In Which Shalanna’s Mailbox Does Not Go *BOOM*

So around noon today I was exhausted from sweeping and vacuuming and trying to figure out whether to shelve the Simon and Garfunkel CDs with “Folk” or “Soft Rock,” so I said to Mama and the dog, “I’m going to get a burger. C’mon, if y’all want to get out.”

They leaped into the van and we swung around the front of the house so she could grab the mail (we have a ranch-style mailbox at the street.) The flag was up, which was odd; I knew I hadn’t been out to the mailbox. She rolled down her window and reached out to open the mailbox.

There was something in it. A Snapple bottle on its side, filled with some kind of liquid.

“Don’t touch it! Close that up!” I shouted. The dog barked. She slammed the box and we roared off down the street.

“Why was there a bottle of iced tea in our mailbox? Do you suppose the lawn people left it there yesterday and just forgot about it?”

“No.” I shrugged. “I don’t know what’s in the bottle, but I’m afraid it might be dangerous.”

“You mean, like . . . a booby trap?” My mother was not born yesterday.

“I know it sounds crazy! But why would somebody put a bottle of Snapple into our mailbox and raise the flag?”

“Because they want to blow it up. It’s one of those, of those . . . Mazel Tov Cocktails!”

“Molotov,” I corrected, swerving to miss a squirrel who wanted to dart past us. “I don’t understand it. Maybe someone stuck it in there as a joke. But maybe not.”

“They’re trying to kill the postman. Look, there’s another mailbox with a flag up.”

“But it’s probably just mail. I dunno . . . I’m still worried. Don’t want to take the chance.”

“Who do I call? The fire station?”

“Just dial 911. Tell them it’s not an emergency, but it’s a situation that you think could be urgent.” After all, if our mailbox blew up, it could take out the live oak and several planter boxes. Then a bad thought struck me. “OMG! What if the mailman opens it and touches the bottle and it’s rigged and it blows up?”

“Then you’ll be in trouble for blowing up a postal worker. That’s a felony!” She gasped for air and grabbed her rescue inhaler. “I’m too upset to call anyone.”

She handed me the cell phone. I pulled to the side of the road and dialed.

“Richardson 911. Where is your emergency located?”

“I don’t have an emergency, but a situation that could be a problem.” I told him what was going on. “I know it sounds crazy, but have you had reports of things in mailboxes, and can that be dangerous?”

“I’ve heard of things. It could certainly be something explosive, or similar,” he said calmly. “Is that a clear liquid?”

She hadn’t looked that closely, nor had I. “I’m not sure. No, I think it was a color.” What did I know?

He got my address, name, and cell number. I told him I’d park out front and wait for someone to arrive. We had to watch and be sure the mail carrier didn’t inadvertently reach in there and cause a blowup.

But we had time to get to the corner and pick up the burgers, so we did. Never let it be said that I starve diabetic little old ladies who are having a sugar crash because the mailbox might be rigged to blow. It only took a minute or two.

I parked under the large live oak in our next-door neighbor’s yard, a few yards from our mailbox, and turned off the van. It was pleasant with a cross breeze and everyone’s lawns looked nice, including ours. The dog was happy and we had our burgers to eat.

We sat there for quite some time, watching. A couple of cars passed. Then a white sports car turned onto the road behind us, swerved around us pretty closely, and slowed down as if looking at mailboxes. He went a couple of houses past ours, then turned into a circular drive and sat for a minute. Then he backed out and drove back past us.

“Look and see what that guy looks like,” Mama said as he went by. But the windows were tinted darker than street legal, and the Cougar ran past us and turned.

An hour passed. Mama finally admitted that we couldn’t sit there forever, so I pulled a U-turn and went around the back and parked in our driveway. We went inside and sat so we could see out the front window. Then she went out into the courtyard and started fiddling with the potted plants. (It was 81 degrees today!)

All of a sudden I heard, “Don’t open the mailbox!” I looked out to see her sprinting down the front walk just in time to stop our mailman from opening the box. She explained to him as he handed her the wad of mail. “I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want to touch it, either,” he agreed as he proceeded down the street.

“If you see another bottle in another box, come back and tell us,” I called after him.

She was completely out of breath from rushing like that (remember, asthma, COPD, and controlled CHF.) I helped her back into the house, where she had to put her oxygen on and recover.

In a bit the doorbell rang. It was a police officer. I explained the situation, and he went out there with his flashlight and gloves. “If this doesn’t look like clear liquid or I don’t like the looks of it, I’m calling the fire station.” There’s one around the corner. But still, that didn’t make me feel soothed. He opened the box and peered in, playing the flashlight around in there. “Don’t see any wires, which is good, or any putty holding that top on. I think it’s leaking.” He wrinkled his nose. Then he reached in–I got kind of worried then–and pulled out the bottle gently, setting it on the grass. “Really stinks. It’s urine,” he called back to us on the patio. “Could you bring me some paper towels?”

I ran inside to get paper towels and baby wipes. “Was someone on the road who urgently had to take care of business, and just decided to drop off the bottle in a random mailbox?” she was asking him as I came back.

“Just some crazy kids, probably. They probably watched you opening the box and laughed.” He shook his head and went back to wipe out the box. He said he’d dispose of the bottle back at headquarters. Said it really stunk and I said I’d go fumigate the box later.

I gave him some Purell for his hands and wished him a merry Christmas. Shaking our heads, we went back inside to marvel and call back the people we’d gotten all in a lather. First I called hubby and explained.

“You know what it probably was? Somebody needed to take a drug test and was going to fail. So he bought urine. It goes into a glass bottle that won’t react with the urine. Pebbled texture on the bottle, against fingerprints. They left it in a mailbox, raised the flag so the guy would know it’s there, and then called in the address to the guy. You interfered.”

“OMG! That’s . . . probably right.”

And the guy who drove by . . . was going to pick up the stuff, but saw us and realized we must be cops, that it was a sting operation. Now, what more unlikely pair could there be for a sting operation than two pathetic ponytailed women with a Pomeranian dog in their laps . . . but the guy erred on the side of caution. I just hope he didn’t pay TOO much for that wee-wee. My dog could have tinkied just as much very happily, and for free.

So now I know. I could make lots more money selling pee than I ever will trying to sell a novel.

And right here in my own front yard.

At least we didn’t have the bomb squad pulling up to cordon off the front yard. All those elderly neighbors staggering out holding their chests and crying out about having the Big One . . . I couldn’t handle it.

Well, anyway. *sigh* I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Next: buying a dishwasher.

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Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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