I parked the car in the post office parking lot and when I cut the ignition my blues died—or perhaps more to the point, my blues CD died.
I walked up the sidewalk to the wide-mouthed blue box and paused in front of it. I saw on the ground (not by any means strange trash to find) a lone, single, discarded cheap floppy sandal. The kind you see for sale at Wal-Mart and gas stations and Dollar General, the kind everybody in trashy neighborhoods wears with their undershirts and pajama pants when they flip flop outside.
I paused, holding the letter I had to post–arm hanging at my side, letter pointed at the ground like a dagger at the ready. I stared at the sandal and thought about discarded sandals.
Were this Japan before the Meiji Restoration, I would have thought that there had been a scuffle between two samurai and one had lost the sandal while pivoting and swash-buckling. There was no blood. The one who lost the sandal was only knocked off balance and the fight must have continued around to the back of the post office or perhaps up the street.
Were this ancient Greece, during the age of heroes, I would have thought Jason had helped an old woman cross a river by carrying her on his back and wading to the other side. He lost one sandal in the mud and when they got to the other side, he walked into Iolcus with only one sandal. The king Pelias was not fooled—prophecy had foretold of one who would enter the city gates wearing only one sandal and it was he would be worthy of finding and retrieving the Golden Fleece.
But there was no blood, so I guess it wasn’t a samurai fight that had happened by the wide-mouthed blue post box.
And there was no mud, so I guess it wasn’t a hero’s quest that had begun by the wide-mouthed blue post box.
I dropped my letter down the chute and then went inside to buy a stamped envelope for a check.
Me: Excuse me, I would like to buy a stamped security envelope.
Lady: I only have regular stamped envelopes.
Me: Then I will buy one security envelope and one stamp.
Lady: I don’t have security envelopes to sell.
Me: Then I will buy one stamped envelope.
She gave it to me for the price of a stamp plus ten cents and as I walked over to the glass island with the pens on chains to write the address on it, I reflected on how odd I felt. How can a post office not have security envelopes? I not only felt awkward and self-conscious but also I realized my sudden dilemma: I had a check to mail to my bank for deposit and no way to keep it secure. My bank did not have a branch in town and my routing and account numbers were plain to see through a white envelope.
I rifled through my coat pockets looking for paper to wrap the check in. I had several pages of letter paper but when I pulled it out, I laughed. It was Othello, 3rd Scene, 3rd Act.
I recently had completed an internship in the college literature department at a publishing company and used to take the recycled paper they kept in stacks almost reaching the ceiling as it was cheaper than buying my own paper. I would take reams of paper destined for recycling and recycle it myself—only, my method was to write my poetry, plays, and stories on the backs of the pages. Works, doesn’t it? Good system for me. The reason for about ten pages of Othello to be in my pocket was that I always keep paper with me should inspiration strike. Two of the pages already had their blank backs filled with poetry inspirations, story ideas, phone numbers, addresses, shopping lists, and myriad miscellania, marginalia, and minutiae.
So making a virtue of expedience, I placed the check at the top of one of the pages and neatly folded it. Now if anyone wanted to try and pilfer my checking account by holding up the envelope to the light to read my account and routing numbers, all they would see was Othello, 3rd Scene, 3rd Act.
I addressed it, licked it, walked outside, leaned over the discarded sandal, and dropped it down the chute of the wide-mouthed blue post box.
I walked to the lot, unlocked the car, got in, started the ignition; the blues came back on and I drove away with my head full of restorations, quests, tragedies, all to the softly spoken melodious whisper of Mississippi John Hurt.
I wondered what that bank clerk two weeks from now while on a routine shift of opening mail and depositing checks, will think when they see that I have mailed them an excerpt from the 3rd Scene of the 3rd Act in Othello.
“Make me down a pallet on yo flo
Make me down a pallet soft and low.
Make me down a pallet on yo flo
Where yo good man will not go….”