The Last Post
I’ve been staring through this bloody hole for days. Where can he be? Wait. There’s no need to panic just yet. There’s still time. I’ve been standing here for long enough to know that he hasn’t been and gone already and he can’t just pass us all by. Surely someone in the building will be getting a delivery?
I could run through to the bedroom and take a peek out of the window but I don’t want to miss him coming up the stairs. It would be just my luck to be gawping out at an empty street while he tries to squeeze a bundle of cards through my letterbox and they get all mangled and bent.
But maybe that’s just wishful thinking. This will be the last post before Christmas and I haven’t had a single card yet. The possibility that there’s a huge backlog should not be overlooked but I may have to face up to the fact that I might not be getting any at all. I know I’m not as sociable now as I used to be, but I’ve never drawn a blank before. Last year was the worst haul ever and I still got five. Two of them were for that auld boy next door who died though, so I’m not sure if they should really be counted.
That might be the postman now. I can hear the bottom door scraping across the floor. If I nip out onto the landing I should be able to see right down to the foot of the stairs. I take the key from the door as I open it and stick it in the pocket of my goonie. I don’t want to end up locked out like that silly lassie from 4B, running around in her skivvies.
I leave the door half open in case I need to make a quick escape and creep across the cold stone floor to the banister. I should have put some slippers on. As well as my feet getting frostbite, my socks will be filthy. I swear that cleaner just takes one bucket of suds to the top floor and dribbles it all the way down.
I’d lean out over the railing to get a better view but I’m liable to take a coo-heeder. So I settle back on my heels and wait for whoever’s down there to come out of the passage. I hope it’s no one of the neighbours. I’d have a hard time explaining myself, running about on the landing in my stocking soles.
This could be it. Someone’s definitely coming. I duck down behind the banister and peer through the rails. It’s him. It’s the postman. I can see his baldy head and satchel. He must be having a busy day; he’s bright as a beetroot. I turn around and scuttle back inside, closing the door gently behind me. I’m sure he won’t have heard the latch click home with all the puffing and panting he’s doing.
I feel like a wain again, kneeling here beside the letterbox, rubbing hands in anticipation. I can hear his fat feet slap on the steps as he climbs. Come on Santa.
He’s stopped at that young couple’s across the way. I can tell by the snap of their well-sprung letterbox. They moved in right after the council came and fumigated the place. The poor old man who lived there was hardly dead a week before the place was cleared and ready for occupation. Gone like he’d never even existed. Although I think his name might still be on the buzzer. And I did get those two cards for him. The postman didn’t want to leave them in an empty flat, sentimental fellow.
It sounds like those youngsters are getting plenty of post but I bet most of it is credit card bills and final demands and nothing to do with Christmas at all. They couldn’t even be bothered to hang around to celebrate. They’re away in the Maldives somewhere drinking Pina Coladas, not a Christmas pudding in sight.
The postman’s right outside. I can hear him rummaging. Oh please. Oh please.
I open the door, stupidly still on my knees.
“Here you go, just the wan.”
Only one, but it still means the granny’s aff. I reach up with both hands and he places it gently on my upturned palms. I’m still gazing at it with sweet relief when he adds, “There’s postage due.”
“But there can’t be,” I say, indignant.
“If you don’t want to pay it’s no skin off my nose,” he says as he reaches to retrieve the envelope, “But someone’s going to have to.”
I clutch the card to my chest with one hand as I fish in my pocket for change. He takes the money with a friendly smile and a, “Merry Christmas,” but I can see the quiet horror in his eyes as he turns to face the stairs again.
I examine the front of the envelope and see the space where the stamp has peeled away. Never trust glue you have to lick.
I close the door and walk down the hallway, carefully removing the card from its envelope. In the living room I put it in pride of place in the centre of the mantelpiece, next to my little china dog, open just enough so that I can read the inscription,
“Have a Very Merry Christmas, from Me.”