The Mailman’s Dream
Ripened green, bright orange and dusky brown leaves covered the sidewalks. The day was ready for rain. I was on my way to a carpenter job interview when I met my mailman. There was something peculiar about his baggy pants and the loose way he carried his bag. What really made me notice him, though, was the way he walked. He avoided all the dead leaves. I went to my carpenter and masonry job interviews every day so I ran into him often.
After a week, we nodded politely. After a few more weeks, drinking at the corner pub seemed more profitable than interviews. I began getting up later and later in the day. I’d have red eyes and a rotten scowl on my face when I looked in the mirror to shave. One particular day I ordered a small pizza for lunch. When I hung up the phone, I saw my mailman coming up the front sidewalk. I invited him in to share some beer with me.
He brightened, smiled but refused. “I’m remembering the locusts,” he whispered.
“The locusts? Here?”
“No,” he said mournful that I didn’t share his concern for the trees. “No, the locusts out East in Quebec. I read it in the paper. This coming spring they’ll wake from their seven year sleep.”
“But that won’t happen here,” I said pointing to the healthy trees still clothed in shades of gold-orange and yellow-brown. He looked sad and turned to leave. “Why don’t you come in and tell me about it?” I said. I drank beer as he drank coffee.
“You see, when I was growing up back East in Quebec, the locusts came every seven years. I would hear the trees cry. I’d try and cheer them up, but nothing worked.” The mailman looked from his coffee he had been swirling with his spoon. He became aware of my bloodshot eyes staring at him in amazement. He shook his shoulders but couldn’t shake off the atmosphere he had created. I was listening to him as a kid listens to a fairy tale. “That’s how it started. Ever since, the trees tell me stories, I never walk on the leaves. It hurts them.”
“How do you know that?”
“I just told you, they told me it hurts. I hear them cry when anyone walks on them.”
I mumbled an ‘Oh’ and took a swig of beer. Thank God the doorbell rang. I didn’t know what to say. It was the pizza. It was small. Its smell encompassed the whole kitchen. I asked him to stay and share it. He looked at it longingly.
“No, thank you.”
“Why not? There’s enough for both of us.”
“It’s my children. They love pizza. I couldn’t eat pizza without letting my children eat it too.”
I held the pizza in my hands. He stood from the kitchen table. I then noticed we were the same height, six feet even. “I’ll be going now. I have to deliver the mail.”
I hurriedly put the pizza onto the small Formica table and shook his hand. “My name’s John. Why don’t you stop by for a chat once in a while. I’m unemployed and that’s a great story, about the trees.” His eyes watered. I had hurt him somehow. “Really, I mean it. I never thought trees felt. I mean, I’ll stop stepping on leaves.”
“Thanks, John. I’m Jean. I’m glad I could help you understand about trees. Not enough people seem to care about them nowadays.”
The pizza was getting colder by the minute. He noticed me looking at it.
“I’ll be going. I’ll tell you more stories another day. Enjoy your pizza.”
* * *
Unemployment was high that season. It took me three months to find a job suitable to my temperament. In the meantime, Jean stopped by my place about twice a week and told me stories. They were strange. He seemed to be a throwback to primitive times when all stories were about nature, the beasts of the earth and the monsters of nightmares. I asked him where he got all those stories.
“The trees tell me about the present. Those other stories you seem to like so much come from my dreams.” I told him to quit his mailman’s job and become a professional
storyteller. “But I like being a mailman,” he insisted. “I get to travel throughout all of
Vancouver. Next week I’m going to be transferred to Surrey.”
“Why are you being transferred? I thought mailmen kept the same route for years?”
“Other mailmen, not me. I like to listen to the trees, then I tell their stories to everyone. But the children in the neighborhood get tired of my stories and make fun of me. I wish it wasn’t so, but that’s how children are.”
“What happens when you’ve done all the districts in Vancouver?”
“I start over again in another cycle. By then there’s new leaves on the trees and new children to listen. I’m very happy. I’ve been doing this for ten years. There isn’t anything I’d rather do more.” His voice faltered. He looked from his steaming coffee and stared out the window.
“Is there something else you’d like to do?”
“In my younger days, before I was married, I wanted to be a jockey.”
“Horse or disc jockey?” Jean sighed.
“John, sometimes I wonder what life is all about. I still can’t figure it out. I wanted to ride the horses. I go to the track every once in a while. Sometimes I even bet a little here and there…” He stared out the window again. Abruptly he said, “I gotta be going. The mail must be delivered.”
He stood from the kitchen table and then he did a strange thing, he shook my hand. It was strange because he had an aversion to physical contact. Once I had brushed my fingers against his when giving him his cup of coffee. He nearly hit the ceiling. After that, he poured his own coffee and we never spoke of it.
