I’m a twig of a man and I’ve the nature of a cotton-candy-eating tadpole, which I’m not ashamed of, most of the time. Sometimes it gets me stepped on. People can be cruel and I didn’t get my fair shake being the boy-scout type. But, I think maybe I did, once.
I’ve never used the phrase “cocky bastard” before, being as even-tempered as I am, although it seemed to fit the man. I didn’t know him personally but there was something smug about the way he looked that night, sitting in his 1970’s black Plymouth Fury, the engine left running–I couldn’t blame him; that winter had left everyone with icicles on their nose hairs–and the cherry end of his cigarette mocking me.
He’d parked his cartoonishly creepy car sideways across the alley that led to my reserved, I’ve-got-the-paperwork-to-prove-it parking space. If his body language could’ve talked, it would’ve said, “I oughtta snap that geek in half just for lookin’ in my direction.” I’m sure he could have.
I’m surprised I had spine enough to approach him, especially because when I got out of my car, I slipped on a patch of black ice and had to do a little windmill action with my arms to rebalance myself.
“H-hey, sir. How ya doing tonight?” I said to his closed window. When he rolled it down, I’m not sure whether it was the sight of him or the unloving temperature that made me shiver.
“Well, well, well…as I live and breathe, look what the storm blew in–a lovely snowflake,” he said. He may as well have drank a bottle of Jose Cuervo that had run through a sewage pipe for all I could tell. He flicked his cigarette into the snow.
“I’m just trying to pull into my parking spot,” I gestured. “I’m not in a huge rush or anything,” I added, intimidated, “but my apartment is right there.”
Pulling his lips back from his yellowed teeth, he wheezed. The ghosts of a thousand cigarettes were in that noise. I mean, I guess you could say he was smiling and laughing, though I’m not entirely sure he was doing either. I took a couple steps backwards, readying myself to retreat back to my car across the street, desperate for warmth–and I mean safety and humanity more than I mean my car’s heater.
“Guess there’s only one thing for me to do, then, isn’t there?” For a moment, his glare bore a hole through any ‘tis-the-season brotherhood I’d hoped for from him. I couldn’t respond. “Doesn’t look like I need to be here tonight anyhow.” He put his Plymouth in gear.
“Y–you waiting for somebody?” I asked, trying to be over-friendly and also checking into what he was up to, you know, incase I’d later need to give a report to the police after some unfortunate incident. Of what kind? I didn’t even want to entertain that further.
The man’s resounding laugh, hacking and deep, was followed by a, “You might say that.” He tipped his hat–the one that looked like he’d snatched it right off the head of the last gunslinger himself–and winked.
I made a point to check his easily-memorized license plate when he drove off: P O S T M A N.
“Jesus,” I said to myself, shaking my head, “which King novel did he step out of?” I was stuck somewhere in between chuckling and pissing myself.
Would you believe that demonic, Vin-Diesel-cowboy was blocking my parking space again the next night? That’s just what I needed following a shit-eating day at work, another confrontation with The Postman of Darkness. I didn’t even have the drive to get out of my car this time.
The man in the Plymouth rolled his window down and waved for me to come over to him. I went. Dejected. Why not? What could possibly make my life worse anyway? I bent over a bit next to his window.
“Get in,” he hoarsed.
“Get in I said,” he snapped. “C’mon. I ain’t talking just to move the wind around.”
I did as I was told.
Neither of us spoke for a while. He had a slow, romantic ritual in getting out a new cigarette and lighting it.
“Have I done something?”
He was more focused on his smoke and staring out his window than with me. “‘Course not. It’s better you were in here. No sense in being out there.”
How the fuck was I supposed to respond to that?
“And, don’t worry, junior; I already called off your assassins.” He spat another of his from-the-depths-of-R’lyeh laughs after seeing my reaction. “Ha! Oh, sonny, if you could’ve seen the look on your face! Relax. Just a bit of my brand of humor. I’m a funny guy, ya know, contrary to what you’re thinking.”
“Is there something you want from me?”
“Nothing more than for you to keep on being the fella that ya already are.” He then hushed me and told me to take a look, pointing towards my car that was parked on the street.
A man in a ski mask walked to my car and tried to open the passenger door but it was locked. He then pulled a gun from his waistband and used the butt end to smash the window. I sat up ramrod in my seat, but Postman told me to wait a second. An SUV slid down the street, due to the sleet and ice, and met its end smashed up against my car. Both totaled. So was the armed thief, whose lifeless body was crushed between the vehicles, his stark blood splashed on the white snow.
I looked at the Postman. He gave me a nod, and I’ll be a son of a bitch if there wasn’t a, “You’re welcome” behind that nod. In that moment, as if there’d been a dozen souls trapped in my veins, my God, he seemed familiar to me. I was convinced I’d met him before the previous night.
“Oh my Goodness! Call the police! Call 9-1-1!” an elderly neighbor screamed. She was the only other person there with me, as I found myself standing outside, in my apartment alleyway, no Plymouths or Postmen in sight.