*** This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to an actual person or place are entirely coincidental ***
Jim eased the red Corvette into his normal parking space behind the Oregon House Post Office. As usual, he was late for work that morning, but also as usual he didn’t care. Revving the engine before turning the car off, he leaned back in his seat. Listening to the car tick as it cooled down, he reflected on his drive to work that morning and the course of the day ahead of him.
The morning had already been outside of his normal routine and comfort zone. Jim didn’t normally drive the Corvette over 65 mph because the speed made him uncomfortable, but this morning he had been thinking about staging a Workers’ Compensation accident in the mail room and had lost focus on his driving. Cruising past a California Highway Patrol Officer tucked into a driveway had snapped him out of his planning for the Workers’ Compensation “injury” and he whipped his eyes down to the speedometer. Shit! He was going almost 70 mph. He braked hard down to 50 mph and eyed his rear view mirror for several minutes. No Highway Patrol car had appeared, but he still felt sightly jittery. He liked the fact that his car could go faster than 70 mph, but he never drove it that fast.
However, his close encounter with the Highway Patrol that morning had churned up a number of memories for Jim. He had always wanted to be a California Highway Patrol Officer and it was this that he was contemplating now. Oh, he’d applied and gone through the interview process. And in the interviews, he’d done the song and dance about how he liked to help people and wanted a job serving the public. The truth though was that he enjoyed power. He liked the idea of deciding someone’s fate alongside the road. Of being able to strut around with a badge and a gun. Of being above the law. Hell, of being the law. The idea of such power intoxicated him…
And intoxicated with these dreams of law enforcement greatness, he had talked Evonne, the girl next door (literally) to the home he grew up in, to run off with him because he was destined for bigger and better things than the back streets of Fresno. Jim was 23 at the time and still living at home and Evonne had just turned 18 and was still in high school, but it didn’t matter to him. Jim spent the last of his money getting them up to Reno for a quickie wedding. Evonne had gone along with it because she was naive and it all seemed so grand and removed from the suffocating smallness of the street she grew up on and from which she had never travelled farther than Bakersfield before.
The magic hadn’t lasted long though. In short order, Jim was rejected by the California Highway Patrol. If anyone asked, he said it was because they were racist, but the truth was that he had failed the tests. All of them. And so Jim drifted from menial job to menial job – spending some time as a security guard at a Kmart in Sacramento, working as a janitor at a steel plant in Hayward, trying to sell tools at a hardware store in Fremont, lifting boxes in a warehouse for Sears in Martinez. Jim was angered by the lack of a success he felt entitled to and grew increasingly bitter over his position in life. With no real skills and a resentment toward performing work he felt was beneath him, he would never last more than a few months at a job before being fired.
Evonne grew weary of the continual promises of glory and great wealth that were somehow always just around the corner. These promises wore thin as they struggled to pay the rent every month on whatever shabby apartment they were in at the time. Jim and Evonne began fighting more and more as Evonne feared no end to the disappointment and failures that had become the standard in her life with Jim.
Seeking an escape from his wife’s criticism and nagging as well as his own failures, Jim turned to the bottle to forget about the reality of his situation. He started with cheap beer, bringing home a six pack of Budweiser every night (regardless of whether he was employed or not). The six pack became a twelve pack and the twelve pack became a case. Soon, even a case was not enough and he switched to the hard stuff, Southern Comfort being his preferred beverage. He had no problem stealing it if he couldn’t afford it. Jim frequently blacked out in the evenings and would often wake up naked on the floor of the kitchen. Sometimes he would try to force sex on Evonne and if she resisted, he would curse her or even slap her around a little before giving up.
The final straw for Evonne though came when Jim, even drunker than usual one night, had groped Evonne’s mother, Claudette, who happened to be visiting. Evonne had started yelling at Jim and without hesitating, he had wheeled around and punched her. Hard. Her head snapped back and she crashed down through their flimsy coffee table. Evonne’s mother began screaming and Jim, with remarkable dexterity for a man that had failed the physical test of the California Highway Patrol, leapt on her and began choking her. It was only because of a neighbor that heard the screams and intervened that Evonne’s mother was not murdered that night. Evonne and her mother left that night, but Jim was too inebriated to notice until the next day. He never heard from Evonne again and although he had tried to track her down, he was never able to locate her. That night had been fourteen years ago and Jim had been unable to establish a serious relationship with any woman since then. It wasn’t from a lack of trying, but invariably his troubles with alcohol or his latent issues with rage would emerge before any relationship could get off the ground. It also didn’t help that his drinking had left him with a pot belly and bad skin. Jim visited a prostitute named Pandora that worked near where he lived from time to time, but he didn’t like to dwell on that. It reminded him of his own shortcomings and his inability to find success with women.
