Friday, 12 October 2012

'The Mail' by Tania Martin


Klaus barks, startling me, then I hear the familiar rustle of paper compressing as the mailman shoves my mail through the narrow slot. Longing for an excuse to leave my work I head to the front door to collect it. As I pull the wad of paper out of the slot I quickly discard the junk and flyers. I’m left holding a few bills, and an intriguing dark blue shrink-wrapped magazine. I don’t remember ordering a magazine, and eagerly rip off the plastic cover. I hope for Wired, Sunset, or The New Yorker. Instead I see a topless young girl reclined on a college dorm bed pretending to study calculus. The publication in my hands is named “Barely Legal”. I grab the cover and read the mailing address. This is my neighbor’s magazine. I try to put the plastic back on, but I have ripped it in half and it falls to the ground. My first thought is to run next door and quickly shove it in his box. I look out the window and notice his red BMW in the driveway. He’s an attorney, and works long hours, but today he is home early. I decide not to risk being seen delivering the magazine. I look at the cover again and I’m thrown back in time. I’m ten years old and I find a stack of my dad’s Playboy magazines under his bed. At ten I instinctively know not to mention the magazines to my mother. Instead I tell my brother, he and I sneak into the bedroom and look at the pictures. I resolve to slip next door at night and return the magazine to its subscriber.

It’s dark when I hear the beep of my daughter’s car as she locks the vehicle. I remember the magazine lying near the front door on the hall table. I quickly run and stuff the magazine into my briefcase.
“Hi, sweetheart”, I say. “How was school?”
“Hi, Dad,” she says, giving me a hug. Klaus jumps up and down beside her as she leaves a trail of jacket, backpack, purse and shoes on her way to the kitchen. She ruffles Klaus’s hair as he tries to lick her face. Her long blonde hair falls free around her shoulders. She is lovely, carefree, seventeen, and almost legal. I feel contempt for my neighbor; does he secretly pine for underage girls?

Later that night my daughter asks for some money for prom tickets.
“The check book is in my briefcase, honey”, I say.
“Dad, do you read this?” she asks, holding up 'Barely Legal'.
“It’s not mine,” I say. “The mailman made a mistake”.
She avoids my eyes and crosses her arms over her chest. I grab the magazine and storm out the front door. I don’t put it in his box; I throw it in his trash. I imagine my actions are barely legal, but I leave it on his property at his mailing address.

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