© 2010 Lynsey

338 – Time to do

Donny had worked in the mail room for most of his life, in fact, all of his working life. He was a simple soul, and didn’t look for a lot out of life. This was a blessing as life had been quite sparing with its gifts. Donny had lived with his parents until they had died, and he had lived his life following their advice to work hard, to listen, to be honest and good and things would be fine. And they were. Donny would have a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit at morning tea with the girls, and again at afternoon tea. He was one of the girls and yet not, for the mysteries of womanhood had not been shared with him. Perhaps it was his sleeveless, fair isle vest that acted as a barrier between him and wedded bliss. Or any other kind of bliss for that matter. Some days a girl would feel sorry for Donny, or worry momentarily about his loneliness, but inevitably that feeling would pass as youth passes seamlessly and unnoticed into middle age.

Donny would sit after the scurry of the morning mail was sorted and eat his sandwich alone in the mail room. He didn’t like the lunch room – it was loud and linoleum and leering men and lusty girls – Donny could not be more out of place. He spent his time carefully and neatly tearing the stamps off the envelopes. Mr Philips, the man who’d given Donny the job had done this, and he’d been on the job for 50 years. Donny had followed exactly as Mr Philips did. Mr Philips had kept the stamps in boxes on the wooden shelves in the archives. Mr Philips died not long after, and Donny was told to clear the boxes full of stamps out of the archives. Donny wanted to respect Mr Philips memory, so took the old boxes home. He took his own stamps home, and soaked the stamps off and dried them, and then he put the stamps carefully in a shoe box until it was full. Donny loved the little pictures, and over the years amassed quite a collection. The living room was full of shoe boxes. Floor to ceiling. The side bedroom was full. The back bedroom was full. At first, Donny had some misgivings about putting boxes into his Mother and Father’s bedroom, it was private. Donny started with putting the boxes under their bed. In the wardrobe. By the time the wardrobe was full he felt he could start a small stack in the corner. When the stack started to sway he started another, and another.

Donny’s hair was mostly silver when the computers arrived. A tear rolled down his cheek when his manager explained how the mail room was going to be scaled down. Donny wasn’t sure what he would do next – he couldn’t imagine how working with a computer would be good. At morning tea the girls ate their gluten-free chocolate biscuits and tried to reassure Donny. ‘You could go on a cruise, Donny, dance naked, see the world’, they said. ‘Get laid’, they thought, ‘As if. Poor Donny, he’s never going to do anything.’

Donny’s leaving card was one of those big ones that everyone signs. People hesitate before they write – they wonder whether they should write something funny, or meaningful, or, a polite lie like ‘Stay in touch’. It took Donny over a fortnight to even open the envelope. It was one morning. The sun was shining on the refrigerator and the over-sized envelope cast an odd shadow on the wall behind. Donny thought the shadow looked a bit like a building – a big house maybe an apartment. Donny made a cup of tea, and got a chocolate biscuit out of a tin with a duckling and a kitten on the lid. He read the card. Everyone had written something, there was even a couple of extra pages. Some people seemed quite sad to see him go. Others seemed to long for his new freedom. Some said, ‘Stay in touch’, and ‘Thank you for all of your wonderful work’, and ‘Best of luck, kia kaha!’

One comment did stay with Donny over the next few days. Weeks, actually. Someone had said, ‘Love on you, time to do something you’ve always wanted to do.’ They hadn’t signed the card, just left the message. It wasn’t just the message that tugged at Donny, it was the handwriting. It was familiar, but Donny couldn’t place it. He’d look at the message and sip his tea, and nibble a biscuit meditatively. The odd thing was all of the other messages were written in blue, or black, or even dashed off quickly in red biro – this message was written in ink from an old fashioned fountain pen, and the ink was dark sepia. It was quite some time later that Donny’s thoughts moved from the author on to the message, and it took many more cups of tea and chocolate biscuits from the duckling and kitten tin and even then Donny had no real idea about what he’d always wanted to do.

Donny took himself back into the city, and out of habit walked up towards his old workplace. The old familiar paces and places, and Donny smiled to himself and it felt good. It was home in a way, a good way. Waiting to cross at some traffic lights he noticed a building with bright pink ‘for sale’ signs. His curiosity was tweaked. At home Donny couldn’t get the building out of his mind and after a restless night he called the company and found himself inspecting the building that very afternoon. ‘Inspecting,’ Donny smiled to himself, ‘I’ve never inspected anything before in my life.’ Donny felt love grow deep down in his gut and swell up through his heart, and he knew what he wanted to do.

The auction house described the stamp collection as ‘One of the most comprehensive collections of stamps to have ever become available’, and ‘An impressive collection spanning 100 years’. Donny laughed to himself. Little did they know this was just from the living room. Donny helped the salesman take down the signs and moved into the apartment on the top floor. He moved the remaining shoe boxes full of stamps into office space on the next floor down. He used the money from the sale of the old house to paint the building chocolate brown. The floor below the stamps he rented to a nice young designer and her team, and together they made a plan to sell stamps online. The next floor down became home to some quite respectable accountants, and they helped take care of Donny’s business. On the ground floor some friends from his old workplace set up a cafe, and Donny liked to help them out. They served cups of tea and chocolate biscuits for morning and afternoon tea, and Donny felt at home. On one of the walls he hung sepia photos of his Mother and Father, the ones that they had given to each other on a wedding anniversary. While cleaning the glass, Donny noticed his Mother’s photo had a few words written across the bottom right corner. ‘Love on you’, it said, and Donny could see then it was his Father’s hand writing.

06. Every day you make choices.
11. Every day do something for someone else.
18. Every day express love. Some people need to hear it. Most people need to see it. Dont take it for granted.

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