Shortly after Evonne left him and in the depths of confusion and despair, the big break in Jim’s life had come from his stepfather of all people. His stepfather’s brother worked for the U.S. Postal Service and passed on information about a program the U.S.P.S. had just initiated to recruit more minorities from disadvantaged backgrounds. No experience was needed and the unemployment checks were about to run out from the last job he had been fired from, so Jim agreed to try out. The U.S.P.S. was desperate for minorities and so, to Jim’s great surprise, he was hired on to work at a mail processing facility in Hayward. The pay was almost twice minimum wage and compared to his jobs in the private sector, Jim didn’t have to work all that hard. More importantly, he realized it was almost impossible to get fired. Recognizing a good thing for him, Jim forced himself to cut back on his drinking enough to be able to show up for his job.
Jim told himself that his job with the Post Office would suffice until he got the big chance at success he deserved. However, lacking any actual skills or talent and failing to take any initiative in his life, Jim’s big shot at success would never come. While he was waiting for his big break though and riding his status as a minority, he was promoted three more times.
But, Jim couldn’t stay out of trouble. He was continually being written up for poor job performance. However, in such circumstances he had learned to accuse his supervisor of being “racist” and so he was treated with kid gloves. One day though, he lapsed in his drinking discipline and showed up at work in a blackout state. Jim staggered into the building and zeroed in on the first female he saw. He smacked her ass and yelled, “It’s my duty to please that booty!” Jim thought this was hilarious and collapsed into a corner giggling. The problem was that the female was eleven and had accompanied her mother to work on “Take Your Child To Work Day.” The girl’s mother also happened to be the supervisor of the entire facility. She had tried to have Jim fired, but the union stepped in and worked out a deal for Jim. He would be transferred to a facility far, far away in a small town named Oregon House and would have less responsibility. And in return he wouldn’t be fired and the matter would be swept under the rug.
At first, Jim was bitter about his reassignment. He felt that what he had done was being blown out of proportion and that everyone needed to lighten up. However, once he started in Oregon House, he realized that he had no one watching over him and could do even less work than he had at the Hayward facility. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. He could lie low for a little while, just collecting a paycheck and once he figured out an angle to make his big break, he’d split and be off to the big leagues.
He’d bought the Corvette when he first moved to the Oregon House facility to have something to do and because he somehow viewed it as a stepping stone to his big break – it fit into his image of success. Jim thought the Corvette was all he needed to impress women and gain the respect of men. And it was the only topic he would become animated about if it were brought up because he loved to brag about the Corvette.
Nothing had seemed to change for him though in his personal life. Now, he had convinced himself he needed hair transplants for the same reason he had once needed the Corvette.
A loud motorcycle sped by on the highway, jolting Jim back to the present. “Fuck, Evonne. That bitch,” Jim muttered to himself and flung his car door open to shuffle into work, but not before taking a final swig from the thermos of Bud Light he kept tucked under his car seat.
His co-workers, John and Debbie, had arrived on time and were already working at sorting the morning’s mail when Jim walked in. John greeted Jim with a, “Good morning” as he walked in, but Jim ignored him as he usually did. He had little use for his co-workers. Jim felt they deserved the jobs they had, while he deserved something much better. They served a purpose for him though – John and Debbie both worked hard and he could workshift most of his responsibilities over to them. And they knew how to use the Post Office equipment from Lockheed Martin he had never bothered to learn. Still, that didn’t mean he was going to bother being nice to them. What the fuck did they know? And what the fuck did they have to offer? They were nothing like him. Neither of them drove a Corvette. Both of them cared about their jobs and were nice to the customers. Fuck them.
Jim grabbed a bin of mail and started shoving letters and magazines into the Post Office boxes, quickly becoming absorbed in his thoughts about filing the fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim. He felt he deserved more money and he would enjoy some time off. Jim began absent-mindedly slipping the mail into the boxes, not bothering to see where the mail actually should have gone. All that mattered to him was that he have an empty bin at the end of the row.
That wasn’t to say that he missed anything interesting that crossed his fingers though. Jim considered one of the great perks of his job to be the easy access to all of the mail. He loved peeking at confidential documents, opening love letters, tax bills, credit card statements – anything and everything personal. Information is power and Jim reveled in it. And he exulted in the disruptions his activities caused in the lives of others. He felt as if he were striking back at a society that had neglected him and owed him more. He would never have the courage to confront this society directly, but he loved the idea of people missing their mortgage payments or being late on a credit card payment or not receiving a personal letter because of him.
Jim also sought to benefit in a more tangible fashion from his position. If someone’s magazine looked interesting, he’d take it home with him. Every day he’d also slip away with several envelopes from Netflix. One of the DVDs was bound to be something he could be entertained by and sometimes they all were. And he was certainly not above sliding a birthday card or Christmas card down the front of his pants. Jim loved the doting grandparents or aunts and uncles that would send their little vermin offspring gifts of cash. One Christmas card last year had held $500 in crisp bills.
