Image by John Whitton on Flickr
Author: Sorcha Walsh
Sally had had enough. The clients at her post office simply must be stopped. Between the old woman who always fumbled her change when counting out the pennies, the mother with her three loud and sticky children putting their jammy hands on every available surface, the man who always needed her to repeat herself and especially, most especially the young boy with his irregularly shaped parcels and crumpled letters, she was close to her breaking point. She had started working at the post office because she wanted, she needed everything to be in its place and in order. And yet the clients (those, she shuddered to think, who she worked for) would not allow her to do so. Their envelopes were poorly addressed, their packages were not up to standard, and who even pays a bill at the post office anymore?
She tried to keep the office neat. She really did her best. The note paper was always in ready supply and orderly, they never ran out of stamps, the little flower boxes were always watered. And yet the people didn’t care. They didn’t appreciate that the floor was swept clean and tracked dirt and sand inside with no care for how much time it might take her to restore it to its pristine state. They didn’t appreciate her, how hard she worked for them.
So she stopped.
And day by day, the post office got dustier and more unkempt. The complimentary notepaper was long gone, and there were days when even the premium stamps had run out. The flowers died in their terracotta pot, and Sally got meaner and meaner, resenting every client who came through the rickety wooden door.
Before long, most folks decided to go to the bigger post office in the next village over. What was the point of a teller who knows your name if it always came packaged with a barb? Only a few continued coming to the little village post office. The old woman who still paid in copper coins and who doubtless had little else, the mother with her children who had only grown more rambunctious as they grew taller and who was raising them alone, the man who Sally had realised was becoming deaf (although he himself did not), and the boy who was slightly older now and still continued to send his hand crafted toys to his brother who lived on the other side of the country. It was easier to be patient with them now, she had so much more time now that she didn’t have to sweep the whole office four times a day. And somewhere along the line, maybe when she secretly stuck an extra stamp on a parcel when the young boy couldn’t afford the number he would have needed, or maybe when she found herself setting up an e-banking system for the deaf man, she started to think of them as friends.
And one day, the young mother and her loud children with newly ruddy faces came tracking mud and snow into the post office, after a long day of sending parcels to god knows where right before the post office closed for Christmas. In the pile of presents she handed Sally, there was a crumpled and soft one with no address, just a name tag. It was for her. And in that moment, she began to think of all these people as family.
On the morning of St Stephen’s Day, she swept the floor again.