The Mailwoman by Stephen V. Ramey
When the mailwoman collapsed on the doorstep, neighbors claimed they saw Frank Rowe take his mail from her fist and storm inside, angry it was mostly bills again. What he really did was check the woman’s pulse, then hurry without quite running to the phone.
The ambulance came and two burly men hurried through the chain-link gate, up spalled cement steps to the porch where they deposited boxy equipment beside the woman’s face (blocking the view for Janice March next door, who was taking notes).
They proceeded to revive the woman, undoing three buttons to plunge a syringe directly into her quivering heart, placing an oxygen mask over her lips. All this while Frank Rowe leered, Noreen Perkins would report from across the street. The truth is his mouth did gape, but only because he had not been so close to death since his brother’s funeral last spring.
As the men bundled the mailwoman off on a stretcher — naked as a blue jay according to Jennifer Strong — he noticed their resemblance to pallbearers and winced. A wince is not a smile, no matter what Francine Jenkins told her husband.
And when the lead man stumbled, the rusted gate snagging on his uniform pants, Frank Rowe laughed outright a majority of the women recounted. Yet his doubling over was not the result of some reflexive cachinnation, but a physical pain in his gut, a metaphorical kick to the solar plexus resulting from a momentary vision of his brother’s pallbearer tripping, the body sliding from the splintered pinewood coffin amid a confusion of flowered wreaths and wire stands. “You get what you pay for,” Frank’s wife had later commented, meaning the coffin.
That night at the Moose Lodge he listened to the tragic tale unwind second-hand from various husbands to the laughter that accompanied his complicit actions therein, and he smiled. A simple smile to be sure, nothing fancy. He had never been one to stand in the way of fun.
Afterward, when they bought him a round and toasted his antics — Stealing the mail from a convulsing mailman? Talk about post haste! — he only pretended to drink.