The bell for assistance at the front counter rang and Jim was reflexively annoyed at the interruption to his routine. He turned to see both his co-workers, John and Debbie, busy at the far end of the Post Office. With a sigh of disgust, Jim headed toward the front counter, vowing revenge on whomever was responsible for making him do some unplanned work.
Rounding the corner, Jim saw two people waiting at the front counter and he recognized them both. One was the bitch from Box 487, sporting a workout suit and carefully styled dark hair today. She’d been around since he started and had been nice to him at first. However, he’d put her in her place because he knew women were only nice when they wanted something and all women were bitches anyway, right? He had to give her credit though for having good taste in magazines and Netflix movies and would frequently dip into this “resource” provided by Box 487 for his personal desires. The other person was the man associated with Box 519, dressed all in black today and looking quite polished. Jim had only encountered the man once before. It had been the week prior and the man had come in to open an account for a Post Office Box. The man had been polite and had spoken with a slight accent. Jim assumed he was affiliated with a philosophy school located in Oregon House that attracted a lot of foreigners. A school whose students Jim looked down upon, referring to them as “fags” whenever the matter came up in conversation.
The man, Box 519, was first in line and Jim guessed it was he that had rung the bell that had summoned him, a suspicion that was confirmed when he noticed the man’s hand still hovering slightly over the bell.
“What?,” Jim snapped.
“I received a notice that I had a package,” the man replied softly.
Jim didn’t try to hide the look of contempt on his face as he pulled the yellow notice from the man’s hand and skulked back to the rack where the packages were kept. Jim soon located the man’s package and turned to make sure that he was out of the field of view of the customers. Confirming that he was, he tried to bend the package intended for Box 519 in half. Failing at that, he placed the package on the floor and stomped on it, leaving a clearly visible footprint behind. “That’ll show that fuck,” Jim thought. He took his time returning to the front counter and when he did, Jim tossed the package at the man with a sneer.
However, Jim had made two faulty assumptions about the man in front of him. The first was to assume last week that the man was a member of the philosophy school and the second was to assume today that the man was someone that could be pushed around. Unfortunately for Jim, he was wrong on both counts. The man’s real name was Sergei Ivanovich and in a prior life he had been a killer and enforcer for a Russian organized crime family based out of New York and Miami. Finally arrested and facing a life sentence in prison, he had reluctantly agreed to testify against his former co-workers. Now, he was “Marcus Winters” and a participant in the Federal Witness Protection Program. The F.B.I. had viewed Oregon House as an ideal location for Sergei. Rural and somewhat isolated, but with plenty of foreign visitors to the philosophy school, the FBI thought Sergei would blend right in.
The reaction to Jim’s provocation was as swift as it was unexpected. The man’s hand shot out and grabbed Jim around the back of his neck, slamming his face into the counter of the Post Office. Blood pouring out of his smashed nose, Jim began squealing in pain and fear. The man’s hand tightened on his neck like a vise and the man’s cold whisper as he leaned in toward him silenced Jim. “If you ever act like that toward me again or if I ever have any problems with my mail again, you won’t have any fucking legs. Do you understand me?” Jim didn’t know how to respond and tried to speak, but couldn’t put together a sentence. The man tightened his iron grip on Jim’s neck causing him to cry out in pain.
“I said, DO YOU UNDERSTAND!?”
“Ye-Yes,” Jim blubbered.
The man released his grip, allowing Jim to raise his head and walked toward the glass exit door.
“You fucker!, Jim howled after him, “I’ll call the cops.”
The man chuckled softly and then responded in a voice that left no doubt as to his sincerity, “Remember what I said.” He then turned around and walked calmly out to the parking lot.
The Box 487 woman still stood there, seeming remarkably placid to Jim.
“Did you see that!?”, he shrieked at her.
“Gosh, you know, I can’t say I did. I was busy separating all of the mail that doesn’t belong to me from my own”, the woman said icily.
He knew she was playing him, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. It made him wish he had been more pleasant to her before because he could have used her at this time. And now without a cooperative witness, he felt even more impotent.
Jim stood there trembling with blood running down his shirt, unsure of what to do. He was terrified of the man and had no doubt that Mr. Winters would do as he had threatened. Before he even realized it, Jim had taken his usual path of helpless defeatism, deciding he would do nothing and instead internalizing his pain and humiliation. He wasn’t certain the police would do much and he was even less certain that they would be able to protect him from Marcus Winters.
Jim decided at that point in the morning to pay more attention to his work performance in Oregon House, but soon put in for a transfer to a listing he saw for a Post Office in Iowa. Nothing ever happened in Iwowa. He’d be able to do whatever he wanted there and he’d be able to figure out a way to get back at a society that had marginalized him and underappreciated him. Plus, he’d heard there were good hair transplant doctors in New York. And Iowa was closer to New York than California… Yeah, he’d show everybody once he got his hair transplants in.