The postman glares with his green eye, then his blue. He nods at the next in line, waves, coaxes open palmed. But the woman in front is frozen, can’t decide what to send where. She hugs a dozen boxes, shuffles three more across the linoleum. The corners are crushed, blackened, the packing tape slack. This ballet of boxes is going nowhere.
The postman calls them parcels, not boxes. He sucks his mustache and calculates weight by eye. One green, one blue. Everyone asks how it happened. Stab wound? Poison? Dropped as an infant? Cancer or cataract? Luck, he tells them. Since birth, a whole life, they’ve always been this way, two-toned and terrifying. They bully his cowed customers into ordering insurance and tracking and two-day delivery. They cannot deny the wretch with two different eyes.
The woman at the front of the line feels them boring into her boxes, x-raying the insides. She wants him to see, to guess the purpose of her parcels. She doesn’t know herself, wishes someone would guess and be wrong and then she’d be closer to knowing what to do with her husband’s chalky remains. A shoddy cremation left her with shards instead of flakes. Knob of knee, knuckle joint, elbow ulna, eye socket curves that once held two brown eyes, perfectly equal. These pieces are recognizable, but not enough to piece him back together, to make a skeleton, like the one looming in the corner of her high school biology classroom, like the one in the postman’s high school biology classroom, like the one in the high school biology classroom of every person who ever stood in line at this post office waiting for a woman who couldn’t decide where to send parts she recognized just not enough.
Come forward, begs the postman’s two different eyes. Just come forward, out of that line, and I will help. He knows where everything goes that doesn’t fit. He’ll randomize zip codes, from Miami to Tacoma. He’ll dispatch her husband’s pieces so kindly, so long as she doesn’t ask what happened to his eyes.
Dustin M. Hoffman spent ten years painting houses in Michigan before getting his MFA from Bowling Green State University and his PhD from Western Michigan University. His stories have recently appeared in Pleiades, Smokelong Quarterly, Sundog Lit, Juked, Cimarron Review, The Journal, and Threepenny Review. His story collection One Hundred-Knuckled Fist won the 2015 Prairie Schooner Book Prize and is forthcoming with University of Nebraska Press. He is an assistant professor of creative writing at Winthrop University in South Carolina. You can visit his site here: http://dustinmhoffman.com/
Photo by Creativity103