This beach is just north of San Francisco and is really nice. Alice and I went together while she was here. The weather is too cool for beach activities now but perhaps it will warm up soon.
Miss you. Love
The McCalls must have a lot of money for their children to be able to travel with, Justin thought after reading the postcard. Just like the New York postcard, this one was addressed to the McCall’s address yet again, this time, however, only to the father. And why not address the mother in the postcard as well?
It had been a month-and-a-half since Justin had talked to Mr. Kramer about living in New York, and so far, every tactic that he’d used to try to get Mr. Kramer to talk about the subject again hadn’t worked. He tried bringing up Hyde Park again, asking about family and friends, even wondering whether Kramer had been transferred from a post office in New York to the one in Marion, but Mr. Kramer was totally unwilling to go deeper into the subject with him.
Mr. Kramer didn’t even skillfully avert the topic; he simply just ignored Justin’s questions, or started talking about something completely different. And he became even more distant a few weeks ago, unwilling to really hold any type of conversation with Justin, even if it was only about the weather, or the Marion summer sports leagues.
But Justin was determined to figure out exactly what Mr. Kramer’s story was before the summer was over. Thankfully, he still had about a month left before his volunteer work at the post office was terminated.
Justin was about to slip the postcard in with the rest of the mail in another one of those white, plastic mail crates, when he had an idea. He placed the postcard to the side as he continued sorting through the mail, waiting to see if Kramer would make his way to the back to check on his progress. Despite the constant questions about New York, part of Mr. Kramer’s job was that he had to peep in on Justin every once in a while, which meant that it was guaranteed that Justin would see Mr. Kramer at least once during the day before he left at 4:30pm.
Without realizing it, Justin had memorized the normal times in which Mr. Kramer would make his rounds through the post office, and check on his work. If he was correct, Mr. Kramer would be finishing his lunch break soon, and would head straight to the back to check on him.
Sure enough, within five minutes, Mr. Kramer was slowly creeping his way into the back towards Justin, who continued to organize as if there was really nothing on his mind.
“How’s it going?” Kramer asked.
Justin gave him a full report – the organizing was going well.
“There’s another one of those postcards for the McCalls,” Justin casually said, picking up the postcard he’d set aside, “seems to be from around the San Francisco area, but from someone different. Maybe one of the McCalls’ children.”
He held the postcard toward Kramer, hoping he’d take a look at it. Thankfully, he did, which helped lead Justin to his question: “Do you know the McCalls? In such a small town like this, I don’t think I’ve ever run into them, or even really heard of them.”
Mr. Kramer continued to stare at the postcard in silence, with Justin wondering if he’d struck a chord, and Kramer would actually start opening up, or if he would simply ignore his question, and move on. Justin was also wondering if it was time for him to push past the normal questions, and start some deeper interrogation.
“You know, it’s also curious to me,” Justin continued, “because the first postcard from New York to the McCalls mentioned both the mom and the dad, but this postcard is only directed to the dad. Why do you think that is? Like, do you think something happened to the -”
Justin jumped from his chair. He didn’t think Mr. Kramer had a voice louder than the one quiet, raspy one he’d always spoken in. But it was clear now that Justin had hit a nerve with his inquiry about the McCalls, and he felt a little guilty for pushing Mr. Kramer’s buttons.
Before he could apologize, however, Kramer shuffled out of the room without another word, dropping the postcard to the floor. Justin watched him head towards the front of the post office, and disappear.
Even though he was a little frightened, Justin observed Kramer’s reaction to his question as less of anger, and more of hurt. He got up from his chair, and picked up the postcard from the floor. He was curious to know what he was so hurt about, but figured today may not be the day to question Mr. Kramer any further.
So, he continued on with his work, not seeing Mr. Kramer for the rest of the day.
* * *
It wasn’t until a few days later, after Justin had stopped prying Mr. Kramer for answers, that Mr. Kramer himself came into Justin’s little work space to talk.
