Melanie had just placed a postcard in the Thorpes’ mailbox when the bell above the door chimed. She dropped the small bundle of mail back into the white crate on the floor then walked around the backs of the mailboxes to the office. Two unfamiliar young people stood at the counter.
“Hi, how can I help you?” she asked.
They need stamps for wedding invitations, a voice in her head told her.
“We need some stamps,” the blond man said.
The man and his brunette companion looked at each other for a moment. “About a hundred?” the woman said, shrugging.
Melanie quoted the price and went to retrieve the stamps off large rolls behind her. She counted out one hundred stamps that featured two overlapping gold wedding bands.
She turned back to the couple. The man gave her the money, and she handed him the stamps.
The brunette looked at Melanie quizzically when the postal worker handed the man’s change back to him. “These are wedding stamps,” the young woman said.
“We didn’t say anything about needing wedding stamps.”
“I can give you a different design if you want.”
“No, they’re fine. We need them for wedding invitations.”
“Oh, okay,” Melanie said, trying to sound surprised.
“It’s just weird.”
The postal worker laughed nervously. “Lucky guess.”
The man and the woman turned to leave.
“Have a nice day,” Melanie offered.
“You, too,” the man muttered in reply. The couple walked through the door.
Melanie walked back to the mail crate, cursing herself on the way. Why did I have to make things weird? she wondered.
She had always made things weird, though. Ever since she could remember, she knew other people’s thoughts. Sometimes they came to her in pictures, but other times, like just then, something talked to her. The voice in her head wasn’t hers.
Other people might have called Melanie psychic, but she never did. Her parents taught her that most psychics were fakes, and any real ones were agents of the devil. She was neither one of those things, so she called her abilities knowledge. She hated knowing too much. She hated even more that she couldn’t control it. She was never surprised at Christmas or on birthdays. She always knew when someone was lying. No one could keep a secret from her.
The door chimed again, and she returned to the counter. Before her stood the six-foot-two-inch frame of Delbert Richardson. He was naturally skinny, but years of drinking gave him a gut that poked out from his dirty t-shirt. White dotted his sandy-blond hair, and his blue eyes were perpetually bloodshot, from either alcohol or something heavier.
“How can I help you, Delbert?”
“I need to mail this,” he said, gently placing a medium-sized brown box on the counter. Melanie saw that it was addressed to Delbert’s ex-wife Darlene, but the postal worker didn’t say anything. Probably some stuff she left behind when she ran off, she thought.
“Is there any way you could put a ‘handle with care’ stamp on that or something?” He rocked back and forth on his heels. It seemed more like a nervous habit than something deliberate.
“Yeah, no problem,” Melanie replied as she put her hand on the box. The image of a sleeping copperhead flashed in her head. What the hell? she wondered. Did Delbert put a snake in the box?
She knew she had to call the police. Darlene was in serious trouble. “I…need to go…get some stamps,” Melanie stammered, edging away from the man and his box.
“Ain’t those stamps?” he asked. He pointed to the huge rolls on the counter behind her.
She cursed under her breath. “Yeah, but I’m going to get some…special ones. They’re for packages mailed between addresses in the same town.”
Delbert nodded, seemingly satisfied with that answer. “Oh, okay.”
She scurried to the back. The phone was affixed to the wall between the inner office and the backside of the mailboxes. She’d always thought it was a dumb locationshe’d often have to run back and forth while quoting customers pricesbut now she could call the police without Delbert knowing. She dialed the number and twirled a long, red ringlet around her finger while she listened to the ringing.
“Homer Police Department, how may I direct your call?” a female dispatcher stated flatly.
“I have an emergency,” Melanie whispered.
“Please state your name and the location of the emergency.”
“This is Melanie Parker over at the post office. Delbert Richardson just came with a package. He’s trying to mail a snake to his ex-wife.”
“What?” the dispatcher yelled. “Did you see the snake?”
“Did it hiss or something?”
“Well, no. I think it’s sleeping or drugged or something.”
“So, how do you know there’s actually a snake?”
Melanie hesitated. She couldn’t say how she knew. No one knew about her abilities, not even her husband. “I just have a feeling,” she said finally.
“The police can’t investigate feelings, Melanie.”
The dispatcher sighed. “No one can search the box without probably cause.”
“But he’s acting suspicious,” the postal worker hissed.
“He’s Delbert Richardson. He always acts suspicious.”
“What should I do, then?”
“I don’t know, refuse service?”
“Ugh,” she muttered. “Guess I’ll take care of this myself. Just be prepared for someone getting snake bit somewhere.” She hung up the phone and walked back to Delbert.
“Did you get the stamps?” he asked.
She ignored the question. “Is there anything in this box that shouldn’t be there?”
His eyes widened. “N-No.”
“Cut the crap, Delbert. Is there a snake in this box?”
His mouth dropped open. “How did you know?”
“I have my ways. You have got to be the dumbest”
“Darlene cheated on me and took my kids away!” he countered.
“You get drunk at the lodge and bitch about her. You don’t mail her a snake. How’d you get it in the box, anyway?”
“Wait. Why did you want to mail it? Why not drop it off on her porch or something?”
“I wanted it to look legit,” the man replied, “with postmarks and all that stuff. Darlene wouldn’t open it otherwise.”
Melanie leaned over the counter. “Do you know what you tried to do is a federal offense?”
“So? It’s not like I haven’t been in trouble with the law before.”
“You’ve dealt with the police here in town. You haven’t messed with anything federal. You could go away for a long time. Do you want to be stuck behind bars while your kids grow up?” the woman whispered.
“No,” he muttered.
“I have an idea, Delbert. How about you take the box, release the snake, don’t get bitten, and we pretend this whole thing never happened. Does that sound good to you?”
The man nodded gravely. “Yes’m.”
He carefully picked up the box and walked out the door.
“Maybe knowing too much can be helpful after all,” Melanie said. She then went to the back to finish sorting mail.