The drunkest man I ever saw was a mailman. I had gone down to the Echeconnee Creek with my fishing pole and was startled at the sight of him slumped against a bridge piling. There was always trash under the bridge at the Echeconnee—beer cans and fast food wrappers thrown from passing cars, old tires and broken palettes, the remains of campfires. I mistook the mailman at first for a pile of something left on the bank by the latest flood. I might have passed right by him if he hadn’t moaned and raised his head when I was five steps away.
He fixed me with heavy-lidded yellow-brown eyes. Black hair hung in limp, greasy hanks on either side of a face as rutted and hollowed out as a strip mine. He was still in his post office uniform; but it wasn’t the crisp, pressed uniform of an on-duty letter carrier. He had obviously been wearing it for many days. It was dingy and wrinkled and covered in sand, and it hung loose on his wiry frame, as if he had lost weight since it was first issued. The blue postman’s cap with the eagle logo lay cockeyed on the ground beside him.
The mailman’s head swayed on unsteady shoulders, and he blinked slowly as he mumbled and slurred something in my direction.
“Pardon?” I said. “I didn’t understand you.”
The mailman squinted at me and raised himself to something closer to a sitting position, trying to focus his free-floating hatred. “I said I could kill you,” he snarled. But the words were scarcely out of his mouth before he collapsed again into a drunken heap, snoring softly.
Jonathan Rogers is the author of The Terrible Speed of Mercy, one of the finest biographies of Flannery O’Connor we’ve ever read. His other books include the Wilderking Trilogy–The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking–as well as The World According to Narnia and a biography of Saint Patrick. He has spent most of his adult life in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and his wife Lou Alice are raising a houseful of robustious children.