* * *
It was a year later when I ran into him again. It was at the corner pub. I was now employed, a regular working man. I even found a good woman I’m planning to marry. When I ran into Jean, he was wearing his mailman uniform even though it was night. I thought that strange but didn’t mention it. He looked happy. He joked with some people at the table next to his.
I asked if I could join him. He rose from the table and hugged me hello, slapped my shoulders and held out a chair for me.
“It’s good to see you, Jean. What have you been doing this past year?” I asked. I was amazed at the transformation of my old mailman. I couldn’t believe it was Jean. I asked him about the trees and their stories and he began an odyssey.
“I’m a new man! Can’t you see? I’m a happy man now!” We settled down, ordered a pitcher of beer and exchanged news about each other. I didn’t want to talk about myself. I was fidgeting with impatience. I wanted to hear the mailman’s story. Whatever it was that had changed him, I thought, it must have been a miracle.
“Things were getting worse and worse at home. My poor wife only had a few clothes to wear. She was in the habit of wearing an apron over her dress so no one could see all the patches and holes in her dresses. And the kids, the poor kids! They used to get oatmeal for breakfast and not much else until dinner.” Jean hung his head.
“It was the day she spat on the floor that started things changing. I was leaving home after my oatmeal when she stopped me, “We’re almost out of oatmeal again. What am I going to do for the kids?”
“Call them children,” I admonished her. “They’re not goats.”
She then looked onto the torn linoleum and spat. “Even goats eat better than our children.” A look of pain clouded Jean’s face. All the stories he had told me had made us feel melancholy, sad or happy. Never did they make us feel pain. He took another swig of beer.
“I drink nowadays. It’s to make up for not being a mailman anymore. I work in a factory now.”
I was anxious to hear what had transformed my sad mailman into a healthy-looking man, though slightly drunk. He continued. “I told you how fond I was of my dreams. One night I opened a big black book I found on the street, this was in a dream. So, I opened this book and found strange Egyptian hieroglyphics in it. It also had my name printed in pencil.
“The next night, I found the same book in my dreams, this time in a West End foyer. I opened it. My name was written in fancy English script. After my name was the title of a book, Dream Power by Ann Farady. On my route the very next day, I found that book in a garbage can while I was walking in the street to avoid the leaves on the sidewalk. I read most of it before going to bed.
“That night, as the book told me, I paid attention to the details of my dreams. Again I came across the same black book and saw a picture of myself in full mailman uniform reading another book, Astral Projection by Stanley Oliver Fox. The very next day, while walking pass a sewer manhole, I noticed its cap tremble and rumble. Sewage water pushed the cap off and out spewed this ugly gray-green water. Riding high on a crest of broken birds’ bones was the book by Stan.
“I’m not an educated man, as you know. I only completed grade nine. Ann’s book was hard to read. Now this guy named Stanley Fox comes along and says some of the most ponderous statements a man could say, in a book or any place else! Sure, it was a skinny book and I understood all of it. That sure surprised me. Stan’s message was: When you’re dreaming, realize you’re dreaming by the little clues you see. You know, things like three-eyed people, or seeing one of your kids grown up, stuff like that. When you realize you’re dreaming, you can then do anything and have the most exciting dreams in the universe. I thought I had been having exciting dreams. ‘How much excitement can one mailman take?’ I thought.
“That night I refused to dream, despite the fact that Ann had told me that I dreamed every night whether I liked it or not or remembered or not. The next night I refused to dream again. In the morning my wife went through her now familiar spitting on the floor routine for me and added a flourish. She waved her wooden spoon in the air, with oatmeal clinging in great lumps, “But where’s the brown sugar to top it off?”
“This was too much for me. I could no longer deliver mail when my wife yelled every morning at me about brown sugar, the race track or the bills. I went to bed and cried for days until my last paycheck came. I got up, bought my wife a new apron and twenty pounds of brown sugar. She no longer spat on the floor and the children no longer begged or whined for food. I then decided life was good. I’d go back to work.
“I went back to work, but now I look forward to going home and dreaming to practice what Annie and Stan had taught me. My dreams were now more exciting than the stories from the trees. “One strange night, I went to dream, sleep, I mean, and as I was sleeping, this little person climbed onto my nose. He started hammering a sign to my forehead. I told him to quit it but he didn’t hear.
“So I fell asleep some more and walked up my nose to him and told him he better leave my forehead alone or I’d punch him in the mouth. He said Ann Farady told him to do it. And you know, Ann, well, she’s a doctor and I always listen to doctors so I says OK and ask what the signs says. He said, “Don’t bother me now, I’ve got work to do.”
“I watched him near half an hour before he finished his job. Then he slid down my nose and was gone. I looked at the sign and it said OUT TO LUNCH.
