Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No Blood for Amy

No Blood for Amy
James Robert Smith

A few months after Dan went to work at the McCullough Station, one of the letter carriers there, a woman of rather a butch stature named Amy, “bid out” (that is, she applied for another job at a different post office). She claimed her knees were bothering her so she went to take a much easier route at the Mount Carmel Station, or so Dan was told. He barely knew Amy, had exchanged less than a dozen words with her, and only noted her because she reminded him of a really stocky guy who played nose guard on his high school football team; and that whenever he went to eat at the McDonald’s Restaurant on his route Dan could find Amy sitting in a booth with the only attractive letter carrier in the station, a shapely divorced brunette woman named Faye. Suspicious, yes.

About two months after Amy left the station the carriers were called to the supervisor’s desk for a talk. Instead of the supervisor, though, it was Faye who would be speaking. She appeared to be visibly upset and as she spoke her voice cracked with emotion. Apparently, Amy had cancer. Well, that was certainly awful news, and Dan could appreciate that many of the carriers in that station would be interested to know this since some of them had worked in that single station with Amy for fourteen years. He, however, barely knew her and was eager to get back to his case, his workstation, to get the letters ready to carry.

After the announcement, he figured he’d heard the last of this.

Oh, no.

About a week later, in the midst of getting his letters prepared for the street, the carriers were called to the supervisor’s desk again for a talk. Once more, it was Faye. To keep them abreast of Amy’s progress, or lack of same. Lack, in this case, since it turned out Amy had a really nasty form of cancer and it had not been detected until it was quite advanced. Things did not look good for Amy, Faye informed us, her voice once again cracking with emotion and her pretty, Aryan features puffing up with sadness. Alas.

He was sorry, of course, but eager to get back to work.

A few days after that talk, work was interrupted again for, yes, another speech about Amy. She was unable to work, even in a limited manner, and was at home quickly using up her sick time. Dan rarely used his sick leave and any wise letter carrier accumulates such sick leave just in case he (or she) really needs it. He had hundreds of hours of such, and he knew carriers who had thousands of hours of sick leave. Amy, apparently, had used hers up over the years, rather than saving it, and now needed volunteers to step forward and donate vacation time for her.

He was very covetous of his vacation time, and had plans for each and every hour of it. However, that said, he was willing to donate eight hours to her. And he was ready to get back to work.

A few days after this, they were called to the supervisor’s desk for a talk. Uh-huh, about Amy.

Now, don’t get him wrong; he felt sorry for her. But he barely knew her. He had worked with her for, maybe, six months and had never spoken to her save to say “hello” a few times. And here he was, being forced to endure another talk about her, preventing him from working. And, as anyone who has ever worked for the wonderful USPS will tell you, time is of the essence. One was pressed for it, punished for wasting it, and constantly beaten down over it. He needed to get back to his case to prepare the day’s mail!

This time, they were asking for cash donations for Amy. A box would be set up at the front of the station where they could drop in cash, or checks. Fine. Okay. Just let him get back to work.

A few days later they were called, again (yes, again), to the supervisor’s desk to hear about Amy. Apparently, the take in the box was less than satisfactory for those who had instigated the scheme. So one of the carriers, an old guy named Alan, stood up and said, “You WILL give at least twenty dollars. Each of us WILL give at least that much by payday.” As far as Dan was concerned, Alan should have added “bitch” to the end of each of those two sentences.

They had to realize, of course, that this meant war.

There was no way Dan was now going to donate leave time, nor cash for Amy. He didn’t actually know her, and she was really, really (even in her absence) getting on his nerves.

In addition, over the following days, his work was interrupted too many more times for talks about Amy by this employee or that employee, but usually by Faye, and that each time a request for money or donated vacation time was made. And each time Dan resisted; indeed, he refused. As time passed, he became more and more resentful of this woman who had been for him merely a passing acquaintance, if that. And he was convinced, now, that he never wanted to know her at all. Her cancer-ridden body had become a real pain-in-the-ass for him.

