KR BlogBlogEnthusiamsReadingRemembrancesWriting

Correspondence and American Literature, 1770-1865: A Review, Part 1

A year ago, my companion, kids, and I moved to a new house. Our new landlords were moving to New York. They asked us to send them their mail. Periodically, we bundled up their magazines and correspondence and sent the package to New York. One day, the landlords messaged that they weren’t receiving all the mail they expected. We messaged back that we had sent everything. They messaged back that they had heard reports we were returning some of their mail to the post office. We messaged back our heartfelt assurances that the reports were erroneous.

They heard reports? From whom? The Trystero?

In all other matters, our landlords had seemed perfectly decent. When the sink clogged in the kitchen, they sent a plumber. When we lost the combination to the lock for the side door to the garage, they texted not just the numbers but also instructions—three times around to the right, then stop at 33; all the way around to the left, passing 33, then stop at 7; right, directly to 25—immediately. They had jobs. They had kids.

I called the post office and spoke with the district manager. I’ll call her Mandy. I explained that our landlords said they were missing some mail. She told me she’d look into it. She asked for the landlords’ names, phone number, and New York address. For the next several days, maybe a week, no mail at all came to the house for either us or the landlords: no letters, no bills, no magazines, not even the daily advertising circulars.

I called Mandy. While on hold, I sang “Mandy,” the Barry Manilow song from back in the day. I wanted to ask the real Mandy if she was named after the song but thought better of it. I made a mental note to YouTube the song later. When Mandy picked up, I reminded her of our previous conversation and then added the latest development, that now we weren’t getting any mail at all. Mandy said, “Hmm.” Then she said she’d look into it, and asked for my phone number.

Later that evening, YouTubing, I realized the song I’d been singing wasn’t “Mandy,” by Barry Manilow, but “Brandy,” by an outfit called Looking Glass. I was singing, “’The sailor said ‘Mandy, you’re a fine girl / What a good wife you would be / But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea.’”

Humiliating, for Brandy and me both.

The next day, Mandy called back. I’d given some thought to confessing my Mandy / Brandy mix-up, but decided against it. I sometimes confuse strangers with what seems to them like non-sequiturs or plain old dumb-ass talk. “Just keep things simple,” I told myself. “All you want is your mail.”

The problem,” Mandy explained, “is that your mail is being forwarded to New York.”

My mail?” I asked, a little incredulously, “or my landlords’ mail?”

All the mail for 138 Crestview Road is routing to New York.”

Mandy allowed me a moment to reflect.

After reflecting, I said, “Hmm.”

Hmm-hmm,” Mandy replied, stressing the second hmm, a stress that sounded full of meaning. But meaning what?

Months passed. Mail service had been restored. My landlords conveyed to me no more of their findings. They had, in fact, moved back to Columbus. When they did, we left their house for another, directly across the street. We talked occasionally, but there was a tension in the conversations born of a thing left unresolved.

And then one day this headline in the Columbus Dispatch: “13,000 pieces of mail recovered at Columbus postal carrier’s home.”

The postal carrier, of course, was ours.

And from the article, this paragraph:

The search-warrant inventory shows that agents found postal bins in [the mail carrier’s] home on top of his freezer, in closets, in a bedroom and in the basement. Postal bins and garbage bags containing mail were also found along a wall outside the house. Agents confiscated two rifles and a box of ammunition.”

That solved the Case of the Landlords’ Missing Mail. But what of the surveillance? What of my mail “routing to New York”? And Mandy. What did her “Hmm hmm” mean? Who was she working for, really?

To be continued.