn’t that be something?
The first thing I’d done upon moving into 337 was have installed an electronic security system—a failsafe device designed for keeping out. The technician who’d installed it tasked me with inventing a five-digit pin—one I’d remember, he implored.
“That’s easy,” I’d said, “12345.”
“But no,” he said, “That’s the first thing a thief will guess. And not your birthday either.”
At the door, on the day the mail arrived, I spent some time wondering why a man should have to recall so many numbers in his lifetime. The number I next remembered was the number thirty: thirty seconds–the maximum time allowed for the front door to remain open, without code access, before the house would light up like a grid of neon blueprints, and the police would be alerted. Thirty seconds to get the mail.
My stride was wrong–too fast across the lawn. If a detective asked, the neighbors would testify something had been ‘up.’ I slowed down, but my slowness was cool—criminally cool, too cool for a man who’d not long ago been perfectly napping, forced from his house to rush to his mailbox and find inside, one bee.
I didn’t remember the bee’s having been there before, but I also didn’t not remember it, and so decided it must have been delivered today.
“Hmm,” I said.
It buzzed a reply with the tiny voice of its wings.
“Hey,” I said, “Come out of there.” I coaxed and shooed and smiled like honey to lure the bee into the open. I picked a white, weedy flower from the un-mowed grass and wiggled it seductively about the mouth of the mailbox, but the bee would not be moved.
“Must be the wrong address,” I said.
Megan Fahey is a first-year MFA student at West Virginia University where she works as the Fiction Editor for the Cheat River Review. In addition to having some short plays produced, her fiction has appeared in Blinders Journal, Cease Cows, and Allegory E-Zineamong others.