Sunday, 23 March 2014

Flash Fiction: Junk Mail?

Joan loved waiting for the post.
She sat on her chair in the kitchen – the chair that gave her a view of the street – so that she could see the postman trudging up the road, laden down with letters, bills, parcels, birthday cards. She could see who got what and when. She could imagine their reactions, and it made her smile.
It was, she realised, the highlight of her day.
The post came slip-sliding through the letterbox, landing with a hopeful, happy smack on the mat that sat behind the front door. Joan, ninety years old, alone and bored, stood with a grunt, the effort of leaving the hard pine chair lessened only by the thought that she now had something to do.
Joan shuffled onwards, through the hallway and to the door. Then she bent, her back aching and creaking, to retrieve her mail. Shiny envelopes that she knew were filled with rubbish; pre-approved credit cards (that required her to fill in a form and send off for that approval), pizza menus, curry menus, Thai and Chinese, and, of course, the letter that she and hundreds of other people had received, telling her that she had definitely, absolutely, positively won a huge sum of money.
That was it.
That was all.
That was more than enough.
Joan gathered everything up with only the slightest twinge now, her interest in what might have arrived in her home blocking anything else out. She returned to the kitchen, slumped back into the chair, and spread the junk mail out on the table. She poured herself a cup of tea from the pot and cut a slice of cake.
It was time. Finally. The postman had been a little late today, fifteen minutes, and Joan had almost, almost, had a sneaky slice of the jam and cream filled sponge. She had almost, almost, had half a cup of tea. But now she was glad she had waited.
It was worth it.
Joan always opened the post, whatever it was. Every envelope, even the ones addressed to The Homeowner. And then, when they were all open, when everything was spread out on the table, Joan filled in the forms.
A free trial of a hearing aid… That was a good one. The form was only short, but the hearing aid looked like quality. She carefully printed the details, a black block letter in each tiny box. She checked it over once, twice, three times, and then sealed it safely in the pre-paid envelope. Next was a subscription to a book club, and there was an offer of two free books as well (assuming more were bought within a certain period, of course, of course, nothing was ever really free). That form was longer, with lots of details asked for so that the people behind the books could work out which offers to send out, how to get the most money from their ‘customers’.
And so it went on. Life insurance, pet insurance, car insurance… Credit cards and holiday offer DVDs… Requests for brochures on curtains, carpets, whole house cleans…
Joan particularly enjoyed finding the fake cheques made out to her for ridiculous sums. She kept all of them. She added up the total and kept it in a little notebook, carried with her always. Her will, she called it. And she teased her family – the ones who never visited, who never called, who never even sent a letter – with the promise of money when she was gone. Oh, there was money, all right. Millions by now. But it was all pretend, just like their love for her. She often thought it was a shame that she wouldn’t be around to see their faces, her children, grandchildren, even the great-grandchildren, when they realised what fools she had made of them.
She pulled her coat on and popped all of the neatly filled in forms into her bag. Now to post them. Then she could sit back and wait. And laugh. In a few days’ time, the postman would be weighed down with packages. A free hearing aid (free until the bill came) for Mia, the girl next door who played her music so, so loudly. A curtain catalogue for old Mrs Jenkins across the road who loved to watch the street with her beady little eyes. Details on car insurance for the silly boy who so enjoyed whizzing up and down the street in his old banger.

Joan loved waiting for the post.

 ©Lisamarie Lamb 2014