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On The Road Again
About the Author: Wayne J. Gardiner has several short stories in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and a novel, THE MAN ON THE LEFT.

I’m going to Atlanta next week.

The Braves hosting the Cubs, a three-game set. Seats midway between home plate and third base, six rows up. Both teams are out of the pennant race, no chance for the playoffs.

I’ve been to Atlanta once before, many years ago on a weekend pass when I was in the Army. It was an enjoyable few days but I have no real affinity for the city. Chicago either, for that matter, though I’ve heard the Magnificent Mile is nice.

I don’t even like baseball that much.

You might wonder why I’m so excited about the trip.

I haven’t left the house in over eleven years.

In fact, it’s been eleven years, eight months, two weeks and three days.

But who’s counting?

The fact that I haven’t left my home in almost twelve years is not a whimsical decision. Nor is it a protest or anything like that. I’m not disabled. People consider me to be good-looking. I’m sociable by nature. Physically fit.

The host on our local talk radio station asked if there was a reason I hadn’t been out of the house for over eleven years.


I told him about it. Not the real reason. But I told him there was a reason.

Of course there’s a reason.

Oh, I may not always have it top-of-mind or right on the tip of my tongue.

But it’s there. It may only come to me fleetingly, occasionally, but don’t delude yourself—I have a reason.

Quite a few years passed before anyone realized I didn’t go out.

The signs were there, but no one had put them together, though several might have, if they’d had a reason to think about it.

I’m not a reclusive person. I’m happy to greet people at my door, treat them cordially, smell the fresh air, wave at a neighbor mowing his lawn. I’m always nicely dressed. Casual clothes usually, but neat—laundered, pressed. I’m meticulous about my personal hygiene. Shower every morning. Clean shaven. Hair nicely trimmed. It took some time for me to acquire that skill. Cutting my own hair. I’m confident now that it’s every bit as presentable as if it were done by a professional barber.

The UPS man is probably the person I see more often than any other. The Fed-Ex guy not quite so often, I think UPS must be gaining in that share of market battle.

The Fed-Ex man tends to be a little more sociable than this counterpart. More likely to linger a few minutes to chat about sports or weather. Usually has a joke to pass along.

There are other regular visitors.

The mailman. He’s gone the extra mile to be a good public servant. After the last … after I started staying inside, I had mail accumulating in my mailbox at the curb. I saw him stop each day, look toward the house, wondering why the box hadn’t been emptied, then stuff the new mail inside. I waved at him once. After a week, he was having trouble fitting the newly arrived mail into the crammed box. He saw me in the window. I waved again. And he gathered it all up and brought it to the front door. I thanked him profusely. He asked if there was any reason I hadn’t been collecting my mail.

“Yes,” I said.

He waited for me to go on, but I left it at that.

“Well,” he said finally, not really knowing what else to say, “Would you like me to deliver it directly to your door?”

“I’d love that,” I said. “In fact, I’d be happy to pay you for that service.”

“No need,” he said. “I’ll be happy to do it.”

And he did.

When he’s gone on vacation, he notifies his replacement of our arrangement. A very efficient organization, our U.S. Postal Service, despite all those complaints you hear, and those stories about people “going postal.”

He refuses to take any payment from me, but every year at Christmas, I give him a card with a fifty-dollar bill inside.

There are a host of others who stop by now and then.

This story appears in our MAY 2022 Issue
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