Shane Jones

The first mailbox went up in flames.

Could it be Claudia?

It could.

The second mailbox went up in flames. It was stuffed with letters and ignited as the town dinner bell rang.
No Claudia.

During dinner everyone waited for Claudia's seat to be filled with Claudia.

The idea for mailboxes was a good idea, someone said.

But we didn't think anyone would light them on fire, said another.

Flames from the second mailbox turned to smoke that fogged the dining hall windows.

The most upset person in town was the Postman who had invented the modern day mailbox. While everyone was waiting for Claudia, he burst into tears and excused himself. A chicken thigh on his plate disappeared into a dog's mouth.

Outside, his son, Jakob, greeted the Postman. He had been thinking about his mailboxes, built from trees.

Find Claudia, said the Postman.

Claudia had been missing for nearly two weeks. After the first fire, three cops twirling clubs made two rounds through town. They mistook another girl with short brown hair and blue eyes as Claudia and broke her kneecap. Two of the cops were severely punished. The other was assigned to help Jakob.  

I've witnessed the tears of my father, said Jakob. She's burned down two of his mailboxes.

We've looked, said the cop.

The woods, said Jakob.

We didn't look there.

She could be living in a tent.

Yes, he said. She could.

Back in the dining hall, the Postman sat back down to his dinner. His wife had brought him an extra piece of chicken and one potato.

I'm surprised, she said.

She's always been one for trouble, he said.

No, his wife said. I'm surprised you're not guarding the last mailbox.

In the woods, Jakob and the cop came upon a tent. Inside the tent, a letter, detailing the relationship between the Postman and Claudia.

The Postman sat slumped against the last mailbox.

Appearing from the woods, Jakob, holding a club.

The Postman told Jakob he was waiting for Claudia. He asked his son why he was holding a police officer's club.

The air smelled of burning mailboxes.

The ash of letters clung to clouds.

I've killed Claudia, Jakob said. And the police officer. I know what happened.


She wrote a letter. The police officer read it.  

I suppose I have a choice, said the Postman, standing.  

Back inside the dining hall the Postman filled the seat of Claudia with the club of the police officer.

Shane Jones' new book, DANIEL FIGHTS A HURRICANE, is just out from Penguin.

Read more of his work in the archive.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Burns Library, Boston College.

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