Dr Robert Rich
Lorraine in the Rain
This story has been replaced.
View the new one.
Or try this one.
I'm wobbling from letter box to letter box on my putt-putt, the driving rain lashing my face. When I had the visor down it got all fogged up and I ended up in the ditch, so it's a bitch, but water's in my eyes, and working its way back under my helmet into my hair. Under the vinyl jacket, my jumper is wet, my shirt is wet, even my jocks are wet. My boots are filled with water, and I can feel more trickling down the back of my neck, the backs of my calves.
Water is one thing. The putt-putt has mudguards, but do they stop the mud? Of course not. Great big globs of grey mud and black mud and brown mud decorate me all over, and all under for that matter.
It's not always raining, even in Melbourne in winter, but talking about bitches reminds me of dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, fluffy dogs, wiry dogs, all love the putt-putt so much they try to eat it, and me with it. Normally, I'm good with dogs and they're good with me, but when I'm on the putt-putt I become a mechanical fox to be hounded. I don't need earmuffs for the putt-putt, but sure as hell I need them for the barking!
Talking about dogs, that's how I got this job, after two years of senselessly sending letters to every possible employer, and a few impossible ones as well. See, I graduated from High School, just because I didn't know what else I wanted to do, and didn't do too brilliantly. No, that's a lie. I did bloody awful, just scraped through. So, with sixty geniuses applying for every cleaning job, who'd take me?
Well, that was summer of course, if it ever was summer, and I'm spending a couple of days at Phil's place. I go out to post my next lot of job applications, and I hear excited barking around the corner. I know dogs, this one's not being savage, just having fun at somebody's expense. And there's this old geezer thinks he's been bailed up by this Irish setter - German shepherd cross. He's a big dog, the red Irish setter hair but a head like a shepherd, and the old bloke is terrified but trying not to show it. I can see that the dog's just teasing him, barking, jumping side to side, tail going like a windscreen wiper -- hey, wouldn't it be great to have a windscreen wiper on a bike helmet?
Anyway, I hold out my hand and talk to the dog, and he can smell Mindy on me and dogs like to smell a bitch, so Granddad is sure I've saved his life.
And the next day, I go to the local post office to buy another book of stamps, and there Granddad is, he's the local postmaster. We get to talking, and just for something to say I tell him what I need the stamps for, and what a wank it is, looking for a job. And he says, why don't I apply to work for Australia Post, he'll give me a grouse reference. And I did, and actually passed the Public Service exam thing, and he did, and lo! I'm a postie!
It was grouse at first, but like I said that was in summer.
Oops, the wheels slipped in the mud. Nothing like variety, yellow mud this time. Oh well. Keep your mind on the job, Tony. Surely it isn't summer now!
And wouldn't you know, it's raining in Harte Avenue just as much as anywhere else. Where was I? Oh yes, the early days. They taught me how to ride a motor bike, and now I've got my own Yamaha 250, I'll go up to something with a bit more guts as soon as I'm off the P plate. I've bought myself a great set of black leathers, better than this poofy postie rig that doesn't even keep you dry, not that anything could. And I've got dough left over, even though Mum and Dad now want me to pay board and lodging, fair enough I suppose.
But this reminds me of one more bitch, the worst bitch of them all. Every time Phil and the other blokes see me, they ask about the horny housewives pestering the postie for a poke. I kid them on, but if there are any horny housewives around, they haven't found me yet. When I got the job, last summer, I bought a condom from one of those vending machines, just in case. I mean, I don't want to catch something, or leave a little somebody behind. Well, that condom has been riding around in my pocket for six months, five days a week. Maybe it's bad luck to be prepared, maybe I should leave it at home and my luck will change?
So Harte Avenue's done, turn around and back to Horton Road, pop in the odd numbers, into Deline Avenue. Would you believe, it's raining here too? I squash a handful of soggy envelopes into the box at number 6, and there is movement ahead, an odd shape is running from the house, along the drive at number 10. A human! I am not alone on this planet!
Not only a human, but a female. She's running half crouched over, a bright red raincoat thrown over her head, and she stops by the mail box as I pull up. "Nothing for you today, Mrs Pickering," I call out over the rumble of the putt-putt and the drumming of the rain.
"No, that's all right," she answers, breathless, "but I was hoping... could you please come with me for a moment?"
The condom in my shirt pocket is suddenly burning a hole in my chest. I expect smoke to rise from the wet shirt. My heart is skittering about so much I'm sure the Australia Post emblem on the jacket must be bobbing up and down. My lucky day at last?
I switch off the putt-putt and kick down the side stand. I manage to clamber upright though the old legs are made of wood. I squelch after her along the driveway, past her car, steam rising off the bonnet.
Of course I've often seen her around. Old girl, 35 if a day. I mean, Mary Hughes at school had a kid at 15, if this lady had done the same, she could be my mother. But she looks nice, blonde hair, I wonder if it's real blonde, slim, curvy figure. Mrs L. Pickering. Tom and Lorraine Pickering and Jason, Alicia and little Miriam. Posties know everybody's name.
We make it to the porch, and actually there is no water falling on me from above. There is no danger that the water already on me might feel lonely though.
She turns. I've never noticed before, but she has tiny, almost invisible hairs on her cheeks and above her top lip. I can see them now because dots of water sit on the hairs, glittering like little diamonds, and those hairs are blonde too, and her eyebrows and eyelashes as well. Maybe she's a real blonde. I wonder, is she blonde down there too, you know?
At the thought, the cold little pecker raises his rain-sodden head and becomes a mighty monster. I'm worried that she'll see the vinyl trouser rise, but she's not looking down there, she's looking at my face. Just the same, she must have seen something in my expression because she gives an embarrassed little laugh and two red spots appear on her cheeks.
"Oh my dear boy!" she says, "It's, it's not like that at all. It's just that, well, the door is stuck, I guess the water made the wood swell, and I can't get it open. I was hoping..."
"Of course," I answer, just as embarrassed.
Her key is in the lock. She turns it, I grab the handle and pull. Nothing happens. I put my right foot on the wall, water running out the top of the boot, and nod. She turns the key, I pull, and the door swings open like a cork popping from a champagne bottle, not that I like champagne, bloody bitter stuff.
I stagger back, just managing not to fall off the porch.
"Oh thank you," she says in that nice breathless voice. "You're so wet! What you need is a hot bath."
Instant visions, me in the bath with her! I can't quite imagine what she'd look like without clothes, but I bet she could teach a few tricks to the young girls. Not that I've had many chances for being disappointed with young girls either. Not even one, in fact.
"Don't go away, just wait a moment," she commands, and runs inside.
I pour a couple of pints of water from my right boot, and put it back on. Even more water comes out of the left boot. Then she is back, carefully carrying a steaming mug.
"I put sugar in it," she says, "I hope that's all right, but in this weather you'll need it."
"Thank you," and I drink it in delicious hot sips, and return the empty mug to her.
As I walk back in the pissing rain to the putt-putt I'm grateful for the hot sweet gift, though I'd hoped for something hotter and sweeter.
And that's the closest I've ever come to using my condom.
Home to Bob's writing Bob's book reviews Book editing service LiFE Award: Literature For Environment The current humorous story Another one