– a short story on the perils of property management –
The set of country postboxes hangs precariously on to the few tufts of weeds on the edge of the dirt road. I can discern a few names scribbled on some, but the majority is a definite guessing game and challenge to the unfortunate postman.
My box always puts up a fight to maneuver, key or lock perhaps needing straightening, but in the end it relents and opens. I never know what is going to be revealed to my unsuspecting eye – snail bait was spread inside a while ago, therefore, besides dead snails (hence the well-known reference to snail mail, I am certain), there are often remnants of unsuspecting creatures.
Luckily, on top of it all, the letters remain expectant and I am quick to grab them, withdraw my hand and bravely check them out, shaking off any debris.
Today there were two letters. A bill and an envelope addressed to ‘Rosa Maria da Conceição’ (forgot the other names in between). I puzzled at the address – the right ending numbers, but a few more numbers too, perhaps overlooked by a hasty postman.
I searched for any names or numbers in the boxes – no luck. As it was a letter from the hospital and Blue Mail stamped (what the heck is Blue Mail?), I sensed some urgency in the missive, so decided to ask somebody in the nearest local restaurant.
Behind the smoky grill, busily turning chicken breasts, was a mustachioed short man, apron stretched over his serious stomach. Timidly, I interrupted his concentration and inquired about Dona Rosa – did somebody with that name live nearby? I had in hand the letter. I had also a serious purpose.
‘It’s from the hospital. Who knows, maybe D.Rosa is expecting an appointment.’ I explained.
He decided to show his willingness to help the search cause, reluctantly leaving the smoky chicken breasts and walking towards the back door of the restaurant, into the kitchen, where presumably the women I heard talking were preparing the lunch for the workers who were already sitting at the tables, intently observing the action.
Grill-man talked to his wife, who came out into the light, looked at the evidence I was gripping in my hand and, moved by my mission, ventured a guess, no, quite positive, it was so-and-so, she volunteered, who lived up the mountain, but her cousin had the fruit stand, right up the road, on the left. I could even walk there to find her, just the one selling fruit, no mistake.
I thanked them both, sighed, and got in the car, resigned to see this matter to the end. Up the road, I saw a ramshackle, could it be the fruit stand?, and quickly parked on the narrow, very slippery and muddy space opposite the stand. Crossing the busy road was a test, as the misty rain started again, and cars were going faster on the straight-away. An old woman, sitting at the back of the little wooden, flimsy stand followed my efforts. She leaned forward at my approach, with a toothless interest and I was almost sorry to explain my intent, which was not buying her fruits and vegs. I mentioned D.Rosa again.
‘Oh!’ she said, ‘She is not my cousin.’
Gees, my mind cringed.
‘She’s my god-daughter,’ the friendly little-old-woman explained, still sitting behind her fruits and vegetables, heavy black stockings keeping her warm, eying me out in the now-heavier rain.
I politely inquired whether she would mind delivering the letter, since it was from the hospital and if I returned it to the post office and if followed the normal course, her god-daughter could miss her appointment. She was more than willing, she responded, she would walk up to her place when she had the time, as she had misplaced the phone number, and how nice of me to do this deed, few people bothered these days, the world being as it is.
I was getting cold and wet, my feet sinking in the murky ground. I held, philosophically, that it was quite OK, we should help each other. And slowly, shivering, started towards the car, waiting for the traffic to pass by, nicely waving goodbye to the good old woman. And she, smiling blissfully, shouted protectively as she saw me run across the road:
‘Be careful there! It is really slippery – the postman got his van stuck last time, trying to deliver some mail!’.
Note: Property shown is being managed by Marks & Morelli