Some people have a fear of public places, others fear public speaking, while yet others fear speaking on the phone. I fear none of those things. What I fear is getting the mail.Â Â
My fears are not without reason. As a child I went to fetch the mail for my mother and found a snake inside the mailbox. How did it get there? My brother Dabeet had ordered a pilot snake through the mail and the box in which it was sent developed a small rent during shipping.Â
I thought I'd learned to cope with my fear until I moved and the style of my mailbox changed. With the usual front opening mail box I can open the lid and check before inserting my hand. My new home, however, has a top opening lid.
So why can't I check before reaching in to fetch the mail? Because I'm too short and can't see over the top. Nor can I invest in a different mailbox because I live in a tightly controlled town house environment where everyone has the same outdoor fixtures â€“ lamps, stairways, window boxes, and mailboxes.
During my first weeks here, I just let the mail collect until a friend comes to dine. I leave the front door open and shout nonchalantly from the kitchen that the door is open and would they mind bringing the mail in with them. People wondered at my constant flow of guests but none suspected my phobia.
That is until I ran out of friends to invite for dinner. How many times can one invite the same people over, making the same request to bring the mail in with them, without arousing curiosity? I prayed that my mail would be sparse for at least a few days until I could figure out what to do, but as things went, my box was soon overflowing with envelopes and mailers.
My neighbor in the townhouse to the left, an artist, noticed how I'd walk right past my mailbox without fetching the mail, picking up only the pieces that had fallen to the ground, and asked why I didn't also fetch the mail from the box. She's a sweet thing, a sensitive young woman, so I shared my fears with her. The next day I returned home to find she had painted the God Ganesha around my mailbox.
"Lord Ganesha shall protect your mailbox," she said, knowing I am a devout Hindu. We walked to the box together and said a prayer to the God. Then, summoning all my courage I reached into the box and retrieved my mail.
The neighborhood association lost no time in fining me for breaking town-house rules and insisted that the painting be removed. I chose to cover the God image with paint that matches the brick wall and know that Lord Ganesha is still there, hidden, watching over my mailbox.
This is a 10 minute work of fiction for Wednesday Writing Essentials Prompt.
Â© Beryl Singleton Bissell 2008
The Minneapolis Star Tribune named Beryl as a "Best of 2006 Minnesota Authors."Â Her book The Scent of God Â was a "Notable" Book Sense selection for April 2006. She is a columnist for the Cook County News Herald and has been published in anthologies and periodicals nationwide. See Road Writer for her travel blog.