[a short story, by Sha’Tara]
Josie was in the dining room. She wasn’t dining, she was just there, so please don’t jump to conclusion even if that’s the only legitimate form of exercise you ever engage in. Neither the human body, nor the human mind were ever designed for jumping: leave it to the deer. While Josie was thus engaged doing nothing in the dining room, Larry was in the downstairs bar, engaging in his favourite bar exercises routine, competing with himself on how many bottles would stand empty at the end of the session.
There was a loud, very impatient buzz, knock, ring and ding-dong from the front door. Josie, quite tired from doing nothing and thinking about what else she could be doing nothing about, stood there thinking about answering the door. But as we all know, doors don’t talk so there was no point trying to give it any answer. Which brings up a very delicate point: why ever say, “Answer the door” when the door hasn’t spoken? Seems spooky to me. The whole buzz, knock, ring and ding-dong repeated itself but they didn’t actually come from the door, but from a delivery person eager to unload a small black cube-shaped box and be on her way. She had a brown uniform on, with a white patch on the left breast that said simply, “Sandra.”
Josie thought about all of that, not that she could see the delivery person, or the black box, or the brown uniform that said “Sandra” but it made for an interesting bit of speculation. Meanwhile Larry thought he’d heard “the door” and thought about that too. Should he answer it? But, he thought, doors don’t talk, what’s to answer? Yes he’d been listening to Josie for eleven-point-three-years of marriage and he had begun to think the way she talked. Which played havoc with his Olympic beer drinking trials. He slowly looked up at the stairs. There were exactly eleven steps to the first floor. He remembered that because he’d begun to believe that with each extra year of marriage a new step appeared at the top of the stairs. So, being an accountant, Larry wondered about that point-three step at the top, and what that would do when he got there with all those beers just waiting for an excuse to tip out of his tortured oesophagus.
Although an accountant, Larry could, given enough beers, become reasonably practical, especially when such practicality would save him effort. Larry wasn’t big on effort: a waste of energy he’d say in his most emphatically effortless way to the greying, curly-haired balding head in the left cubicle at the bank. The head seldom answered as it was watching its fingers keyboarding important facts about money. Of course there are no important facts about money but you’d be surprised how many people believe in monetary related important facts. Now you take people with a mortgage and bills for example. They actually believe they should pay somebody back for loans taken and stuff charged… and not surprisingly there are always somebodies somewhere quite eager to receive those payments, even if the payments never go anywhere near the source of the owningship. What does make life work? Belief. That’s why you end up with important facts about money. Belief always ensures that everybody has some kind of important facts about something, well, important.
Larry thought he heard Josie moving upstairs. That was a good thing. It meant that she would answer the door and knowing Josie, she’d know just what to say, and in door’s own language too. Josie was very smart about house things; it’s home things she wasn’t too keen on. Larry heard the hallway floor boards creak. “Yes!” he almost shouted in delight, “go for it girl, go, go, go!” More creaks. Had to be Josie, and she had to be going to answer the door. Just then there was another, louder, buzz, knock, ring and ding-dong, then a voice that said something uncomplimentary about “this” and Larry frowned. Until now he’d been sure doors did not speak English, and not only that, but he was just as sure that doors never used profanity. It’s just not door-like. If Josie didn’t get to the door soon, he’d have to go up there and do it. But just in case, he lined up a couple more beers, the proper follow-up-courage-bolstering number according to the bar manual.
Fortunately as these stories go, Josie heard the door swearing to the inside of the house and thought she’d had enough of that. She stomped through the hallway and viciously swung open the door. Then, just then, she remembered herself and of course herself was very well mannered.
“Thank God I remembered myself,” she thought. “Yes?” she smiled and said sweetly to the brown uniformed delivery person labelled Sandra.
“Package for you mam. Sign here please.” Now Josie is the cautious type. She doesn’t just do the “sign here please” thing without proper explanation.
“And who would you be, dear?” she asks the brown uniformed delivery person with the white tag reading “Sandra” “and what is the black box for?”
The brown-uniformed delivery person wasn’t impressed. “Look, do you want the f*****g thing or not?”
Josie ignored the inserted profanity (she’d learned that little trick from her mother and it had served her admirably well on many previous occasions) and said matter-of-factly,
“My dear, how would I know if I want it or not, since I have no idea what it is?”
“Look lady, it’s a f*****g black f*****g box, and how in hell would I know what the f**k’s in it?”
“You seem a bit stressed,” said Josie in her most polite and proper tone, “would you like to come in and have some tea?”
“Look lady, this may be my last day drivin’ for these a-holes, but it’s not the last day of my life. Tea? Did you actually say, tea?”
“Yes, of course. It’s a very proper, very calming drink. I would serve crumpets too, of course, dear. I think you need to relax before you get behind the wheel of that monster on the street.”
“I just came here to deliver this, oh, hell, forget it. I’ll throw it in the trash.”
“Oh, please don’t do that. It may be recyclable. Look, maybe my husband knows what it is. I’ll call him and he can come up and do the “sign here please” thing for you. Will that do, dear?”
“Allright, take it, take the damn thing! And I hope it’s a bomb!” The delivery person in the brown uniform labelled “Sandra” ran down the front steps – all six of them, got in the brown truck and peeled off up the street, ignoring a stop sign and practically running down two old people hobbling painfully across the crosswalk, possibly having decided in a moment of unexpected lucidity to give themselves a head start for the crematorium.
“A bomb,” thought Josie. “What am I to do with a bomb? I never ordered a bomb. Must be a wrong address. I bet it’s for those Johnson’s up the street.” She picked up the black box, shook it, then decided it didn’t matter. She tossed it downstairs, turned and started walking back to the dining room where she’d left her unfinished thoughts about doing nothing… and that’s when, of course and predictably, everything stopped.
Local paper headlines, next day: Larry and Josie Marshall’s remain were found in their demolished home when what is believed to be a sophisticated detonation device exploded in their basement yesterday. After sorting through the chaos, forensics believe they have evidence that a sophisticated detonation device (I should mention at this point that it’s not politically correct to call it a bomb, hence the proper name “sophisticated detonation device”) was delivered to the wrong address. The destroyed house is at 234 Ash Lane. The address found on the remains of the container says, 234 Ash Court. Investigations are continuing but terrorist activity is not suspected.
A spokesperson for the mayor’s office had this to say, “Well of course we’re very sorry for the Marshalls. They were in all likelihood very nice people. They have no criminal record and that speaks well of them. Apart from that there’s nothing to be concerned about. These are accidental deaths, collateral damage in an increasingly complex world. No need for any alarm at all. This sort of thing just happens. The mayor wishes to remind everyone alive and well on this beautiful day to be thankful. Please remember to vote on February 8th. Thank you.”