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  • Writer's pictureDidier Bahuaud

The Package

Updated: Feb 19, 2022

Mailmen always ring twice, at least in civilized countries, but apparently that postal directive had not reached this parched patch of the Australian outback.

The insistent buzzing rang through the cool, stone house like mosquitoes searching for a family picnic. Through the hallway it spread, bouncing off the closed bathroom door to invade the kitchen, where it shrieked over the waist-high counter overlooking the living room before hitting Harold square in the ear drums.

Harold’s large forehead creased with annoyance. Such incivility would never have happened in England. Folding his newspaper, he placed his cup of tea on the coffee table, making a mental note to rename that piece of furniture. Then, with a smirk of disgust — compounded by the poor imitation of English tea he had to contend with — Harold got up to open the door.

It was December, not that anyone could tell. In any country worth its atlas entry, the weather would have had the decency to turn into a proper winter. But Australians fancied themselves originals and figured December would look good in summer. After the cool comfort of his air-conditioned living room, the outside heat slapped Harold in the face like a pancake flip gone awry. One whiff was enough to fry his nose hair and char his lungs more effectively than a pack of cigarettes. The only ones that seemed to be enjoying the weather were the flies. They whizzed around happily in their own little fly ways, swapping tales of near misses and rotting feces.

Sweat immediately soaked Harold's clothes. It was so hot, the air rose from the baked ground in shimmering sheets that distorted the horizon. He blinked a few times and his toric contact lenses fell into place, bringing the landscape back in focus. At first glance, the postman looked like a deformed shadow. As Harold’s eyes got accustomed to the brightness, he realized with a touch of shame that the man was in fact tanned and hunched with a hump.

Probably the result of nuclear testing by the French, he thought.

Ah, the French. ... Even in his mind, Harold imbued the word with all the spite he could muster. He still hadn't gotten over England losing the World Cup.

They should be testing their bloody bombs in France instead of the Pacific. And good riddance to them all and their bloody fancy sauces.

The mailman appeared to be waving his long scarecrow arms and hopping on one foot. In fact, that was exactly what he was doing because a crocodile was pulling at the hem of his pants, like a dog too stubborn to let go of its favorite toy. Mercifully, in the middle of all this, he had stopped ringing the doorbell.

“Well, hello there,” Harold said in that unflappable British tone that colors every sentence with the notion that Great Britain is a beacon of class in a world gone crass. The postman stopped trying to kick the crocodile long enough to reach into his mail satchel. Duty first.

“Got a package for you,” he said. “From America.”

He said it with awe. He said it with a dramatic pause between “from” and “America,” a pause that conjured up images of pizza slices sold at a New York City street corner — a taste that has never been accurately reproduced because the composition of the native noxious gases remains a mystery; a pause that spoke of stars and stripes, apple pie and cinnamon-flavored toothpaste; a pause, in short, that said, “USA! We kick ass!”

Harold reached for the parcel, and for a moment the two engaged in an awkward dance, what with the crocodile tugging at the mailman's pants, the mailman hopping and jerking in an attempt to pull free and Harold swinging his arms as though to catch a basketball. It was strangely reminiscent of the Chiwabenne's betrothal ritual, except this Aborigine tribe uses a koala instead of a crocodile.

The parcel fell to the ground. Releasing the mailman, the crocodile homed in on the package, which smelled faintly of pizza. Everything tasted of anti-freeze since the nuclear testing had begun, but the crocodile had high hopes for this meal. Maw opened wide and teeth glistening like mini Mounts Everest at dawn, it pounced. Harold, remembering the World Cup, lunged with all the grace of an albatross at takeoff and snatched the package. The crocodile's mouth snapped shut on empty air, earning it a sprained jaw.

Dusting himself off, Harold returned inside, muttering about torturing Americans with sitcoms full of superficial people with too much hair gel. The smile that split his face when he realized such torture already occurred daily was not pleasant.

As he closed the door, Harold hardly paid attention to the mailman, who had crushed the crocodile’s head and was now carving himself a pair of boots. With a sprained jaw, the crocodile was defenseless and went on to suffer the fate of so many of its kind. Its last thought was something about being glad it hadn’t died a virgin because its progeny would then hunt all Englishmen and make them pay for their father’s death. Of course, it could very well have been something about how pretty were the boots the mailman had carved. One can never be sure what a crocodile is thinking.

Relaxing in his easy chair, Harold considered making more tea before opening his mail but he figured it probably would be safer not to. Sighing, he tore up the brown envelop and took out several sheets of paper. He was only half-amused to read about the antics of an Englishman in Australia as he gets his mail while a crocodile is chewing on the postman’s foot.

Not surprisingly, it was written by a Frenchman living in America.

— Written sometime in the late 1990s

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