alex antiuk – 2 stories

Mailroom Moses

	I asked Wally, “Have you ever hit somebody with it?” Wally looked at me with a big smile, before he said, “Not yet…” He had a slightly crooked face, and his teeth were bright yellow. It perfectly complimented his dirty cheeks and greasy hair, and the same, old sweatshirt he wore every day.
	Wally walked back from the bathroom and took a seat on his throne. It was a tiny, swivel chair with one broken arm. Wally picked up a pile of mail and began to sort through it, creating perfectly unbalanced piles all over the table. I watched Wally carefully while he did his one job, wondering if he’d notice if I grabbed his staff.
	The gargantuan, wooden stick was located against the wall. It had a grip on it similar to a baseball bat and it was taller than me. I’d only ever seen Wally use it to press the elevator button, as he didn’t actually need it to walk around the mailroom.
	I crept my hand slowly towards it, knowing if it was truly as powerful as I believed it to be, Wally would snap his fingers and it would fly through the air and into his hand. My palm opened and I was inches away, when Wally said, “You know these guys?” He flung a piece of mail towards me but it flopped and hit the ground directly next to my shoes. I picked it up, looked at the company, shook my head and dumped it in the return pile.
	Wally didn’t say anything and continued to sort, while I sneakily reached towards his stick.
	“Wally…” I began. He lifted his head up from the pile, and I continued, “What’s with the stick?” I pointed towards it, and Wally chuckled. It was a laugh that contained secrets far more ancient than anything I could possibly comprehend.
	“Do you really want to know?” Wally asked. I nodded, and began to grab it. I was going to hand it to him and let him show me its true strength. My hand slowly gripped the handle, when suddenly Wally let out a violent call. It sounded somewhere between a whale mating and the subway coming to a screeching halt.
	“Now! I am ready…” Wally said. “Hand it to me…” I grasped the stick, but noticed it simply felt like old, wet wood. It was mildly heavy and there wasn’t anything special about it. I even gave it a small tap on the ground to see if anything magical would happen, but nothing. My hands didn’t even get the slightest jolt when I let the rubber stopper smack against the dirty floor.
	Wally took control of it and he used it to help himself up. His body was always crooked and bent to the left, but with the stick in his hand he was unusually straight. I watched him carefully lift himself, before he took the stick and pushed it into the air. He looked like Moses, but instead of parting the Red Sea it was the sea of packages Wally was too lazy to sort.
	He then smashed the stick straight towards the ground, and when the rubber bottom crashed I felt the entire room shake violently. I couldn’t believe what I was feeling and I saw Wally’s stained teeth glow. His entire being was elevated into a man of immense power. I stood in complete awe of Wally, and didn’t bother to question what was happening. Wally had been known as the worst mailroom attendant in New York, but with his staff he was greater than all of us. He could at any moment overtake this world, but when Wally smashed his stick down once again nothing happened - not a single package fell off the rack.
	There was an odd silence between us, until suddenly someone busted in and said, “You guys, OK?” I turned towards the office manager and said, “You felt that too?” He smiled and said, “Yeah… To-be-honest, I didn’t know we had earthquakes in New York…” I looked at Wally, and noticed he was sitting down once again. His fingers were sorting mail, and I didn’t say anything back to the office manager.
	I just took a seat at my end of the mailroom, and grabbed a pile. I began to sort but stopped a moment later, when I looked at Wally and knew I was not sitting beside just another mailroom attendant. But a God who took a bathroom break every fifteen minutes.  

The Bomb

	The bomb looked funny in the backseat, shining against the setting sun as Tommy kept complaining, “The guy told me he fixed the A/C…”
	It was a sweltering, tired afternoon in New York and we were stuck in traffic. The other cars around us kept honking, and besides the honks and occasional, “Move!” We could hear radios blasting and kids crying.
	“Do you think it should be in the sun?” I asked Tommy, who turned and said, “Roger… For the last-fucking-time… Do I look like an expert?” I looked back towards the traffic and knew he was right. Neither Tommy nor I knew anything about bombs, and up until this morning neither of us even knew what a bomb actually looked like. But when we got the call from Tommy’s cousin, who said, “I’ll pay you two dumbasses a grand to bring it to…” Tommy called me up and said, “Roger… You’ll never believe our luck.” I quickly learned what a bomb looked like, and was shocked to feel how heavy it was.
	We put it in the backseat with a tiny blanket over it, but I didn’t want it to overheat so I flung it off. I even cracked the window for it, hoping it would keep it from exploding.
	“Jesus…” Tommy began. “We’re going to be late!” I looked at the time on the radio and he was right. We had to deliver it before five, because it was going to be exploding around five thirty. I didn’t ask Tommy’s cousin too many details, as I didn’t want to ruin the chance of losing the job.
	“Maybe we should give them a heads-up?” I said. My voice was overtaken by the endless, bumper to bumper honking that rang through one ear and out the other. It was blistering, and I had to repeat myself before Tommy said, “A heads-up? A-fucking-heads-up?” Tommy spat out the window and continued, ‘We aren’t delivering a birthday cake, Roger… We can’t just call them and say, ‘Um… Sorry… Your bomb is running late… Make sure to keep everyone in their seats just a few minutes longer’… It won’t make anyone suspicious… Would it, Roger?”
	I looked at Tommy and shrugged my shoulders. He was right, but there was nothing we could do. We were two helpless nobodies who happened to stumble into a wonderful opportunity, and likely the first and only chance we got. Tommy’s cousin had said how there would be other deliveries if we didn’t screw this one up, and that made me excited. Because Tommy and I had spent too many nights eating pasta, where we were so broke we actually ate the recommended serving size - eight dinners per box.
	“Well… What do we do? I asked, but Tommy just shook his head and I noticed something unusual. It looked originally like sweat on Tommy’s cheeks, but it was actually tears. They were streaming down and I didn’t understand why. Tommy never cried and here he was, bursting with bloody red eyes and soggy lips. 
	“What’s wrong, Tommy?” Tommy looked at me and said, “My cousin didn’t tell you, did he?”
	“What is it?” I said, with a louder, worried voice. Tommy turned his head to the back and said, “Look at that little clock on it.” I unbuckled my seatbelt and leaned back. I hadn’t noticed the clock before and it was counting down. And as I stared at it, it went from thirty to twenty nine. 
	“Jesus!” I yelled, but Tommy didn’t say anything. 
	“Why don’t we just ditch it then?”
	“I’m not worried about blowing up…” Tommy replied.
	“What-the-Hell-is-it-then?” I screamed back.
	“My cousin also told me he’s having this big pool party next week… And now for-sure we’re not getting invited.” 
	I had a look of disbelief on my face, until Tommy added, “He said there was even going to be free pizza and beer, Roger!” And I felt my eyes begin to welt too, because I couldn’t remember the last time Roger and I had any kind of fun.

ALEX ANTIUK is the author of Dumb Music (Soyos Books). He can be found on Twitter @letsbamboobaby.