“The Voice of Reason”
Jolie Haliburton’s aardvark McSweeney was rather unaccommodating today. Watching them on the wildlife channel little prepares one for the extremes in disposition such creatures may assume when once introduced into the humdrum of human affairs. Rainer the mailman stood outside the fence hoping McSweeney would permit a wide enough berth for him to make it to the mail-slot and back unscathed. It was common knowledge that Jolie was going to lose McSweeney soon due to a particular species of grub that was protected in northeastern Kentucky. Addison, the Davis family’s anteater, had already been carted off for this very reason. Rainer could easily have expedited the process by filing an official complaint about McSweeney, but didn’t since Jolie had only recently been forsaken by her fiancé. So Rainer endured this disdainful and daily haranguing, thinking that by it he might be able to spark in Jolie an interest in himself.
Jolie indeed took an interest in the routine. Unbeknownst to Rainer, she sat near her bedroom window watching him and making sketches of his frightened profile in her journal. She found Rainer very attractive but was too timid to begin a conversation with him. While she sometimes felt ashamed of enjoying their exchange, she knew McSweeney, since his teeth were set so far back his his jaws, could not maul Rainer like Donna, her late Irish Setter, did a previous postman. Even when McSweeney was particularly excited, he seldom broke skin.
“Don’t even think about setting foot on this property,” said McSweeney. “I’ll scratch you so bad your skin won’t even be able to crawl.”
“Aardvarks run seven maybe eight miles an hour tops,” Rainer replied. It wasn’t as though Rainer wasn’t afraid. He was. He simply didn’t want Jolie to think she didn’t receive her mail due to his cowardice. “Besides, if you scratch me I’ll kick your hide so hard all over there’ll be nothing left for the sun to tan.”
Obviously this exchange all took place in Rainer’s head since even a cursory viewing of the wildlife channel would reveal aardvark vocabulary to be profoundly limited. Regardless, McSweeney did have an uncanny knack for interpreting heartbeats and he sensed Rainer’s fear rising with each passing moment. McSweeney counted the beats like a young girl timing the swings of a jump-rope before charging in.
Some difficulties in getting the mail into the slot gave McSweeney more than adequate time to reach Rainer and work his ankle to the back of his mouth. Rainer’s ankle probably wouldn’t even have begun to bleed if he didn’t attempt to extricate it through shaking his leg. McSweeney’s hold tightened and Rainer nearly screamed out.
Jolie moved closer to the window with a look of increasing concern. She wanted to open it and call out, but then Rainer might suspect she had been observing him all this time.
Rainer removed a small sample bottle of shampoo from Jolie’s junk mail and emptied it into McSweeney’s eyes. Realizing it was of the “no more tears” variety and consequently ineffective, he pounded on the door and shouted, “Miss Haliburton!”
As she sketched the blood pooling at Rainer’s feet, Jolie realized the situation was becoming more serious. “Oh!” she said, picking up the phone. She called Ishiguro McSweeney, who had sold her McSweeney, to ask him what to do. Ishiguro told her to put the phone to McSweeney’s ear and he would try and talk some sense into him.
With McSweeney still clinging fast to his left ankle, Rainer turned in frenetic circles as he tried to use his right foot to stomp on the aardvark’s tail.
Jolie opened the door and the chemical reaction that overtook them both was too acute to ignore. Jolie dropped the phone and all but McSweeney were oblivious to the voice emanating from it. Rainer having gathered Jolie into his embrace, was unaware McSweeney had relinquished his grip and had moved on in search of rare grubs. The cries of passion flowing into the receiver ruthlessly assaulted Ishiguro’s five senses of humor. When he realized there would be no talking sense into the two of them, he hung up the phone.
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