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Post Office

by Fred Vogel

Fred Vogel's stories have appeared in Literally Stories, Crack the Spine, Subtle Fiction, Literary Orphans, Clever, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon.

Marcene and Dean lived in a two-story cabin in the mountain community of Wind-in-the-Willows. The lower floor doubled as the Post Office since the postal service refused to make house calls to areas deemed Nowheresville.

Those picking up their mail simply pushed the buzzer at the front door and waited to be let in. Since Dean spent much of his time at his mother's real estate office, Marcene was the likely greeter. With her long blonde hair and soft blue eyes, Marcene looked the part of a 1960s poster child. Patches of transparent hair in the pits of her tanned arms only added to her charm. Dean was a workout nut who kept his thinning red hair concealed under a Harley Davidson bandana, even though he had never been on a motorcycle in his life.

The Artist was well-known throughout the vibrant Bay Area arts community. He had come to Wind-in-the-Willows with hopes of revitalizing his creative juices. He wanted to try his once-steady hand at landscapes and vistas, a departure from the abstract drawings of everyday people that had garnered him his fame. He had rented a cabin for two months, a transaction he and Dean had finalized over the internet.

When he arrived at the Post Office to set up mail service, the artist was stunned by Marcene's beauty and knew he must draw her. When Dean showed up, the artist saw him as a person he would like to draw as well. Envisioning the two conjoined as one on a colorful canvas fascinated the artist to no end but, when he verbalized his intentions, they were quickly dismissed by Dean.

With Marcene's beauty entrenched in his mind, the artist followed Dean along the narrow two-lane highway and up and down twisting dirt roads before reaching the cabin. Dean gave a brief tour before handed over the key, reemphasizing the fact that neither he nor his wife would be available for posing. The artist said he understood; no hard feelings and all that.   

A typical day found the artist hiking the terrain with only a sketch pad and a set of coloring pencils, on the lookout for idyllic settings. He was mesmerized by the glorious landscapes, intoxicated by the succulent aromas of the majestic pines, and spellbound by the star-filled nights. Unlike artists who sit behind an easel and capture directly what's in front of them, the artist preferred to compose rough sketches and then recreate them onto larger canvases within the confines of the not-so-great indoors.

A knock on the door in the middle of nowhere can be unsettling. It can be even more so when you've ingested a bowlful of nature's goodness, as the artist had done. He peeked out the window to see Dean's Jeep Wagoneer blocking the graveled driveway. In full paranoia, he cracked open the door just as Dean was pulling away, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake. The artist picked up a package that had been left at the door. It was wrapped in brown paper and bound together with frayed twine. It was a care package from his wife - a tin of homemade cookies and an industrial size bag of assorted jerky, her humorous attempt at mocking his assertion that he could survive two months as a mountain man. He was pleasantly surprised at how good jerky tasted when you're stoned, though not nearly as good as her gooey chocolate chip cookies.

Three weeks into the retreat, the artist drove to the Post Office and presented Marcene with a portrait he had drawn of her.

On the way back to the cabin, he realized he was being followed by Dean, who confronted him in the driveway, holding the portrait at arm's length as though it were contagious. Fully aware Dean was younger and stronger than he, the artist prepared for the possible physical confrontation by maneuvering to higher ground at least he would have gravity on his side, he surmised. Much to his relief, Dean wasn't there to pummel him, he just wanted to return the drawing, while stressing it would be in everyone's best interest to not communicate with Marcene unless he was around.

The artist spent the rest of his days drawing everything in sight. He was anxious to get back to his Bay Area studio to continue his rediscovered inspiration.

He made sure Dean's Wagoneer was parked at the Post Office when he dropped off the cabin key on his way out of town.

He again offered the drawing to Marcene. This time Dean examined it from every angle, agreed it wasn't so bad, and handed it to Marcene, as if he had been the artist and that he was presenting her with a gift.

Years later, when the time called for more inspiration, the artist returned to Wind-in-the-Willows. He stopped in at the Post Office. It wasn't Marcene who answered the door, but another beautiful young woman, who introduced herself as Dean's wife. He knew full well drawing this lovely subject was going to create another head-on collision with Dean. But he felt he was up to the challenge, having come armed with coloring pencils, a pound of chocolate chip cookies, and a shoebox filled with nature's goodness.

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