The Boy on the Steps

This was Peter’s favorite time of year, late fall. Almost all the leaves had fallen from the trees and the crisp, cool temperatures made for almost perfect weather for him.

Peter was a mailman in a somewhat affluent suburb of the city, doing one of the few remaining runs that still had delivery door to door. He would start at one end of the neighborhood and at a good work rate would be able to complete his deliveries before two in the afternoon.

He enjoyed his work and tried to keep a quick pace, both for the health benefit it provided and to be able to finish his day early.

He never saw many people on his run. Those he came across would make like he wasn’t there, a part of the background if you will. Peter didn’t mind much, he would just smile after trying to make some eye contact, then continue on his way.

It was early one morning a little bit into his route when he came across a little boy sitting on the steps of an older house. He may have delivered here a hundred times already, if not more. Rarely did he see anyone around that place but from his vague memory he recalls he may have come across this boy once or twice. This time seemed different, like he almost was waiting for him.

He was no more than ten, a bit pale, with sandy blond hair, piercing blue eyes and almost no expression on his face. He never took his eyes off of Peter as he sat there on the steps, waiting for the mailman to make his delivery.

Peter thrust a letter into the boy’s outstretched hand and gave him a smile. He continued on his way, oblivious to the boy’s eyes as they followed him down the street.

The next day was similar, only the boy was at a house further up the street, earlier on his run. Peter went through motions, putting the envelopes in the boy’s hand and walked towards the next house. Although he knew that the boy probably didn’t live at the house he found him at, he almost felt compelled to hand him the mail.

Every day their little game continued, and every day the boy was waiting at a house further and further up the street. Peter would spot the boy from a distance, and sure enough there would always be a delivery for the house where the boy sat. There were never any words exchanged between them, but a general uneasiness on Peter’s part started to become quite evident every time he approached the steps where the lad sat.

Peter started being very anxious about this part of his job. He felt a sense of dread as he would approach the boy, and almost be frightened in his presence. Peter could feel that something just wasn’t right with the whole situation.

The next day started like any other, but as he made his way towards the boy’s street he realized that object of his angst would probably be at the first house on the block, due to him moving up the street a few houses each day.

He turned the corner and was greeted with a makeshift memorial right on the curve. Propped up on the lamp post were flowers. crosses, little stuffed animals and a few toys. Warily, Peter looked over to the first house, almost shaking.

“The memorial is for the boy, it must be for the boy!” Peter thought. He looked over to the house, half expecting not to see him.

The boy however, was there, sitting on the steps waiting for him. The scene seemed even scarier this time given Peter’s revelation. The boy was looking down at his own feet this time, a few tears visible on his pale cheeks.

The mailman reluctantly approached him with his usual letters and put them in his hand.

“Do you know what happened here?” Peter asked the boy.

The little boy looked up a bit and nodded, more tears streaming down his cheeks.

He pointed to the memorial at the foot of the lamp post and then upwards, to a paper taped at about eye level that Peter didn’t notice. Even though he couldn’t read the words from where he was, he knew what the newspaper clipping said.

“That’s about you, isn’t it?” Peter asked, his voice almost breaking. He couldn’t believe he was speaking with a child who had died tragically at this spot.

“No,” the boy answered, almost in a whisper “it’s about both of us.”

Peter put his head in his hands and sobbed uncontrollably. The memories of the accident came flooding back: the car careening out of control, him trying to push the boy out of the way, the hit and run that disastrously took both their lives.

“What’s your name?” Peter asked as he tried to compose himself with this new truth.

“Michael” said the boy in a bit of a stronger voice than before.

“Well Michael, I think I can finish early today.” Peter told him.

He put his mail bag down onto the manicured lawn and started walking down the street, leaving the makeshift memorial on the corner behind them. Michael got up off the steps and followed.

Credit: Pensive Soul

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