“You stubborn old goat, it says ‘Mildred Faragut,’ and you know good as anyone else, she ain’t out there no more. I tell you, send it back where it come from. Why you waste your time, three times now, dragging it out to my place is beyond me.”
“I can’t help she done run off on ya,” said Cyrus. “Can’t say I much blame her though, contrary coot that you are.” He dragged his gnarled finger under the address scrawled on the coarse brown paper that covered a small box. “Lookit here, it says ‘Faragut Farm, Bent Oak Road,’ and by golly that’s your place for as far back as I can recollect, Elliot, so I reckon this be yours.”
“I don’t give a damn! Just return to sender, Cyrus. Is that so blasted hard to do? Just send it back!”
Elliot had slogged four miles through wind-driven rain last night to return the package to the tiny post office inside the general store, and this morning had found it again on his doorstep. Barely keeping his temper with Cyrus Winger, storekeeper and town postmaster, because Cyrus knew damn well that Mrs. Faragut had been gone for nigh on six months. Elliot had no idea where she was and, a month ago, had finally gotten rid of the few items she’d left behind. He certainly didn’t want her mail…or any other reminder of her. What was done, was done.
“You see any other writin’ on this here?” Cyrus said, shaking the package at him and pointing to the blank spot that should have contained a return address. “Send it back where?”
“I guess them kinda’ problems just be yours, bein’ mailman and all,” said Elliot.
“No sir! My job’s to make sure folks in this town get their mail. If you won’t come get it, by golly, even if I got to stop by your place on my way home at night from now ‘til doomsday, I’ll do ‘er. Now just take it and let’s be done with this here nonsense.”
Elliot made no move to take the package from Cyrus’s outstretched hand. He glared at Cyrus, said nothing, and pulled his soaked coat in at the front and walked back out into the rain. By the time he got home it was dark, and as if driven away by the night, the storm had passed. Elliot ate some biscuits and sausage gravy, and turned in.
Now, with the morning sun streaming in the open front door, Elliot stared down at the package sitting on his doormat. He stooped down and picked it up, shaking his head. He considered tossing it in the fireplace but just couldn’t do it. No matter what Mildred had done, she still had a right to her mail.
“That man’s stubborn as an ol’ mule,” he muttered to himself.
Elliot, figuring that Cyrus was already heading in to open up for the day, retrieved his coat from the back of the chair next to the stove where he’d left it to dry the night before. He pulled it on and, clutching the package, started down the muddy farm road.
Walking up the town’s main street, Elliot approached Cyrus’s store and saw Cyrus Winger’s battered, red pickup truck, ‘U.S. Mail’ painted on the sides in faded black letters.
“Good!” he thought, “We’ll get this settled once and for all.”
“Mornin’, Elliot,” Cyrus said to him when he walked in. “I sorta thought you just might be headin’ in here this mornin’. Now what might I do for ya?” Cyrus said, grinning.
“You know damn well what you can do, Cyrus. You can take this here package and, and—I don’t much care what the hell you do with it, long as you don’t bother me with it no more! I’m gettin’ damn fed up tryin’ to make shuck of it, walkin’ all this way.”
“Don’t be hollerin’ at me, Elliot. I won’t have it. I been trusted with official U.S. Mail, and it’s my duty to make sure it reaches its delivery. Nothin’ or no one is gonna keep me from doing my duty.”
“You crazy sonnabitch! You’re taking this duty malarkey way too serious. Mildred ain’t with me no more, and I don’t want her mail out at my place ever again,” said Elliot.
“I brung it to you. You got to take it,” said Cyrus with a finalizing nod of his head.
“I got to do no such thing. I’m leavin’ it here, and there ain’t no more to be done,” said Elliot. He slammed the package down on the service counter, and turned and stomped toward the door.
Cyrus reached under the counter. “Hold it right there, Faragut!” he commanded.
Elliot spun around to give Cyrus another piece of his mind but got no chance to say another word. The room thundered. Elliot’s back slammed against the door from the impact of the big lead slugs that tore through him. Dark, wet crimson flowers blossomed on his chest as he slid down the door and dropped to the floor.
Cyrus Winger kept the smoking muzzle of the old Colt six-shooter trained on Elliot lest he needed the incentive of the three remaining bullets to stay down, but he lay still, no doubt dead before he hit the floor.
By the time Sheriff Cole Titus arrived, Cyrus had put down his gun. The sheriff handcuffed him and put into the back of his cruiser. Cyrus offered not a word or a struggle.
“What in God’s name got into you Cyrus? Are you plumb loco?” asked Sheriff Titus as they headed down the highway toward the county courthouse and jail, but he got no response. “I swear,” said Titus, “I heard tell of these kind of things from the city, but I never...what’s the dang deal with you postal workers?”
Cyrus, silent, stared out the side window and grinned.