We were young and naïve city folk when we built our house in the country. How were we to know teenage boys waited until dark to christen our new mailbox with beer and bats? Their pastime seemed more annoying and expensive than harmful—until one winter thaw.
Beneath the mailbox I found soggy envelopes amongst empty beer cans and liquor bottles. Overdue bills and missing paychecks amended our perspective of this federal offense. We discussed adding a post office box to our budget.
Inexplicably, the phantom bashers have granted us a prolonged dispensation. We've not replaced our mailbox for several years now.
So when the long-awaited day came to mail a copy of my first novel to an editor out of state, our missing mail never came to mind. Nor did I visualize the volume of envelopes my epic was about to generate in our mailbox.
I was swept away in the grand occasion. After countless rejections and revisions, I printed and bound my story with the editor's fee tucked under twine with a few sprigs of lavender. I addressed the box—a turning point that smarts a writer's eyes.
My husband was washing breakfast dishes as I opened the door to leave for the post office.
Don't you want a picture? my Heavenly Muse whispered in my ear.
I pulled my camera from my purse.
"Good thinking," Mel said and took two shots.
I would've kicked myself to kingdom come if I hadn't captured that moment.
The weather was mild on Saturday, October 29, 2016, Halloween Eve. I took the sunshine personally. And the smiling faces of Trick-or-Treaters in downtown Romeo seemed to know exactly what I carried under my right arm.
I reached my heavy parcel over the post office counter to a clerk. A twinge of separation anxiety surprised me as she set it on a scale. "The manuscript of my first novel is in that box," I blurted.
"Congratulations!" Debbie said. "Would you like to take a picture of it with the postmark?"
Obviously, she's had experience with self-absorbed writers letting their stories go.
"Thanks for asking, but I left my camera at home." (No, I don't own a smart phone.)
A week later, I received a Hallmark card repeating Debbie's sentiments with two pictures of the box postmarked priority mail with tracking number. I taped the corresponding USPS receipt of $10.60 inside the card and filed it with other novel documents.
Over two months later, after delivery of a dozen envelopes stuffed with my editor's colorful corrections and notes of approval, his last envelope remains AWOL. The final 128 pages. After all his meticulous work, my editor is furious. "This has never happened before," he said.
Dear Reader, without a tracking number, there's nothing the postal service can do to find the editor's missing pages. Another lesson learned for my next book.
No, I'm not worried. I've saved my novel in several places. If I need those 128 pages, they'll show up, just as those overdue bills and paychecks.