“That’s how I knew I was dreaming. I never go out to lunch. Like my children, I eat oatmeal for breakfast and nothing else until dinnertime.
“I turned the sign over because it wasn’t true. On the back was a treasure map. One of the lines pointed to a pirate’s chest. Directions said, FOLLOW ME. So I hopped onto the line.
“I nearly changed my mind about the whole thing, treasure and all. You wouldn’t believe the scary things that happened!” I asked for details. “Why, there were witches on brooms flying by, goblins and children in skeleton costumes, then Frankenstein monsters and vampire zombies and soon I was in a big graveyard with some mist coming up from the ground.
“Seems all the gravestones have my last name on ’em but I’m not dead. Some voices call out, asking me what I’m doing there. I say a woman named Ann sent me.
“All the gravestones start whispering and bending towards each other. They finally stop all their jabbering and tell me someone down the lane wants to see me. Not see me, actually, seeing as he’s blind, but some old man wants to talk to me.
“I walk down the graveyard. The graves get older and dirtier with lots of weeds. The headstones get skinner and skinner until I come to an intersection that has a wooden stake standing in the middle. The name chalked onto the stake is the same as mine, first and last.
“Well,” I say to myself, “what is going on here? I’m not dead yet and my little wife isn’t the kind to bury me at a street intersection.
“I start to move on but a hand leaps from the gray ground, stretches itself like silly putty and drags me down to the grave, lip to lip, separated by six feet of dirt. An old man’s voice asks me what’s my business.
“I says I’m a mailman.
“He says, “Where?”
“I say Vancouver.
“He says, “Have I got any mail?”
“I said, “Where do you live?”
“He says, “HERE, STUPID!”
“I’m not gonna argue with him, so I tell him no, but he has a singing telegram.
“He says, “Go ahead and sing it.” He released me and I ran like crazy. But that silly putty hand of his got round my left ankle right here. See that welt? Yeah, that’s a bad one. He got me there and yanked me back. “I know who you are,” says the old man.
“I claim I’m not. He says I am.
“I say, “Who am I?”
“I’ll tell you a story,” says the old man.
“I’ll listen,” I told him as he lugged me to the ground again.
“And you listen close, you hear!” he said.
This is the old man’s story.
“I was a happy man once, a long time ago. I owned some land up on the ridge about ten miles outside of town. Not far, my pretty young wife liked to deck herself out with ribbons and frills and talk with the other ladies while they sewed quilts and such. As I loved her, we lived close to town and I farmed land less rich because of that, but I didn’t mind. I loved my wife. She was a good woman, always happy and smiling when I brought her new ribbons.
One day she made ME happy.
She came to me while I was plowing the land. Wrapped in her wedding shawl was a little baby boy.
I didn’t know where it came from. She laughed at me and called me silly. But I asked her where. She pointed to her stomach.
Now it was my turn to laugh. “No,” I said, “that’s impossible. You would have been three feet round were you carrying that child.”
“No,” she says. “I’m tall. The baby laid upwards to surprise you.”
That child never ceased to surprise me! I gave him all my life, all my land. The money I used to spend on my wife’s ribbons, now I set aside a portion of it for our son for the day he would choose a wife. This I hid in one corner of the hut under a wooden board. I also saved a special portion unknown even to my wife for our old age. That I hid in the fireplace where I had purposely made a loose brick for such matters.
My wife was happy with the one child. She didn’t want more children when she saw how I hoarded the money for that son. She visited the Indian woman who lived up the river, deserted by her tribe for tampering with the spirits of the dead.
I knew what my wife was doing up there. I didn’t mind. I didn’t want to see her get sad so I was satisfied with my one child. As the years passed our little boy grew up splendid and handsome, rode horses around the farms, watched out for poachers on our part of the forest and laid traps for the foxes that stole our chickens.
By now the farm was big. Thank goodness the town never grew. It would have swallowed up my farm. As it was, my farm grew and swallowed up the town.
Outside my son and pretty wife, I had one other joy. It was Sinbad, my stallion. I brought that stallion into the world, had to shoot its mother when it was still a foal, and I even nursed the little one when he came down with a strange illness that the doctor didn’t know how to treat. Sinbad was my other joy. Three joys I had: my wife my son and my horse.
That’s enough for one man.
One day, I’m coming in from cutting the hay and I see my son riding off with Sinbad. He was never to ride Sinbad. Sinbad was mine as my wife was mine, as he was mine. I gave my son everything, denying myself new clothes so he could have the finest in the territory. I gave him everything and he got up and stole Sinbad like a common horse thief!
That damn son, cursed be his and his children’s children! He not only stole my horse, ran off with his marriage money, he robbed me of my wife too!
When he left, she pined away, never worked with a smile or tune hummed as in the old days. She didn’t visit the other women in the new town across the river. I brought home French lace, satin cloth and jewelry. She had tired of ribbons long ago. It was the day I brought home the fancy clock that I knew she would die soon.
