There ought to be a law against the manhandling of precious manuscripts being lovingly shipped away to contests on or near the deadline.Seriously.
Monday, I packed up three entries in a manila envelope. I double-, triple-, quadruple-checked the address. I peered inside to make sure my entry fee was enclosed. I pried up the prongs and licked the glue. I hermetically sealed that sucker, and took off for the post office.
Reaching the post office before closing time is no mean feat. It's not that the back roads are clogged with rush hour traffic here in Backroads. It's just that the back roads leading to the post office are...well...back roads. They are winding and hilly and have a proper speed limit. They also have the occasional school bus clogging up the works. So I generally allow thirty minutes of get-there time.
The post office is somewhat like my workplace. The clocks are ahead of real world time by about seven minutes. So I have to make that allowance as well. We learned the hard way that no amount of Genius-pounding on the glass door, pointing to the time on his phone, would motivate those time-shifters to let him in. Of course, that lesson did not phase me, because we were only there to pick up a package of some electronic gewgaw that he had ordered.
So there I was Monday, strolling into the dead-mouse-smelling post office with twenty whole minutes to spare. I was behind one of our school substitutes in line. She distracted me momentarily. I slid my masterpieces across the counter, and told the clerk I wanted to mail that envelope. Plus, I wanted two books of stamps.
I finished chatting with the sub, and turned just in time to see my prized possessions being pummeled by the clerk. She took my envelope, so pristine, so crisp, so perfect that I thought for a moment a ray of light had shone through the front window to cast an ethereal glow. Wait! Did I hear a chorus as well? With a harp? Nah. What I heard was the PLOP as that clerk dropped my parcel into a milk crate full of raggedy, odd-sized packages. I think some were covered with grease. And there might have been a rat tail twitching down at the end. I was almost ill. I mumbled that I'd take any stamps besides holiday stamps, and didn't even count my change. It's hard to let go.
And today, I dropped off three more works of Val for a different contest, having decided upon a last-minute substitution on Monday. The post office still smelled of dead mice. You'd think Uncle Sam could spring for a car-freshener leaf, in spite of the budget crisis. Even the people of Backroads don't want to wait in line while inhaling Eau de Deceased Rodent.
This afternoon, I was pleased to see a different clerk. She stroked my envelope like it was composed of fine Corinthian leather. She placed it gently on the scale, so as not to bruise my words. Then she stuck on the postage sticker and set it in the bin. I couldn't help but notice. THE STICKER HAD A WRINKLE!!!
Thank goodness my other entries were submitted on-line. I'm beginning to think I have a touch of OCD.