The package landing on our porch was a surprise even though it was the holiday season. My wife and I weren’t expecting anything, having gotten every package we’d ordered, and, as far as we knew, anything that everyone we knew was going to send us had already arrived. Since it was just two days before Christmas whoever had sent the package was cutting it pretty close. And then I checked the delivery address and found it wasn’t for us. This wasn’t surprising. Our regular mail carrier regularly slipped our neighbors’ mail in with ours, and probably vice versa too, but I didn’t mind. Sometimes I’d put the mail back in the box and let it sort itself out and sometimes I’d walk to the neighbor’s house and usually I was early enough that they hadn’t gotten their mail yet, so I’d just slip what I had into their mailbox and if they had gotten their mail I’d still slip what I had into their mailbox and assumed it would just sort itself out. And on some occasions I talked to one of the neighbors, and older man. He’d look through his mail and say, “Well, this is crap, this is crap, more crap,” and then he’d thank me and we’d talk a little. And that’s how I learned he was ninety-two and his wife had passed away a year earlier, and one day he told me he’d just remarried and that his new wife was ninety, all of which I thought was the height of optimism. I didn’t ask but I assumed the wedding was a quiet affair, probably done at city hall without any fanfare. I didn’t ask because I preferred to believe the wedding was a big gala with a banner that read “Here’s To The Future!” and that as the happy couple ran to the limo that would take them to their honeymoon in, let’s say Poughkeepsie, the guests all threw nitroglycerin tablets.
Anyway the package was small and rectangular and heavy for its size. I thought it might be a fruitcake and that its intended recipient had left it on our porch to get rid of it, and I have heard stories of families that pass around the same fruitcake from year to year, which makes me think it’s fruitcakes passing fruitcake, and I’ve never heard of anyone passing a fruitcake on to a complete stranger. The fruitcake theory was further bolstered by the name of the company on the box which was something like Rjujsjnk, which I thought might be Dutch, and if there’s one thing the Dutch are famous for it’s pastries that can be used as building material, and if there are two things they’re famous for the other one is using “j” as a vowel. And also Van Gogh, windmills, dams, funny hats, being extremely blonde, tulips, dairy products, a pretty decent system of government, and Amsterdam where you can wander through the red light district and then walk purposely to a cafe where you can sit and smoke a spliff the size of your head in a desperate effort to forget what you just saw a woman wearing lingerie in a glass booth do with a chicken, also wearing lingerie, but that’s another story.
The odd thing was the delivery address wasn’t our street. As I said, normally we got the neighbors’ mail, and it was only a couple of blocks over which, I guess, is still the same neighborhood, so still neighbors, just not anybody whose house I’d normally walk to. And since it was dark and cold I really didn’t want to walk so I threw the box in the passenger seat and set off into the night. It was supposed to be an easy mission, but it was a part of the neighborhood I wasn’t used to. I made a couple of wrong turns and had to backtrack a few times, and then, once I found the house, I couldn’t find the right number. This was mainly because it was dark and I couldn’t see the house numbers on mailboxes or on the houses themselves, but finally I got the right house. I thought about leaving the package in the mailbox and letting it sort itself out, but I could see people in the house through their big front window where they were gathered around their nice big Christmas tree, and they’d seen me, and I thought it would look weird if I left something in their mailbox. So I went up to the door and knocked. A woman answered and I handed over the package.
“Oh, thank goodness!” she exclaimed. She’d been tracking the package and knew it was misdelivered but didn’t know where and she was afraid she’d never get it.
“Well,” I said, “enjoy your fruitcake.”
“Oh, it’s not fruitcake!” she said. “It’s some special shoes I ordered for a Christmas event.”
And that’s when I noticed that she and her husband and children were all blonde and if there’s one thing the Dutch are also known for it’s wooden shoes and I got out of there in a hurry when her husband yelled, “The chicken’s ready!”