I felt bad bringing this up, because the mailman was a nice person who always knew us kids by name, who’d bring us extra toy catalogues at Christmas, and would warn us if unexpected letters from school were coming home. He never complained when dogs bit his mailbag, nor did he sue my parents when he slipped on the front walk and landed head first in our rhododendron by the front door. I didn’t think he ever cared about any of that. He was never mean. He walked, whistling through the neighborhood with his piss smelling musky shorts too tight and his shirt too short, delivering mail without ever a complaint. But I was desperate and felt like a traitor, and cornered, I knew that it was a sore point, the way the mailman smoked as he walked his route, sometimes a pipe dangling from his mouth, sometimes a cigar, always a cigarette. The fact was that he always had something burning at the end of his lips, that he always reeked of cigarettes and sometimes on a Friday, or Monday, or even Tuesday, booze like lighter fluid, all of his odors making our mail smell like closing time at a road side tavern after a long night of Keno and pulltabs.

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