Lula has everything planned perfectly. Every week day, at precisely the same time, she watches her post-man from the safety of her house. With the stained-glass window separating them, she is free to dream about his muscular tan hands roaming her body. That is until the day he rings the doorbell. He is just as perfect up close as from the careful distance she has always kept, and she cannot stop herself from jumping into his arms. She just isn’t sure how he is going to react. Life isn’t a porno, after all.
About the AuthorAlexandra Renwick has written dozens of stories under various iterations of her name. Her fiction has been translated into nine languages and adapted to audio and stage. A dual US/Canadian citizen, she splits her time between Portland, Austin, and Ottawa. More at alexcrenwick.com.
Or Current Resident
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” – James Farley Post Office inscription, NYC
Monday through Friday afternoon at six minutes past four, the same man in the same combat boots and blue shorts walks up Lula’s driveway, reaches into his satchel, and slides his delivery through her slot.
Working from home, Lula can log off from her job data mining in the web pits at four. She can then head upstairs from her basement office at the precise moment her postal carrier is outside her front door’s Mondrianesque glass panel, cramming the day’s assorted envelopes through its brass orifice.
Lula is a shameful wrecker of the environment. These envelopes her regular postie brings, destined for the recycling bin, will be addressed to Occupant or Lucky Prizewinner or Our Neighbor At or Or Current Resident. It’s practically an additional part-time job keeping her address on enough mailing lists to ensure daily delivery. Monday through Friday, and neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall intervene. Saturdays are different, weekend carriers a rotating cast of strangers, faces, figures, and iterations of the official postal uniform blurring into a melange of sunkissed limbs and blue-on-blue permapress.
But Tuesday, the unexpected happens. Tuesday, at 3:58 p.m., the doorbell rings.
Lula shoots upright in her ergonomic chair. Her attention has been wandering, fingers idly toying with the thick silver links of her necklace, words on her screen fuzzed by visions of blue wrinkle-free shorts and narrow collared shirt, buttoned too high. Satchel slung over one shoulder. And the hat, a safari-type thing designed for coolness and shade, resting above the head rather than on the hair, the sort her Caribbean father calls a bug house. Florida isn’t the West Indies, but having grown up with sweaty weather and persistent insects, Lula gets the image.
She logs off and lopes up the stairs with extra-long strides taking them two, two, two. On the other side of the door’s glass looms her postman, his distinctive outline with its bulging mail bag asymmetry. The white dome of his hat on top. The black anchors of his short boots below.
A fumble at the lock and a solid click. Door swings inward. “You’re early,” Lula blurts. She has never spoken to him before.
He hands her a thick bundle, rubber bands straining. The top letter looks very official, very urgent. Time-sensitive material! it screams above the clear window showing Lula’s street name and number; Reply required! It’s addressed to Occupant.
He opens his mouth, and Lula hears at last the voice she’s imagined murmuring to her in husky, blue polyester-blend undertones. “Too big for your slot. I like your ears.”
Startled and then dismayed, Lula’s hand flies up to the synthetic fur of her pointy-eared hairband. “My niece gave me this,” she says, glance flicking to the mirror by the door, where one checks one’s front teeth for lipstick and errant spinach before heading out. With her smudge-rimmed eyes and heavy silver choke-chain necklace and the grey pointy dog-ears standing at attention she looks like she’s going for what her mother would call a look. She isn’t.
“German Shepherd,” he says, patting the pepper spray clipped to his belt. “I should know.”
What happens next is not something Lula understands. It’s nothing like postie porn. It’s nothing like her vague yearnings, her imaginings of masterful caresses from weather-burnt fingers tinted by cheap ink from bulkmail circulars. It bears no resemblance to any previous sexual encounter Lula has ever had, the good, the bad, or the regrettable. Wait — is it sexual? Lula doesn’t even know. All she knows is this minor but significant representative of her government, of order and service and national identity in his standard issue warm-weather uniform, is not moving away from her openmouthed attack at his face.
Her teeth clatter painfully against his. Her hands paw at his starched-pocket chest. A puppylike whimper forms deep in her throat sounding exactly like the mutt she grew up with, a small vocal curlyhaired terrier mix named Feathers that Lula’s mother always referred to as her whoopsy-poodle. Lula’s whimper carries that precise blend of canine begging and threat she remembers from childhood. Please gimme, says that sound. Love me feed me gimme gimme gimme, or else…
“Grrrrr,” says Lula, the rumble of it vibrating against his still lips.
The effect on her postie is electrifying.
He lunges into her, then past her. The mailbag slides off his shoulder onto the foyer floor and he leaps over it with impromptu marathon-hurdling dexterity, pivoting in a crouch to face her. Lula can’t believe the curved red welts along his upper lip are the marks of her teeth.
Through a wide-mouthed feral grimace he growls, “Catch me first, you little bitch,” and sprints across the open living space into the hall.
With a primal urge Lula doesn’t recognize as her own she launches after him, after the flash of his disappearing haunch turning the corner toward her bedroom. She hurtles through the doorway, plowing into his back where he stands looking at her unmade bed, an embarrassing twirled nest of blankets and loose pillowcases and dirty underwear and threadbare stuffed animals no one else is ever meant to see. Her momentum bowls him over, so he lands face down in the spot where Lula sleeps alone every night. She’s smaller than he is, lighter. Her breath coming ragged after their dash through the house, she feels her ribs expanding and releasing against his back, the pepper spray pouch clipped to his belt digging into her hip. He could easily toss her off, roll over, pin her down. But he doesn’t. He smells like salt and sand, like newsprint and ozone and asphalt. They both lie panting, waiting for whatever happens next. Waiting for whatever happens when the German Shepherd catches the postman.
Lula rolls off, runs her hands down the backs of his legs. For the first time she notices the scars peppering his calves, the hollows behind his knees. Little puncture wounds in crescent curves, like the marks Lula’s teeth left on his lip but different sizes, different parabolas, shapes better fitted to muzzle and snout.
He’s reaching underneath himself without turning, loosening his buckle. Lula helps ease his shorts down over his right hip, exposing the top arc of one unblemished muscular buttock sculpted by a million postal delivery miles, unscarred by Poodle, Labrador, or Dalmatian. The skin is paler than the leg below the shorts, a blank canvas, a blank page.
Lula licks her lips, leans over, and bites.