All my customers had the same old chat. It was uncanny. All these people, these hundreds of people who didn’t even know each other, and they all said the same little things to me every day.
The most common by far was the one about bills. I’d give somebody their letters, and they’d tell me that if any of them were bills, I could take them back. It went like this:
‘Hello, here’s your letters.’
‘Thanks, postie. I hope none of them are bills, though! If they’re bills, you can take them back!’
I heard that line every single day. Sometimes two or three times.
To start with I tried to come up with some sort of funny reply whenever somebody said it. But I could never think of anything. So now I just laughed, to be polite. If I was tired I would just say, ‘Ha, ha,’ instead of actually laughing. If I didn’t even have the energy to do that I’d just sort of blow some air out of my nose.
One day, eight people said it to me. Eight. I kept count.
The next day I was sitting on the sorting, picking up the letters and throwing them into the slots on the wall in front of me.
‘Hey, Geoff,’ I said.
Geoff was sitting next to me. Geoff was massive. Tall and wide, big all over. He could handle full sacks of mail like they weighed nothing, like they were pillowcases filled with bubble wrap. His plastic stool creaked as he moved, reaching up to throw the letters into the slots with his massive hairy arms.
‘Do your customers ever say that thing to you about bills? You know, when you give them the mail and they say that if any of them are bills, you can take them back?’
‘What do you say? How do you reply to it?’
‘I tell them they’re not Bill’s, they’re theirs.’
‘When someone says to me, “If they’re bills, you can keep them,” I say to them, “They’re not Bill’s, they’re yours.” Like they’re talking about a person called Bill.’
I got it.
‘That’s great! That’s really funny!’
I couldn’t wait to try it out. We finished the sorting and I packed up all my mail into my bags and headed out to my round. I was actually looking forward to it. I was looking forward to somebody doing the line about bills.
Nobody said it.
I got round my whole delivery and not one person said anything to me about bills.
Nobody said it the next day either. Or the day after that. A week went by. Two weeks. What was going on?
Then it happened.
I was walking up to a house, pulling the letters off the top of the bundle. Just as I got up to the door it swung open. The customer was standing there with a big smile on his face.
‘Aha, hello, mister postman!’
‘Anything for me today?’
I handed over the letters.
‘Thanks very much. But if any of them are bills, you can take them back!’
‘Okay,’ I said, enjoying the moment, ‘but, they’re not Bill’s, they’re yours!’
‘I said, the letters aren’t Bill’s, they’re yours.’
‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand.’
‘Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter. I was just joking. I was pretending that the letters belonged to somebody called Bill.’
‘Oh. These are Bill’s letters? I can take them round to him. We’ve had some of his post come here before, by accident.’
‘No, please, just ignore me. I was just being stupid.’
‘Really, I don’t mind. I can take them round to Bill. He’s my friend.’
‘No, no, these are definitely all your letters. And I’m sorry if I gave you somebody else’s mail before.’
‘Oh. That’s okay.’
I carried on with my delivery. I got to the end of the road, crossed over, and went back up the other side.
At my very last house the lady was just unlocking her front door, heading inside. I handed her the letters, the last ones in my hand.
‘Thanks,’ she said. ‘But if any of them are bills, you can take them back!’
‘Ha, ha,’ I said.
David Mortimer was born in East London and is still there. He likes crosswords, booze, and writing stories about postmen.
If you enjoyed ‘Post No Bills’ leave a comment and let David know.
You can read more of David’s fiction below:
Photo by Ximena Aragone
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