Slowly, as the days dragged on and the bits and bites taken out of his schedule continued to annoy him, he began to ask a few questions about this Amy-person. How long had she worked for the USPS? Almost seventeen years, it turned out; which meant that she earned top pay, more than Dan made, and had had eleven years more than he had to accumulate sick leave. What did her husband do for a living? Well, he was a bank accountant and made more than a postal employee made and he had full benefits. What kind of insurance did Amy have? Indeed, it was better than Dan’s; plus she had fortunately added a cancer-rider to her policy some months before she was stricken.

Dan was starting to get pissed off. Especially considering that his wife had fallen and shattered her arm about the same time Amy had gotten sick and the situation at his house was that his lone salary was now supporting his entire family without the benefit of his wife’s paycheck. In short, his family was financially and medically worse off than Amy’s. When more requests were made at work for dough for Amy, it soon became obvious to those demanding these things from Dan, for Amy, that he was not forthcoming and was not likely to be. And, he realized, his frustration with the whole situation was becoming known in the office, and his reputation as a grouchy asshole was growing exponentially.

He didn’t care.

A day came when Faye appeared for one of her regular whines, to stand before all as she cried and blubbered and announced that the end was near for poor Amy. Dan rolled his eyes and peeled away from the main group of letter carriers to return to his case and the work that waited for him there. In the coming weeks, as soon as he became aware that the stand-up talk was about Amy and not about USPS policy, he would fade from the mass of concerned idiots and continue at his chores.

And then, after a brief vacation, (you better believe he used his vacation time on himself) Dan returned to work to find that Amy, in his absence, had died.


You cannot imagine how happy, by this time, that news made him. He was so happy that it was hard to keep a grin from his face. Dan was so happy that he would no longer have to be torn from his labors to hear yet another sob story about the state of Amy’s health or the grief of her husband and teenaged son. In future, he was to be spared from this, and no one would ever again ask him to donate cash or vacation time to the departed Amy.

But Dan’s fellow employees, of course, at this point, felt it very difficult to let go of the cause. He was cursed with, among other things, announcements for Amy’s memorial services; announcements for Amy’s funeral; announcements for a fucking blood drive in honor of Amy! Each time, he was only too, too happy not to oblige. (He kept his leave time, his money, and not one drop of blood left his veins).

And then, seemingly finally, the talks about Amy at the supervisor’s desk came to a halt. No one mentioned Amy anymore. No one asked for a donation of any kind whatsoever to the cause of Amy or her husband or her daughter or her mother or her favorite charity, or her little dog Toto. Occasionally, Dan would hear a snatch of information that made him even happier that he’d given no money to her cause. One of these tidbits being that her husband had shelled out many thousands of dollars for a top-of-the-line casket emblazoned with the logo of her favorite football team! That she had been buried wearing a cowboy hat in honor of her beloved Dallas Cowboys! (Dan was almost curious what her chemo-ravaged face had looked like in the open casket with that silly hat on her shaved head.) The conclusion, however, was that these were not people to whom he would willingly donate anything whatsoever: The Beans of Egypt Maine with a few bucks in their pockets. Dan sighed, ate food, worked, shit, and never thought at all about Amy.

Weeks went by. No one mentioned Amy. Dan didn’t mention Amy. Sometimes when he spoke to Faye, he noticed that she only replied reluctantly and was usually curt. That was okay. She’d spent maybe too much time with Amy and was resentful of Dan’s refusal to donate to the loving cause. He could live with that. He didn’t care. The days of Amy standup talks were in the past.


Amy’s husband appeared before them at a talk at the supervisor’s desk to thank them for all that they, had done for Amy. Dan supposed the several thousand dollars the crew had raised had helped pay a small percentage of that Dallas Cowboys casket. Faye stood at his side, her face gone all red and puffy with grief for Amy, the linebacker-sized woman gone to that great cancer ward in the sky. When he was done, Dan clapped. Not too loudly, but he wanted to freaking yell and pump his fist and do a goddamned victory dance and high-five the poor bastard who’d been Amy’s husband. This was, he fervently hoped, the period on the running sentence that had been the Ballad of Amy with Cancer.

May it, at last, be ended.

Dan had his fucking doubts.

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