Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dead Letter by Katherine Tomlinson


The first inkling Beatrice had that something was wrong was the sound of her dog’s agonized yelping.

Suzie-Q was a barkie little dog, a soft-coated Wheatan terrier, who patrolled her fenced-in domain with the intensity of a Blackwater contractor, but her yapping was usually of the happy, “Hi, howya doing?” variety. This was fear and pain and it brought Bea on a run from the kitchen to the front yard.

By the time she reached the door, the dog had limped up the steps to the porch where she stood trembling and shaking and holding her front paw, which looked shredded.

Beatrice scanned the area for another dog but the only thing moving on the street was the postman, who was shambling up the sidewalk with his usual lack of awareness for things going on around him.

Beatrice had often wondered if his personality fell somewhere along the autistic spectrum. He never made eye contact and he rarely spoke. She had given up trying to be nice to him and lately it was hard even to be civil because she was convinced he was stealing her Netflix movies.

The company’s e-mails had started to get a little testy the third time a movie disappeared on its way back, so she’d started mailing the red envelopes from a post office box near where she shopped for groceries. It was inconvenient, but worth it not to have her account cancelled.

Bea brought Suzie-Q into the house and gently washed her paw with soap and water. The dog squirmed and thrashed and nipped at Bea’s hand hard enough to draw blood before Bea was able to see what had caused the injury.

Is that a bite mark?

Bea sponged away a little more blood and was horrified when the margins of the wound were revealed. Instead of the punctures she’d expected, the tooth marks looked like they had been made... a human?

Bea’s thoughts immediately went to her postman.

He didn’t like dogs and had once threatened to stop delivering mail to a family across the street after their dog had growled at him.

He was strange, no doubt about it, but strange enough to bite a dog?

After she’d wrapped Suzie-Q’s paw and given her a piece of chicken as a treat, Bea decided to call her post office.

The phone rang and rang and rang before it was finally picked up.

“Arrgghhh,” someone mumbled into the phone.

“Hello?” Bea said. “Hello?”

“Mmmmrgggh,” said the person on the other end.

“Yes, I’m calling to...”


“I’d like to speak to a supervisor.”

The phone went dead in Bea’s hand.

Oh, for God’s sake, she thought, absently rubbing her hand. It was starting to throb where Suzie-Q had bitten it. She started to dial again and then put her phone down with a sigh. Talking to the guy’s supervisor probably wouldn’t do any good. He was a bureaucrat and would probably just brush her off with some sort of civil servant speak.

No, the best thing to do would be to confront him directly and demand an explanation from him. If he couldn’t explain himself, then she would call the police. Or maybe a lawyer. If she had to take Suzie-Q to a vet, she wasn’t going to pay the bill.

And if she needed a doctor to treat her hand, well...she wasn’t going to pay that bill, either.

Bea couldn’t find Suzie-Q the next morning, so by the time she saw the mail truck lurch to a stop across the street, she was itching to give the postman a piece of her mind. It didn’t help that she’d been up almost all night. Her bitten hand had gotten infected and was red and swollen and pain was pulsing through it in synch with every beat of her heart.

Bea was across the street before the postman had even turned off the engine.

He saw her coming and lunged at her, biting at her face.

Instinctively, she bit back, crunching through bone and gristle.

Bea had intended to give him a piece of her mind but he’d ended up giving her a piece of his instead.

It was quite tasty.


  1. Loved that, Katherine. Those last lines are very funny.

  2. LOL! I enjoyed this romp quite a bit. This really set the tone: She had given up trying to be nice to him and lately it was hard even to be civil because she was convinced he was stealing her Netflix movies. And then you blithely continue on, my grin growing at each "Oh, dear" moment. Well done! Clever and wry. :)

  3. I think I know that postman! He works near Studio City.

  4. I think I've had that USPS employee on the complaint line myself. He used a different line on me. Something that sounded like: Yaaaarhgggmumblegnash. Great chuckler all the way through until it had me break into a guffaw. (You can get up to five years in the State Pen for Breaking or Entering Into A Private Guffaw, by the way.)Cool!