The three books had arrived promptly the third of each month, so Doris went into action on the first. All three had been mailed from Newport and since the 9/11 attack, Doris knew that anything that ran over a pound and went priority rate had to be handed to a postal worker if it was going to be sent. True, a lot of packages slightly over a pound slipped through, since some postal worker might just heft a package and estimate whether or not it was worth weighing and possibly sending back. Doris couldn’t count on ID’ing the person mailing the package. Still, she corralled the Postmaster of Newport and informed him that any package bound for Toledo with her name on it should be flagged before getting out of the post office.
Doris contented herself with finding a convenient spot where she could watch people coming and going, complete with a thermos of coffee and an expectant attitude.
She needn’t have bothered.
Whoever it was that had cooked up this cockamamie plot was two steps ahead of her. No package turned up and Doris found herself gritting her teeth, thinking of the wasted time. Besides, she hated being predictable.
Still, it might come in the next day, she reasoned. She was there bright and early the next morning, with thermos of coffee again ready, only this time with paperwork from the office neatly spread out in front of her so she could claim to have gotten something done, even if she didn’t nab her twisted bookie.
No one, nothing, not a sign that anyone even knew what books were, let alone bound and determined to get shed of some.
Doris got home late, thoroughly disgusted with the entire situation and only prompt action on the part of Milt kept her from being a surly dinner and TV companion. He had splurged and gotten a pair of tenderloin steaks, grilled them and also had mushrooms, baked potatoes, green beans and salad ready for her when she got home. It more or less saved the evening and Doris went to sleep that night, only irked in a minor fashion over her continuing, unsolved mystery. Maybe the guy skipped a month or maybe he or she was tight on funds, Doris mused. Maybe he ran out of books. Maybe…
Maybe he or she was three steps ahead of Doris because when she got home for lunch the next day, what was waiting for her, carefully hidden from casual sight behind the screen door, but her expected priority rate envelope and with a volume one of natural disasters: Earthquake.
Doris almost pitched a fit, then and there. Only to pause, pick up the book, and heft it thoughtfully in her hands. Three steps ahead, eh? Doris would dispense with steps altogether and start leaping, to conclusions if that was all she could manage. Nothing had left the Newport Post Office bound for her address. She knew that was the case. She’d been there. But the envelope had a Newport cancellation stamp.
Her random book mailer might have had an accomplice, or worked for the Post Office. Or could have dropped it off a day earlier. After a moment, Doris went inside, called the station and told them not to expect her for awhile. She had a couple of stops to make.
* * *
Hugh Scholander lived on the Bay road past Butler Bridge, just above what was laughing called the Toledo Airport. It had a nice view of the Yaquina River at high tide, and a dismal view of some salt marshes at low tide. Doris reflected on that and wondered once again, just what the attraction was to living on an estuary. Mud she could see all too easily around her own place. Quite a bit of it, in the process of moving downhill from one lot to another.
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