She looked at the clock with its china figures of a man playing a flute while a fancy lady looked on. That was about it. She just looked at it.
My heart broke. She was suppose to cry over it, laugh about it, fondle it, make up stories about the man and the lady, look it over with her small hands and find the key to hear it play a tune. No, she looked at it and didn’t even ask who I got it from or how much it cost.
That night she lay in bed cold as ice. In the morning, I find she’s gone from this world. I cursed my son again and again as I lay in this bed. The next week I was training another stallion I bought from the neighbors. The horse threw me, stomped on my face and left me blind. I sold the farm then, took the little money left that my son hadn’t known about and I’ve been traveling ever since looking for him.
“What’s your name?”
I swallowed hard, said Jean, my old mailman. “I haven’t got a name. I just deliver the mail.”
“If you don’t have the same voice as my son! And the same dull mind to match! I say, I think you even have the same smooth skin, the birthmark on your left shoulder.” His hand reached in and found my birthmark. Jean continued his story as we ordered another pitcher of beer.
“I was scared. I couldn’t be his son. I never rode a horse in my life. Didn’t steal one either and my father didn’t live on a farm.
“About this time I wanted to get out of the dream, so I called Annie to help me. She comes and stands by the wooden stake which marked the old man’s grave. I ask her to make the fool let go of me.
“She just stood there and smiled. I start ranting and raving and she stands there, all smiles. She finally bent down and whispered something to the ground. The silly putty hand loosened its grip on me but didn’t let go. The old man mumbled some strange words over and over again. Little Annie bends down again and says something to him. He stops his mumbling and lets go of my neck. Another silly putty hand reaches from the grave dirt and then, with two hands, he pulls himself out of the grave, straight through the dirt, and sits across from me.
“And I’ll be damned! We looked like twins! A mirror, I tell you, only he’s got a few more wrinkles and no eyes.
“Ann picks up some dirt and spits on it and rubs it in his eye sockets. Then he can see. He stares at me, my uniform, as I still got it on, like to dream in it, makes me feel at home. He’s staring at me and all of a sudden he begins to cry like a child.
“I don’t know what to do. Annie gestures me to hug the old bugger. I put my hands around him and nearly let go when I get a whiff of him. We sit there, crying. He made me upset with all those tears so I started crying too. Finally, he stops, takes both hands, now normal size, and holds my face and stares in my eyes.
“As he stares, I naturally stare into his and there’s my wife there, the little children running around in their tatters and only oatmeal to eat. He continues staring and finally says, “The curse be lifted. You’re still the foolish son of mine after all those lives you’ve lived. I best lift the curse for those little children you got crying at home. Go back to your wife. Dress her in fashionable clothes. Feed your children. Stop fiddling around, waiting to win the Lottery or Irish Sweepstakes and losing all your money at the track.
You’ll never have good luck with horses. Go home now, the curse is lifted.”
“Annie smiles, beckons me to go the way I came in. I look back and she’s helping the old man up. They’re walking to the graveyard. He’s gonna be buried in a real grave. Somehow I know that.
“So here I am, working in a factory. Those leaves got to me. I don’t go near the track. I hear a horse named Sinbad wins now and then, but it doesn’t mean much to me anymore. I like to go home and see my kids happy and my wife likes the dresses she buys so I’m a happy man. I don’t dream much, anymore, ‘though Annie says I do every night. When I do dream, it’s about making my wife and children happy. That’s made me a happy man, see?”
Yes, I did see. Jean looked like a happy man, although slightly drunk. No trace of the melancholy mailman could be seen. He looked towards the fireplace’s mantle at a fancy china clock with a man playing a flute for a fancy dressed lady.
“I got to get home to my wife, she’s waiting for me.” He stood. The military cut of his uniform reminded me of my own long-dead father.
He left the bar but forgot his mailbag at the table. I called to him to stop. I followed him out the door, but he had disappeared. I returned to the table and randomly picked a letter from his bag. I was surprised. The letter was addressed to me.
The postmark was a year old, about the time I first met Jean. I hurriedly ripped it open and read: YOU ARE NOW DREAMING!
I start to look around the bar to have the note contradicted when I notice everything is getting black and fading as a light comes through the glass doors. I was soon awake in my bed.
The truth/reality vs. fictional of this dictated and transcribed story.
This story has some truth I know is true: my grandfather wasn’t a mason but a carpenter. My father was once a horse jockey. He quit when he was asked to throw a race. He took to drinking. Once I learned much more about my father’s sorrows, I became more compassionate – but that happened nearly 35 years after this story.
The two books and two authors are real. They were my ‘magical’ introduction to astral projection, now called “lucid dreaming” by the scientific community.