It all began months ago, when I was working as a postman. Every morning, I’d drive my van down to the Post Office and collect my mailbag of letters to be delivered that day, after which, I would drive straight home and go to sleep until noon. I thought somebody would come looking for the missing letters, but nobody ever did.
One day, when my van was so full, and I couldn’t open the back doors for fear of not being able to close them again, I decided I would burn the letters. I drove and drove until I was out of town and into the countryside. I had been driving for at least an hour, if not more before I found a spot that was perfect.
It was a clearing, off the main road. No traffic, no noise, no houses in sight; it was perfect. I had brought with me a large, empty oil drum, in which I was going to burn all the letters. That night was Guy Fawkes Night, and because there would be bonfires all over the countryside, I figured nobody would notice me.
I took it easy. I had brought a pork pie, and a beer for lunch and I ate it on the grass reading the paper. In the afternoon, after I had just finished unloading all the mailbags from the van, I heard a screeching sound and a long white bus came careering round the corner. It swerved off the road and ended up in a ditch not far from me. I tried to call on my mobile for an ambulance, but there was no signal. It had been like that the whole morning; I must have been in some kind of mobile blind spot.
When I ran over to the accident with my first aid kit, I could hear children shouting, and I saw a young woman wearing a green dress was already helping some children off the bus. The bus had turned over, and she was helping them climb out of the back window, which had shattered on impact. She was calling the children by name and lifting them out of the bus one by one. Before putting them down on the ground, she kissed them on the head to let them know all was fine. The chaos following the crash clashed with the simple elegance of her movements and the colour of her dress. She was grace in green.
“Hi, let me help.” I think I said as I helped her lower the next child to the ground.
She turned and thanked me and carried on as before; one child, one kiss; one child, one kiss, and so on. The last three kids were too scared to climb out of the back of the bus, so I had to scramble inside the bus to get them. Luckily, they were not hurt. Apart from a few scratches and plenty of bruises, all the children were fine. There were no broken bones, no serious cuts, and no concussions. It was a small miracle.
The woman told me her name was Laura and that she was the kids’ teacher. After doing a roll call to check all children were accounted for, she distributed packed lunches to everybody, including me.
“It’s the driver’s; he’s dead. Heart attack, I think. That’s why we swerved off the road.” She said offering me the packed lunch.
“Thank you.” I said.
“No, thank you.” She said cupping my hands inside hers as she handed me the paper bag with the food.
“I am afraid I can’t get my van to start; I must have left the headlights on. I feel so stupid. I’m sorry.” I apologised.
“No need for that. What’s our plan “B”.” She asked.
“The only thing I can think of is that I walk until I get a signal and make an emergency call.”
“That sounds like a good plan “B”. I shall stay here and look after the kids.” She said.
“Before you go, can I ask you something? What were you doing here? Why the empty oil drum, the petrol, the dozens of mailbags?” She asked.
I don’t know why I told her, but I did. And when I did, I felt as if someone had removed a huge backpack from my shoulders. I could feel myself breathing differently. When I finished, she remained in silence for what felt like an eternity.
“That’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it? By the time you’ve come back, the kids and I will have found a less tragic solution.” She said in all seriousness as she spun me round and pushed me on my way to find a signal for my mobile phone.
As I started walking away, I heard Laura encourage the children to say goodbye to me. I turned to look at her. She was standing in front of them, with a smile on her face and her arms crossed. She waved to me, along with all of them.
After several miles, I got a signal and made my call. By the time I got back to the van, the sun was setting. Laura and the kids were nowhere to be seen while the mailbags, the drum, and the petrol had disappeared. On the driver’s seat was a letter; it read:
The drum and the petrol are in the back of the van; I thought it wouldn’t be a good idea for the police to find them.
The children sorted the letters according to postcodes and divided them up among themselves. On Sunday, they will deliver them to their rightful owners early in the morning. If they ask any questions, the children are to say that it’s a school project to help the post office eliminate backlogs.
The van battery is charged. The kids got the van started with a mobile phone and some wire mesh (don’t ask me how), and they kept the engine running to recharge it.
By the time you are reading this, I am sitting in a corner of the White Horse Arms, a pub a couple of miles down the road, nursing a glass of wine next to the fireplace, and waiting for my dinner date.
Hurry! I’m hungry!