The Letter

I was running. I was tearing down the snowy stairs, screeching around the path covered in snow, and bounding through the drifts of the driveway, trying to get to my car, which was perched on the only patch of drift-free seashells from here to the edge of the road. I had discovered, three minutes before, that unless I had a form—this form, the one waving in my hand—from unemployment, postmarked and in the mail TODAY, I would lose the rest of my unemployment benefits, most of which I hadn’t used, but now needed. Badly. I need them very, very badly.

The trouble was, the post office closed in four minutes. A minute before, I had answered the government’s two questions in the only “pen” I could find in my kitchen (having just, that second, opened the letter )—a fat, black sharpie, not meant for government forms—and I don’t even know how I answered them. They were trick questions—something like, “Why didn’t you file for unemployment in the week starting December 12th?” and then there were multiple choices, none of which had anything to do with why I hadn’t filed for unemployment in, in fact, six months. And then they asked for my last employer who I guess, not counting the freelance employers who weren’t technically “employers” (I hope!), was that rat bastard who fired me six months before—and they already knew about him. I had to fish his phone number out of my iPhone (thank you, Steve Jobs!), though I had blocked out the address (especially the zip code), and had no time to look it up.

Was my car going to make it out of the driveway, drifts and all? Was there another deer, and another, behind the one in the road in front of me? Was the guy coming the other way going to yield, against the drifts piled on either side of the road, or was I? I got to the post office with two minutes to spare, but the window was closed. “Linda!” I yelled, to the postmistress I had seen just an hour before. “Yup,” she said from behind the frosted glass. “Are you closed?!” I said, devastated. “Yup,” she said. I am going to end up living in a paper box, I know it.

Then she said, “What do you need?” And I said, “I need a stamped envelope postmarked with today’s date.” I didn’t say, “Stat,” though that’s how I felt. Julia would have laughed at that part of the story, being an ER fan. That is, the old Julia would have laughed, but this was before she was abducted by aliens, and replaced with a fake Julia. ANYWAY. Linda came out from the OZ door and handed me an envelope. “There you go, Trish,” she said. “Write fast.” She handed me a real pen.

This is partly why we live in the country—or I do. Because country folk are happy to put themselves out for you, if you need a little help.


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