Post Office. Chapter VI: 8

You had to fill out more papers to get out than to get in.

The first page they gave you was a personalized mimeo affair from the postmaster of the city. It began:

“I am sorry you are terminating your position with the post office and... etc., etc., etc., etc.”

How could he be sorry? He didn’t even know me. There was a list of questions.

“Did you find our supervisors understanding? Were you able to relate to them?” Yes, I answered.

“Did you find the supervisors in any manner prejudiced to– ward race, religion, background or any related factor?”

No, I answered.

Then there was one—"Would you advise your friends to seek employment in the post office?" Of course, I answered.

“If you have any grievances or complaints about the post office please list them in detail on the reverse side of this page.”

No grievances, I answered.

Then my black girl was back. “Finished already?” “Finished.”

“I’ve never seen anybody fill out their papers that fast.” ' “Quickly,' ” I said.

“Quickly’?” she asked. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, what do we do next?”

“Please step in.”

I followed her ass between desks to a place almost to the back.

“Sit down,” the man said.

He took some time reading through the papers. Then he looked at me.

“May I ask why you are resigning? Is it because of disci– plinary procedures against you?”


“Then what is the reason for your resignation?” “To pursue a career.”

“To pursue a career?”

He looked at me. I was less than 8 months from my 50th birthday. I knew what he was thinking.

“May I ask what your 'career’ will be?”

“Well, sir, I’ll tell you. The trapping season in the bayou only lasts from December through February. I’ve already lost a month.”

“A month? But you’ve been here eleven years.”

“All right, then, I’ve wasted eleven years. I can pick up 10 to 20 grand for 3 months trapping at Bayou La Fourche.”

“What do you do?”

“Trap I Muskrats, nutria, mink, otter . . . coon. All I need is a pirogue. I give 20 percent of my take for use of the land. I get paid a buck and a quarter for muskrat skins, 3 bucks for mink, 4 bucks for ‘bo mink,’ a buck and a half for nutria and 25 bucks for otter. I sell the muskrat carcass, which is about a foot long, for 5 cents to a cat food factory. I get 25 cents for the skinned body of the nutria. I raise pigs, chickens and ducks. I catch catfish. There’s nothing to it. I—”

“Never mind, Mr. Chinaski, that will be sufficient.”

He put some papers in his typewriter and typed away.

Then I looked up and there was Parker Anderson my union man, good old gas-station shaving and shitting Parker, giving me his politician’s grin.

“You resigning, Hank? I know you been threatenin’ to for eleven years . . . ”

“Yeah, I’m going to Southern Louisiana and catch myself a batch of goodies.”

“They got a racetrack down there?”

“You kidding? The Fair Grounds is one of the oldest tracks in the country!”

Parker had a young white boy with him—one of the neurotic tribe of the lost—and the kid’s eyes were filmed with wet layers of tears. One big tear in each eye. They did not drop out. It was fascinating. I had seen women sit and look at me with those same eyes before they got mad and started screaming about what a son of a bitch I was. Evidently the boy had fallen into one of the many traps, and he had gone running for Parker. Parker would save his job.

The man gave me one more paper to sign and then I got out of there.

Parker said, “Luck, old man,” as I walked by.

“Thanks, baby,” I answered.

I didn’t feel any different. But I knew that soon, like a man lifted quickly out of the deep sea, I would be afflicted—with a particular type of bends. I was like Joyce’s damned parakeets. After living in the cage I had taken the opening and flown out—like a shot into the heavens. Heavens?

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