End of a Day


Last day of the month when Mr. Mahan woke, he
had a bitter taste in his mouth.  After breakfast he
checked his mailbox and found a letter, one with no
sender’s address. When he looked at the recipient’
s address he was puzzled, it was written in his own
handwriting as it was written today. He really
freaked out when he noticed the postmark. The
letter was mailed over 30 years ago.

He wondered how he could have received a letter
after all these years, a letter he’d sent to himself.
He held the envelope with two hands before his
dazzled eyes and murmured, “In the last thirty
years, I’ve moved three or four times. Now I’m
supposed to believe that the damn post office has
tracked me down after all these years to deliver this
letter? A letter I never wrote?”

Puzzled by the letter in his hands, he opened the
envelope and warily touched every word of every
line with his trembling fingers and when he was
convinced the letter was real he dared to read it.

It was a chronicle of his life. His most intimate
thoughts and ambitions were all written down, every
childhood dream and youthful mistake and
memories and events he’d never shared with
anyone. For a moment he thought maybe this letter
was a result of a hallucination but his simple
explanation was not acceptable to Mr. Mahan. He
then methodically folded the letter, slipped it back
into the envelope and put it deep in his coat’s
pocket determined to decipher this mystery later.

Today was end of the month, the day he went to
the retirement affairs office to receive his pension
check, his only income. Not a lot of money but
enough to keep his life running, to pay rent for his
one-bedroom apartment, put food on the table and
spare change for cigarettes and occasional
newspaper.

When he arrived at the office, he faced a long line
of retirees already formed. They always arrived an
hour or two before time and stood in line. Waiting
was their favorite hobby. They shared their life
stories with total strangers, complained about their
emotionally distant children, small size of their
retirement benefits and missed golden
opportunities in youth. And if the line was long
enough, they bragged about their passionate loves,
heroism in wars, and political activism.

In the company of his peers, Mr. Mahan always
made up outrageous stories to dazzle his audience
and on the way home, he laughed at his sizzling lies
and the foolishness of others. Pulling their legs was
his favorite pastime. Today he told everyone story
of the letter he’d received but surprisingly, no one
was amazed. He even took the letter out of his
pocket and paraded it before their eyes and still
didn’t receive much reaction from his audience.

When he realized he couldn’t convince them of the
bizarre nature of this event, he turned his back and
cursed them under his breath, “These idiots don’t
know the difference between reality and fantasy.
The older they get, the dumber they become.”

Finally it was his turn to receive his check. He
stepped to the desk and stated his name, date of
birth, and birth certificate number. The chubby clerk
fanned through the checks and asked his name
again. The patron made a funny face while spelling
his name, “M A H A N”. Once again the clerk went
through the checks and searched the computer list
and informed Mr. Mahan his name was not on the
list therefore, he would no longer receive benefits.

“What do you mean you can’t find may name? My
life depends on this check? What do you expect me
to do, lay my head down and die?” He shrieked.

City clerk politely responded, “Your name is not on
our payroll. As far as we are concerned you don’t
exist, therefore not qualified to receive monthly
benefits. Sorry, but there is nothing I can do. Next,
please.”

“Only government work can be this stupid! I’m
standing in front of you and you are telling me I’m
dead. I’ll prove how alive I am.” He turned his back
to her, shook his butt, “Can a dead man shake his
booty like this?” He asked.

Clerk took a deep breath and pleaded, “Don’t waste
our time. People are waiting!”

“I don’t blame you for mistaking me for a corpse.
But don’t make a hasty decision based on my
appearance. I haven’t shaved today and look a little
pale,” Mr. Mahan surreptitiously continued.  He then
extended his hand across the desk, pinched her
rosy cheek, “Honestly, have you ever seen a dead
man this jolly?”

The clerk lost her temper and leaped out of her
chair and slapped the rude client. Before Mr.
Mahan had a chance to explain, two security
officers showed up, grabbed him by the arms and
threw him out of the building.

Embarrassed by the humiliating treatment, Mr.
Mahan tucked his shirt into his pants, picked up his
hat and whispered to himself, “Maybe I was out of
line a little, pinching was out of order. I should’ve
had a word with her supervisor instead. This is how
the government treats its dedicated employees.
After 30 years of service and paying tax, these
bastards tell you you’re dead right in your face to
cheat you out of your money. This is not the first
time either. Last time they pulled this stunt news
leaked to the papers and created a scandal.”

    He gently tapped on his chest to feel the letter in
his pocket thinking of a quiet place to rest for a
while, “What a day, first this damn letter and now
the fiasco over a lousy retirement check,” he
murmured.

The dazed man strode for a while in the labyrinth of
bustling streets until he found himself in a calm and
serene environment. At first he thought he’d
entered a park, but to his right he noticed circles
of   black-clad mourners.

“Cemetery or park, they’re both peaceful and
green. The only difference is there are no benches
in cemetery,” he wondered.

He then noticed a tombstone on a fresh plot a few
yards away. He walked to the stone and sat down.
A shadow covered his head. He took a deep
breath, removed the letter from his pocket and read
it once again. Overwhelmed by the letter’s enigma
and the day’s bizarre events, he suddenly lost
interest in making sense of his day.

As he crushed the letter in his fist to toss it on the
ground, he looked down and noticed the epitaph on
the tombstone on which he was sitting. He stood up,
took a few steps back and squinted to read the
script. He read his first and last name on the first
line and his date of birth hyphenated from today’s
date on the second.

“What kind of foolish joke is this?” Mr. Mahan
murmured.

He then fixed his hat, shook his head in disbelief,
walked away and vanished into the garden of
stones.
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