New Regs

By James Lineberger

Featured Art: Card Rack with a Jack of Hearts by Jack F. Peto

I’d never seen her before that day when
she came knocking on the door and I thought at first
I must owe postage on the package in her hand
but no, she said, this was an official visit to advise me
that unless I stopped parking the Malibu in our circular drive,
I would have to mount a new mailbox out on the street
rather than the one by the door that we’ve been using since
the house was built back in the Fifties.
“Say what?” I said,
“excuse me lady but that is my drive not yours.”
But she was not to be dissuaded,
advising me that new regs from the Postmaster General
would not permit her to put her Jeep in reverse
and turn around in the drive,
and she only shook her head no when I said,
“Look, okay, if we mounted it out there on this dead-end street
you would still have to back up
when you get to my neighbor’s house next door
because hers is on the front porch too same as this one
and you have to pull in her driveway to get there, and tell me
how you’re going to get out, and besides,
the reason we park the car out front here is because
my wife broke her hip and had to have screws put in it
and she’s still not too certain on her feet, not to mention
she’s got Alzheimer’s, unless you’ve got regs about that too
but the regular carrier never told us anything like this
and he doesn’t seem to mind backing up at all.”
“Well, sir,” she said, “that is him, this is me,
besides which where is your handicap placard?”
and walked away even as I was saying
“Just you wait lady, we’ll see about this.”

So soon as she went on her way I got in the car
and drove over to the P.O. to talk with her supervisor
and he said, “Oh she might seem a little stern but nevertheless
those are the regs, sir, and the guys upstairs are getting
pretty stringent about putting the trucks in reverse
after some idiot showed them all the gas we could save
just by keeping on driving straight ahead. But hey, I understand,
and I sympathize, but look, she’s just
filling in for your regular guy till he comes back from vacation
next week, and you know him, this little Chinese person
that I can almost guarantee he won’t raise a ruckus about this matter,
and if he does, tell him to discuss it with his super,
me, who is Mister Haney.”
So we shook hands and that was the last of it
until Saturday morning
when goddamn there she was again beating
on the door and yelling
“Post Office! Post Office!” at the top of her voice.
But when I stepped out on the porch,
it was like she was like a different person, her face
all scrooched up with what appeared
to be several reactions all at once
and she said, “Oh dear God, sir, it’s your wife,
she fell out there in the driveway!”
And sure enough, there
Barbara lay struggling to get up again, and blood
running down through the gravel
stuck to her cheek, and the woman was fumbling
with her cell, saying, “You want me to call the responders?”
and shaking all over, and I said, “No just help me
get her up again,” and got my arms under Barbara’s
while the P.O. lady helped lift her, holding her hands,
and Barbara was saying
“I don’t know how to thank y’all, this is all so nice, excuse me,
Miss, my name is Barbara Marie, isn’t she
the prettiest thing, Jimmy, and your hair is so,
goodness, who does your hair for you?”
All the time I’m picking the gravel off her face,
and the P.O. lady
went to the Jepp then and came back with a pan covered in aluminum foil
and she looked at me
with the tears running down her face and she said,
“You perhaps never heard of this,
but I got first prize in the Rocky River Church of the Redeemer bake-off
last year, and I always carry
a pan of my award-winning miracle fudge
along with me to hand out
to my special friends, and I’d be so grateful
if y’all would accept a couple pieces in honor of this,
this occasion where we could really get to know each other
a little better, don’t be shy please, oh God, please.”
But she was so nervous she dropped the pan and the fudge
spilled out in the gravel.
“Oh no,” she said, “shit no, not now,” but Barbara said
“Don’t you worry, honey, a few gravels
never hurt nothing,
but you got to watch out for Jimmy, he will eat the whole thing.”

James Lineberger’s work has appeared previously in Prairie Schooner, Hanging Loose, Ontario Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Pembroke Magazine, Boulevard, Sonora Review, Seneca Review, The Cortland Review, Texas Review, The Main Street Rag, UCity Review, Natural Bridge, Free State Review. His poems have appeared in multiple issues of New Ohio Review, and he won NOR‘s 2017 Poetry Contest, judged by Rosanna Warren.

Originally published in NOR 18: Fall 2015

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