Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Probably Should've Googled That Name at the Library

It was all Violet's fault.

Violet Bradshaw was the postmaster in Podunk, the little Texas town where I spent a big chunk of my teenage years.  Big, blonde, and brassy; Violet was a formidable personality.  She knew everyone and everything in that tiny town.  There was no secret-keeping around her when she wanted to know something.

Knowledge can be a powerful weapon.  Violet was a warrior with hers.  She liked me well enough, but she still scared me.  Violet liked to find your weakness and exploit it just enough to make you squirm.

The weakness Kincaid and I had was weirdness.  It was only a weakness because we hadn't fully come into our own and recognized it for the fabulous super-power that it is.

I was a year or so older than Kincaid, so I left for college first.  This was before email and snap chat, so we kept up a vigorous exchange of correspondence.  I miss that tremendously.  To this day there remain few pleasures in life more exquisite than a letter - a real letter - from a friend.

The two of us, convinced of our own hilarity, assumed that the rest of the world was as interested in the minutia of our daily life as we were.  And of course we suspected Violet Bradshaw of perusing our post for delectable tidbits of information.

Neither of us was up to anything particularly delectable nor tidbit worthy, but still...

We started writing on the outside of the envelopes.  Or sending post-cards.  Anything to put the story out there for Violet to see.  It became a habit.

And, as is my habit, my messages evolved into the occasional cartoon.

After a year or so of this, Christmas card season rolled around.  Sending cards - finding the perfect statement for a person or situation - is one of my favorite things.  (I'm still mourning the closure of my all-time favorite card shop.  Haven't found a replacement yet.)  This was a few years before I started the Gravestone Christmas Card tradition.  I'd been to the stationery store and carefully chosen individual bits of holiday hilarity for several friends.

Kincaid's card, of course, had room enough for my chatty scribbles, as well as the requisite Xmas greeting for Violet.  Xmas because Violet did not like things that smacked of ungodliness; important things such as persecution by a holiday abbreviation and the like.

I sent other cards at that same time.  Cards that would be routed through Dallas on their way to their final destination.

My timing was spectacularly bad. As was that one cartoon...


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If you are a regular reader, you know that I've used a pen name for many years now.  It's a practice that started years and years ago, before junior high.  I don't really remember why I started but now I use the name to help preserve a thin layer of anonymity between my creative work and my professional "acquaintances".

More than once I have developed long-term, deeply personal relationships with people who have never known my last name.  It's not a secret, it just never comes up in conversation.

The pseudonym wasn't always spookyrach.  The original one was somewhat less original, but no less long-lived. I used it for all sorts of things, things such as the return address on cards and letters.

Those cards I sent, including the ones going through Dallas?  They were all from The Lone Avenger.

You think this is going to end badly, don't you?

It did.

Trench-coated characters in fedoras were one of my favorite cartoon subjects.  I'm still drawing those same spies and private eyes today.  (And occasionally a similarly garbed bishop.  Here's looking at you, Amy H.)  So it was only natural that I would choose to decorate one of those cards with a spiffy little spy dressed like Humphrey Bogart.

It should've been okay.  It would've been okay.  Except for one small addition.

On one of those cards bound for the big city, below the Lone Avenger's return address and next to the comically sinister spy, I wrote:

LETTER BOMB ENCLOSED
PLEASE DO NOT X-RAY

I said please 'cause my momma raised me to be all polite and stuff.

It still would've been okay, except for the really bad timing thing.


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One sunny December afternoon, sometime before the Xmas break, I'd been out running an errand for my employer.  I was a student worker in the Dean of Students' office.  The disciplinary office, among other things.

Oh, the irony.

When I returned to work, my boss, the Dean's secretary, met me with wide-eyed worry and said I was supposed to call someone at the postal inspector's office.  In Dallas.

As if!  You can't kid a kidder.  She owed me payback for some prank or other I had pulled recently and I knew this was just a set-up to get me back. She couldn't fool me!

But she was insistent, so eventually I dialed the number, ready for whatever silliness was on the other end of the line.

Only it wasn't silly.  Not much at all.

Perhaps you remember Ted Kaczynski?  The Unabomber?  (I feel a little disconcerted after having googled how to spell his name.)  Mr. Kaczynski had recently murdered a federal judge, among others.  That letter bomb had gone through the Dallas post office.

Which is why I can't really blame the postal workers who freaked right the hell out about my ridiculous little envelope.

They immediately put the Christmas card in an isolation room and contacted the authorities.  Authorities with a  capital A. 

Said same Authorities tracked The Lone Avenger back to her villianly lair.  Not difficult since I'd used my correct address on the envelope.

By the time the postal inspectors were finished with me, large chunks were missing from my posterior.  And back then I didn't have a lot to spare.

The recipient of the card never did receive it, although they did finally agree to release it to her if she came down to their facility in person to pick it up.

She declined.

I leaned my lesson.  I quit sending postal products as The Lone Avenger.  If I send you a letter nowadays it is for sure going to say

                  from

                        spookyrach.

13 comments:

Cyn Huddleston said...

I liked the feel of reading it without any shortcuts. Although I have enjoyed the telling several times.
Please finally admit the law made you cry that day.

spookyrach said...

Nope! Didnt make me cry! Not even a little. :)

annie said...

i have a vague memory of hearing a little about this. God Lord, talk about accidentally setting up a "shituation"! Surely you were at least a tiny bit shaken?

Janet Seright said...



Ah, such good memories of your pranks and escapades from "our" college years. As I recall the recipient of that card was the slightly more mature person who strongly advised you to remove a suspicious (though fake) article from your purse before boarding a plane with her on your great Atlanta adventure. Your writing as usual makes it all live again.

spookyrach said...

Annie - I will totally admit to being "shaken", yessirreebob. Yep.

Janet - I forgot about the plane thing. What was the fake article? I can't remember!!

Janet Seright said...


A comb or fingernail file that was in the form of a switchblade.

spookyrach said...

Ohhhhhhhhh yeah. Comb. It was a comb.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

LMAO I did not realize you have not written about that!! One of your best stories! I bet someone there still talks about you.

Anonymous said...

I miss our lunch table talks. Sometime laughed so hard my side would hurt going back to my desk. This one was one of those stories. CT

spookyrach said...

POEats: I couldn't believe I hadn't written it either! Who wouldda guessed!

CT: Oh man, I miss that so much too! We had so many good laughs. We need to laugh like that some more. Makes us live longer!

Monica said...

This did not go on your Permanent Record and affect your future employment? How'd you pull *that* off?

spookyrach said...

I am very, very good...at keeping my mouth shut. Hahaha!

I never admit to this until they've become sort of attached to me. Heh.

spookyrach said...

I am very, very good...at keeping my mouth shut. Hahaha!

I never admit to this until they've become sort of attached to me. Heh.