Yeah, I have owned cars, trucks, ATVs, bicycles, boats. You name it. Hell, I even had a damn horse when I was a kid, at least my grandpa said it was my horse. I’ve never had an airplane but I’ve been on enough of them. Having said all that, I don’t like any of them, and not just because the horse bit me. I would just rather walk. You miss so much by traveling too quickly. I have driven down the dirt road just west of my house at least twice a week for the last 20 years, but the first time I walked down it I found a pocket knife with a broken blade, a small Clovis Point, and a very large pair of lace panties. I kept the first two. Every time I’m on an airplane looking out the window and trying to pretend I’m not just a little bit scared, I wonder how many broken pocket knives, clovis points and pairs of lacy panties I’m missing by being in such a damn hurry. I expect if I walked from my house to Vegas I would be able to retire just by sellings knives, indigenous points and used fat girls’ panties. I don’t even have to Google to know that there is a market for at least one of those.
So if I can walk, I do it. Sometimes if my wife and I are traveling and stopping for the night, I’ll ask her to let me out a couple of miles from our destination and let me walk to catch up. That’s one of the secrets of our marriage. I will never share the other secrets, even though I don’t have to Google to know that there is a market for those as well.
Well, about a year ago I decided to walk to the graveyard about 4 miles south of our house.This was probably my favorite destination.The land along the road slopes just enough and there are big hay fields and stands of tall pines along the route.The graveyard is very old and most of the graves are marked only with field stone. I wouldn’t refer to it as a cemetery because even though the church has long-since rotted away, there was surely a church there when the graves were dug.
Among the other flotsam and jetsam in the grass along the blacktop I often find mail. I don’t know if our carrier throws the occasional correspondence away as a token act of rebellion, but it’s always there. I rarely even pick up any of it. It’s usually wet and deformed and soon the county mowers will shred it anyway.
The parcel I found that day was neither wet nor deformed. It was a very clean, crisp, light-blue envelope. I don’t know why, but I picked it up. The address and name were written in a beautiful, almost calligraphed, script. I knew the address. It was about half a mile farther down the road. I knew all 8 of the mailboxes along that 4 mile stretch. This mailbox was inordinately large, inordinately ugly and inordinately brown with black hand-painted numbers. The dilapidated house that went with the dilapidated mailbox was hidden by a mass of Chinese Privet and barely visible from the road.
I don’t know why I didn’t just put the crisp blue envelope in the ugly brown mailbox. I guess I wanted to be a hero of sorts, so I walked past the Chinese Privet, up the washed-out gravel drive, and knocked on the dilapidated door. The entry opened about 8 inches, and a thin lady, maybe in her early 60s, with very light brown skin, her hair wrapped in a pale blue silk scarf, peered out. I don’t know if she was still pretty, but I do know she had been at some point.
I said something benign. She said nothing. I handed her the letter. She looked at it and her eyes sparkled …if that makes sense.
Then I heard a deep and menacing voice from the darkness behind the barely-open door. I don’t know what the voice said, but her eyes stopped sparkling. She looked down and said, “thanks,” and quickly closed and locked the door.
I never walk that direction anymore. I’m not sure why.
Alan Caldwell lives in Carroll County Georgia, but is working on moving to his rural property in the mountains of Northeast Alabama. He has been married to his lovely wife, Brandi, for 33 years. He has one son, Caleb, who is a firefighter, a daughter-in-law, Chelsee, who is an emergency room nurse, and a grandson, Asher. Alan has been teaching for 27 years and spends much of his free time outdoors or reading. Alan has been collecting stories, mostly about his family, for over 40 years, but has just begun writing them.