San studied the package, guessing it weighed less than ten pounds, noting a return address in St. Louis.
The bold black handwriting on the box looked familiar. His address was hardly legible through water spots.
He shared half a smile. “I had no idea plague was on the Post Office list of disasters—rain, snow, gloom of night?”
The man straightened his shoulders and stuck out his hand. “Cyrus Dale, postal carrier, at your service.” He shook San’s hand warmly. “There’s only three real mailmen left in the county. I mean, from Before. They tried to get the word out that people could come pick up their mail, but everything came in by the truckload, one from north and one from south every couple months. No way to keep it from piling up.”
San nodded, the announcement a vague memory. He’d figured no one outside his little neighborhood knew him and saw no need to collect any junk mail.
The young man grinned. “They finally hired a bunch of us to help get it cleared out. We’ve been dividing up the neighborhoods and suburbs. We’ve tried to deliver it all, but most mail…” He shrugged. “No one to receive it. But they’re paying us in gov-scrip to try.”
“Works out for everyone that way.” San eyed the box. He knew no one in St. Louis. What could be in the package? The writing…the writing was the key…
He squinted at the stained label and deciphered a faded note in black marker.
It’s for real, Sandman. Be cool.
San’s lips twitched into a smile. So, his childhood friend wasn’t just another statistic of the Second Holocaust; he’d made it somewhere. St. Louis.
His curiosity drove him to cut the conversation short, holding the box close.
“You’ll be safe enough here until dark,” he warned Cyrus Dale. “thanks for the personal attention, for this.”
“It’s my job, man. I love to see the smiles on people’s faces. You have a good one, okay?”
The makeshift mailman continued on his route, and San retreated to his apartment to see what Eddie had sent. Upstairs, he crossed the room to the table and set down the package.
Mail. After all this time—mail.
The reminder of more civilized times made his eyes sting with tears. Fighting to dismiss his rising emotion, San peeped in the cold-box and pulled out an open can of processed meat. He grabbed a paring knife and sat at the table in front of the box, slicing a piece of the meat and stabbing it with the blade to eat it. His mother would have heartily disapproved of his rough ways. He could almost hear her admonishing him that even vigilantes should have table manners… Almost. The memory of the sound of her voice was fading, like so much from Before.