Thursday, June 2

I went out for a walk and got stuck in the mud. Its real deep, too. I'm up to my shins and can't get out.

Maybe the worst part about the whole thing is that the puddle is across the street from a bus stop, and the people waiting for the bus are just sitting there watching me. A large round woman carrying grocery bags asks if I need any help.

"No... I think I'm okay," I tell her. Actually, I think I'm sinking further, but I don't feel like talking to or touching any strangers right now.

It gets later and colder and of course it starts to rain. it's been raining a lot lately, but I had hoped it would wait until I figured this whole stuck-in-the-mud thing out. But it's dark now, I'm soaking wet, and I'm in to my knees.

"Hello, Henry." I turn to find an old friend standing on the sidewalk, dressed exactly like me. "Looks like you're stuck," he says, his cape flapping behind him. He holds a large umbrella over his head. I can see myself reflected in his goggles.

"My name's not Henry, Jason," I tell him. "I'm The Midnight Mailman."

He laughs a big fat man's laugh. "Whatever you say, Henry."

I try to pull my legs out as hard as I can, but nothing happens. Solid stuck. "It's my name fair and square! We aggreed whoever won the scavenger hunt gets to be The Midnight Mailman."

"And you think you won that scavenger hunt, do you?"

"I did! I found the four leaf clover, the rolling pin, the ancient talisman of Oobu, Mr. Hardigan's bra, all those--"

"You cheated!" He waves his umbrella at me.

"Did not! I was just faster."

"And you think you deserve it? Stuck in mud, without any arms or legs even." He adjusts his bowtie with his thick fingers. "You look ridiculous. You're an embarassment." He spins on his rubber boot heels and clomps his way down the wet sidewalk. "I'm The Midnight Mailman, Henry! You're nothing."

"You give it back!" I yell after him. "I'm The Midnight Mailman! Me! You can't have it! You can't have it!" I sit down in the mud. "I'm the Midnight Mailman..."

I fall asleep there next to the sidewalk, in the dark, in the rain. I wake up several hours later sunk in to my shoulders. Mr. Happy Puppet Head is there looking down at me.

"What the hell are you doing?" he asks me. "I've been waiting all night!" He grabs hold of my head with his mouth and slowly pulls me out of my puddle of shame. My boots are gone, though, burried forever. I look down at my feet, but I don't really have any. They're attached to my legs which I lost a few weeks ago, so now I look like I'm floating 3 1/2 feet over the ground. The physics of how this is possible eludes me.

"Tonight's Boggle Night, you know that!" Now he's yelling. "How am I supposed to play by myself?"

"Boggle can be a one person game," I say.

"What? How can I possibly beat myself at Boggle? And look at you, covered in mud, floating around. Ridiculous!" He stomps away and I follow.

After about fifty yards he stops and turns on me. "You know how important Boggle Night is to me! You know! Don't pretend you don't know how important it is!" He spins around and runs home.

I know how important it is. Ever since he got hooked a few months back, every night has been Boggle Night.

Standing in the middle of the sidewalk, feeling the rain wash the thick mud from what's left of my body, I twiddle my fingers. Maybe I'm not worthy of the name The Midnight Mailman. Maybe I'm a failure, an embarassment, a disappointment.

Somehow, as I'm walking home, I get stuck in another mud puddle. When the schoolchildren waiting for their yellow bus offer to help, I accept. I don't have enough dignity left to refuse.

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