“I’m almost done organizing, Mr. Kramer,” Justin began as he watched his manager walk towards him, “I’m afraid there may not be anymore work for me to do for the rest of the day.”
Mr. Kramer didn’t reply, but simply pulled up a chair, sat down, and said, “Justin, I wanna talk to you about the other day…”
Justin’s eyes slightly widened, and he stopped organizing to look at Mr. Kramer.
Kramer didn’t waste any time with his explanation. “I do know the McCalls. Well, I know Mrs. McCall. We were in a pretty serious relationship back when we were both still living in New York.”
Without really knowing, Justin leaned towards Mr. Kramer in his seat, eager to hear Kramer’s story, and his explanation of his behavior a few days ago.
“Her name was Stacey. We met each other in Hyde Park at the American Bounty, that place that was pictured in the first postcard that came here a month-and-a-half ago. We were both fairly young, in our early twenties. A few dates with her, and I knew she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
“We were steady for one solid year, but she had to transfer here to Marion because of her work – she was a studying nurse, and she needed to finish a couple of courses at the hospital here. We were both determined to keep in touch, and I was ready to ask her to marry me as soon as she was finished with her classes.
“We wrote each other back and forth, mostly with postcards, since they were easy to come by, and Stacey loved to see the pictures of the different places in New York that she missed. Our communication was consistent for about three months, and then…she stopped writing.”
It was then that Mr. Kramer paused in his story, either allow the sensitivenes of the subject to subside, or to allow Justin to sink it all in. Justin was only afraid that Mr. Kramer would end his story there, leaving him to guess the rest.
But Kramer continued. “I got worried about her. I kept writing her letters with no response, and even tried calling the hospital that she worked at, but I could never get a hold of her. Finally, I decided to make a trip to Marion. And when I got here…I was told that she had stopped going to her nursing classes. That she had stopped talking to her classmates and friends, and no one was really sure where she’d gone to.
“I was afraid something terrible had happened to her since she hadn’t told me about any of this. I was so ready to go to the police, and file a missing person’s report, when a friend of mine in New York got a hold of me by phone, and told me he had spotted Stacey in town. With another man.”
Kramer shut his eyes as if he had just received the news. Justin had never seen any man so torn up over any woman before, so seeing Mr. Kramer in such a state gave him a mix of emotions – mostly pity and confusion.
To lessen the hurt of the story, Kramer explained that Stacey had never meant to reconnect with Kramer after she’d met the man who would be her husband, Michael McCall. They would marry in New York, but then move to Marion, where they would spend the rest of their lives, having and raising children, and traveling to many places, since McCall had his family’s money.
“I guess she left me for his money, I don’t know,” Kramer speculated, “but I moved to Marion to try to talk some sense into her, to tell her that I really loved her, and that I was willing to work hard to give her the life she wanted. But she refused me over and over. But I still stayed here, and started working for the post office. And I’ve been here ever since.”
Although Kramer’s story in itself satisfied most of Justin’s curiosity, he still wondered about his odd behavior that began a couple of weeks before. So, he inquired about it.
Kramer’s face became even more pained than it had been before, and Justin saw a tear or two stream down his wrinkly face.
“Stacey, she…she passed a couple of weeks ago,” Kramer said, “it was unexpected, and I found out about it in the newspaper. I was never able to reconnect with her after she rejected me years ago. I had been so bitter and angry at her; I couldn’t look at her husband, or her children. After some years, I started receiving invitations to holiday parties at their home, but I never showed up, never even replied to the invitations. And to finally realize that she was gone, I…”
His voice trailed off, unable to bear the hurt any longer, and he broke into heavy sobs. This was something else Justin wasn’t used to seeing: an elderly man sob. He was unsure how to respond, whether comforting him would be appropriate or not, or if he was just better sitting there, lettting him grieve.
He chose the latter, listening to Mr. Kramer’s cries echo through the back of the post office halls.
💙 Mishy 🦋