Far back in the corner of the garage behind the stack of summer tires, the winter sun beams in through the window, landing on the snow shovels. Four days of snow had created hazardous walking conditions requiring boots and good balance. Not that she wanted to shovel snow; this was simply the best available tool to help navigate the icy driveway to her daily goal. The mailbox.
Every night she writes. Everyday she waits. She may appear busy or even aimless as if she’s not waiting for anything at all.
She waits and listens. Then she hears it. The mail truck coming down the lane. She waits even more intently. The clicking and whirring of the truck coming to a stop in front of the house. She’s down the stairs grabbing the trusted shovel and opening the garage door all in one motion as she passes through the garage to the daunting walkway ahead.
The melting ice has made the walk even more treacherous. Tapping the shovel along the crust until it finds purchase is tentative and slow all the way out to the gutter. About six inches deep under the icy crust she sees that annoying shallow of chilled water. Will it penetrate or overflow her shoes if the ice breaks. Oh well, it’s only for a second. If she plays it right, she won’t slip as she skips across the little ditch to the box. The shovel creates a tripod of her body reinforcing her balance.
Hopefully, opening the box, she spies the familiar postage stamp half concealed by the ads and bills. In the silent snowy lane, her face flushes and her heart beats loudly in her ears as she reaches out for the stack of mail as she drops her outgoing letter into the box. Clutching the whole bundle in one swipe, she breasts it securely back to the warm house.
Rushing in through the garage, she tosses the shovel aside, then up the stairs to sort the bundle and retrieve the precious piece. The mail scatters across the kitchen table. There it is, facedown. As she turns it over, the realization sinks into her gut. It’s not from him, after all. It’s just another ad, deceptively hidden behind the guise of personal correspondence.
She swallows hard, it begins again. She waits. The shovel waits, the snow waits. She watches from her window while the snow melts. And, she waits.
Judith Burton, 2/20/2008