Every day Ed and Claire, married for forty years and retired from farming, drive out to their mailbox. On a whim, one day Ed knocks over the mailbox with his pickup, but he’s the only one laughing . . . 

The original version of “The Mailbox” was my first pro sale, appearing in the October 1987 issue of Minnesota Monthly magazine. I drew upon my childhood in the farm country of northern Minnesota to create the small town of Lewis and its inhabitants, and I would return to them frequently in a variety of stories, although this was the only one that appeared in traditional print form. “The Mailbox” takes place in 1981, while the follow-up “The Satellite Dish” is set in 1984. The excerpt below is the opening scene.

The Mailbox

Ed and Claire drove out to the mailbox, the ’42 Chevy pickup running down the dirt road at an angle like a dog. Gravel crunched beneath the grinding of the old truck and dust took to the air behind them. They did this every day, six days to check the mail, and on Sunday to get the paper. As they neared the mailbox, Ed would always swerve toward it, then pull back at the last chance, making some excuse: “Whoa, that was a close one. Must have dozed off for a second.” Claire flinched every time he did this, then chuckled and said, “Oh, Ed, you’re just crazy. You really got me that time, I mean it.” She would clasp at her heart safely hidden under an apron and floral print dress.
       This time, Ed swerved and Claire flinched, but then he smiled and didn’t pull back. Through their open windows came the sound of a shattering headlight and wood cracking and metal twisting. After the pickup slid to a stop there was a startled silence as the dust settled. They sat in the truck, Claire with her mouth open, wringing her apron.
       “Wooo!” Ed laughed. “I always wanted to do that!” . . .

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