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Misdelivered

by Joy Nelson about a year ago in Short Story
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A Reclusive Receives an Unexpected Package

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

I almost fainted when I saw the UPS man on my porch. I placed my hand on the door, ready to yank it open and tell him he had the wrong place. But my body froze. The words stuck in my throat. Time ground to a halt. My heart turned to stone. He may as well have been a venomous spider for all that I could do in his presence.

I recovered about ten minutes after he drove away, at which point I opened the door an inch, glanced along the sidewalk to make sure it was as empty as the ice cream cartons in my trash can, opened the door a little farther, snatched the box, and retreated back into the safety of my home.

With trembling hands, I grabbed the brown package and scrutinized the recipient’s name and address.

Josh Harrow

18 Saddlebrook Ln

Forks, WA 98111

Disaster. Pure Disaster. I lived at 18 Saddlebrook Court. Saddlebrook Lane was just around the corner from my cul-de-sac.

What do I do? What do I do?

I could see Mr. Harrow’s house from my front window. Right about now, he was probably tracking his package online and seeing that it had been delivered. He would step outside, discover that there was no package, and report a porch pirate to the local police. No. Even worse — he might figure out the truth. He might discover that it had been misdelivered.

Well… that wouldn’t be so bad, actually. I could just leave the package outside and hope that he found it. He would take it away, and I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

But what if he saw my door camera and decided that he had to knock to explain what he was doing? And what if he discovered that I was at home?

My heart thudded against my ribs as my therapist’s words from childhood echoed in my mind: "Most people are good, Ann. You’ve had a run of bad luck, but I promise you that better days are coming. Make the effort to trust, and little by little, you’ll start to overcome your fears."

Better days hadn’t come. The better days had only started when I bought my house through a proxy and discovered all the delivery apps that allowed me to exist without the rest of the world knowing the first thing about Ann Schuman. The loneliness was a small price to pay. I could go for a whole twenty minutes at a time without wishing I wasn’t so broken.

I stared down at the package in my hands—the package that signified everything I hated—and everything I yearned to have. People. It signified people.

Maybe Josh Harrow was a nice person. He could be a friendly old man who was getting a present delivered for his wife of fifty years. Or maybe he was a businessman with dreams of becoming the next Bill Gates. He could even be an entertainer or a scientist or a world traveler.

Or he could be a serial killer.

No, he’s not. Probably.

I sucked in a shaky breath. “Josh Harrow,” I muttered, “you’ll never know how much you’ve impacted my life. I’m going to do this. I’m going to bring the package to you, and if you’re home, well…” I couldn’t finish my own sentence. I set his package aside and ran to my room to change out of my sports bra and leggings.

But what did one wear to bring a misdelivered package to one’s neighbor?

I can’t do this.

I can. I can.

There. I settled on the orange dress with the white flowers on it. A bit too dressy for package deliveries, yes, but when else was I supposed to wear it? I had been planning on wearing it for a tea party with my cat, and this didn’t seem much different.

I slipped into some ballet flats and headed toward the front door. I picked up his package and tucked it under my arm. I said a prayer. I had my doubts about God, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to talk to Him just in case.

With jelly in my legs and my organs in my throat, I opened the door and stepped onto my porch. I closed the door behind me. I hadn’t done that in at least six months. I stepped off the porch. I hadn’t done that for at least a year. So far, so good. No one had attempted to kidnap me, nor had anyone been verbally abusive yet on this outing. Good progress. I congratulated myself.

I walked to the edge of my front yard, and I suppressed a shriek when my neighbor’s garage door opened.

That was okay. People were allowed to open their garage doors, after all.

I began to walk. On the sidewalk. The light summer breeze blew my dress around my ankles, and a butterfly floated in front of me. I would have smiled if I hadn’t been a wreck inside. As it was, though, I felt my legs become a little firmer.

Thanks, Mr. Butterfly.

I came to the curb. This was it. I just had to cross the street, go to his door, ring his doorbell, and… I didn’t know what.

I thought I might vomit. Still, I carried on. I would have to think about getting a therapist again—with online sessions, of course. I needed to talk about this with someone.

I blinked, and I found myself on the other side of the street. Then I was on his porch.

I reached for his doorbell—and black spots started to dance around my vision. I clutched one of the chairs on his porch for support as the universe began to collapse in on me. This was it. I was going to pass out, Mr. Harrow would call an ambulance, and I would become known as the creepy neighborhood recluse who fainted when exposed to fresh air and sunlight.

No.

Deep breath. The black spots fled, and again I felt my legs under me.

I rang the doorbell. I thought about running away, but what if one of the neighbors saw me? No. I had to see this through.

I heard footsteps on the other side of the door. The lock clicked.

Mr. Harrow belonged on the cover of GQ—or on an advertising poster for Home Depot. Why did he have to be handsome? That made things worse. Or better. I didn’t know. I couldn’t think.

“Hi,” he said, “can I help you?”

“I… package can’t.”

He tilted his head.

“Package. UPS man. Harrow.”

His face lit up with understanding as my face turned a million shades of red. “Oh! That’s mine. Thank you. Um… are you okay? Do you need to sit down?”

I nodded and fumbled into the nearest chair. I reminded myself to breathe. In. Out. In. Out.

“Do you… need me to call someone?” he asked.

I shook my head. “I have severe social anxiety. Wow. That was a sentence. I can sentence. I mean… people fear.” I buried my face in my hands.

“Oh. Does that mean I should go away?”

“No. This is good. It’s progress. As long as you’re not a serial killer or other kind of creep, this is good. This is good. Wait. Busy. You busy, right? My brain is glitching. Sorry. I should go. Sorry.” I stood up—and my legs collapsed.

I don’t know what happened next. The paramedics told me I hit my head on the chair and suffered a concussion. And, after a bit of discussion—I told Mr. Harrow that I hoped more of his packages got delivered to my door.

Short Story

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Joy Nelson

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