A short story by Jason Feingold
John Schwartzkopf awoke to the police banging on his door. After last night, he wasn’t surprised to find the Mail Nazis had come for him. They were going to disappear him like they had so many other mail objectors in the past. With no friends or sympathetic followers to protect him, no one would know he was missing. He’d simply fall off the face of the earth. He wasn’t going to let that happen. If he was going to die, he was damn sure going to make sure that as many citizens as possible knew what was going down.
He took an old .38 revolver his grandfather had left him and tucked into the waistband of the pants he had hurriedly put on. After donning a t-shirt, he went to the front door and opened it, but he left the screen door closed.
“Are you John Schwartzkopf?” the officer asked.
“I have some questions for you. Can I come in?”
John backed away from the door, leaving it to the police officer to open the screen door on his own. As the cop was doing so, with his hand occupied by being on the handle of the door, John drew his weapon. The officer jumped back and went for his own gun, but John had the drop on him, and to prove it he fired a warning shot. He’d meant for it to go to the right of the officer, but it grazed the cop’s left arm instead.
“Step inside,” John ordered. “Drop your belt.” The officer complied with difficulty, his left arm being useless for the moment.
“Now take out your handcuffs, and no funny business.” The officer did as he was told. “Go to the kitchen and handcuff both your hands to the refrigerator door.” John gave the officer a wide berth as he did so. In a moment, the officer was handcuffed to the handle of the refrigerator door and dripping blood slowly on the kitchen floor. He writhed in pain.
“You don’t want to do this,” the cop said. “They’ll come looking for me. This can only end one way.”
“I know that,” John said. “I knew it as soon as you knocked on my door.”
“Uncuff me,” the officer said. “Turn yourself in. It’ll go easier on you if you do. You’ll get a plea bargain.”
“If only that were true. I’m not going to let you storm troopers send me to the Postal Re-Education Centers that easily,” John said. “Not until everyone knows about you Mail Nazis and your Mail Führer.”
* * *
John could not remember a time he had not hated the mail. As far as he was concerned, nothing good ever came by mail.
He knew what time the mail usually came. He could pick out the sound of the mail truck from anywhere in the house. He could hear it stop and go as it came down the block. He couldn’t ignore it. His heart would leap into his throat, and the only way to get it back where it belonged was to go and check the mailbox. He was drawn to the box the way a dog is drawn to its own vomit.
The mail brought student loan default notices, threatening letters from child support enforcement, and notices of garnishment.
The absolute worst thing he could find in the mailbox was a notice that he would have to go to the post office to pick up a certified letter. If nothing good ever came from the mailbox, then certified letters were absolutely diabolical. He’d have to wait until the next day to pick it up – twenty-four hours of excruciating angst spent wondering how bad it was, knowing that the ax was sure to fall. In this, he was usually correct. Legal papers came by certified mail describing various actions that had been brought against him to get more money out of him.
One day a thought popped into his head out of nowhere: the mail was the problem – not his ex-wife, not Navient, but the mail itself. Mail was the medium through which the tyrants of money enslaved people. The whole concept of mail was abominable, and it had to go. If a document were that important, the people who were out to get his money could deliver it by themselves. His resolution to combat the Mail Nazis was firm.
He was going to stop the mail.
* * *
“Now where’s your phone?” John asked the captive officer.
“In my right front pants pocket.”
John set his .38 on the stove and went toward the subdued officer.
“If you try anything, I’ll shoot you again,” John said.
The officer nodded. John retrieved the phone.
“Who are you calling?” the cop asked mildly.
John put the phone on speaker.
“911,” the phone said. “What is your emergency?”
“My name is John Schwartzkopf. I’m at 543 Oakfield Drive. I’m holding Officer, what’s your name?”
“Bradley. Ed Bradley.”
“I’m holding Officer Ed Bradley at gunpoint. I have a list of demands.”
“Is he okay?” the operator asked.
“Tell them,” John ordered.
“Shot in the arm,” Bradley said. “Not seriously. Hurts like a bitch, though.”
“Shut up,” John said.
“What are your demands?”
Sirens spoke out in the distance.
“I’ll tell the person in charge.”
“Who is that, sir?”
“You know who.”
“No, I don’t, sir.”
“If you want to play games, we’ll play games,” John said. “I want to talk to the Mail Führer.”
He hung up the phone.
* * *
John began his anti-mail campaign by writing to the head of the USPS.
Dear Postmaster General,
I am writing to you today to demand that all postal services be stopped. All the mail does is deliver bad news from bad people to good people who deserve good news. Mail is all about taking money away from people who don’t have much money and giving it to people who already have enough money. As a citizen and a taxpayer, I have a right to demand that you stop the mail immediately. As a civil servant, you need to honor my request.
He waited a few weeks for a response, but nothing came back in the mail. He wasn’t surprised. The mail people were all going to stick together on this one. They were afraid of honest work. After all, they made money with each letter they delivered. That would stop, at least as far as he was concerned. He got online and put an indefinite stop delivery on his mail.
Afterward, John took a bottle of lighter fluid to his mailbox and set it on fire, watching the plastic that had been approved by the Postmaster General bubble and melt and drip to the ground as it burned. Didn’t the Postmaster General have anything better to do than approve mailboxes? By the time he was done, there was nothing left but a metal post sticking out of the ground. With a fair degree of effort, he removed it and chucked it into his garage.
A few weeks later his cable TV stopped working. Then the lights went out. Then the water was shut off. Finally, his telephones, both landline, and cell, stopped working, even though he hadn’t received a bill from any of them.
Dear Postmaster General,
Clearly, my last letter fell on deaf ears that don’t want to see the truth. If you think that your lackeys in cable, water, electricity, and telephone can stop me from exercising my RIGHT to demand that the mail be stopped, you’ve got another thing coming. I know that the Constitution requires the government to redress grievances, and you are required to redress mine by halting all mail activity both at home and abroad.
P.S. – Restore my utilities immediately!
Still, there was no response.
If you don’t honor my demand that the mail be stopped, I will have to
resort to further action.
It was only after John sent the last letter that he realized that the Postmaster General was, in fact, the Mail Führer. He studied some stamps he had stuck in the kitchen drawer. If he looked closely enough, he could see the swastika cleverly embedded in each picture the stamps contained. Well, he wasn’t a hundred percent sure it was a swastika, but it was close enough to count.
The Mail Führer completely ignored him, so it was time to take his message to the street. He put a sign in his front yard that said “End the dictatorship of the Post Office! Tell the Mail Führer to STOP THE MAIL NOW!” Once he put it up, he sat in front of his living room window to see if anyone was reading it. He concluded that they were, because a lot of cars slowed down in front of his house, presumably to study it. Some of them tooted their horns.
On the second day, the mail truck pulled up in front of it while John was watching. He couldn’t be sure because of the viewing angle, but he was pretty confident that the mailman spat on it. John was so angry he came out of his house with a bat to confront the Mail Nazi, but the man drove away in his truck before John could open the door.
“Fuck you!” John called out down the street at the truck. “Drive away like a scared little
Nazi bastard!” More than a few neighbors stopped and stared.
It was time for the revolution to begin.
* * *
John sat on the kitchen floor. He had his .38 revolver and Bradley’s .40 caliber Glock and two fully loaded magazines next to him. He could see blue and red lights through the covers of every window in his line of sight. He knew his house was surrounded. He knew he was already dead.
Bradley’s phone rang.
“This is Sergeant Bill Murphy. I’m calling to talk to you about your demand.”
“I want to talk to the Mail Führer,” John repeated. “If that doesn’t happen, Ed Bradley here is as good as dead in sixty minutes. Tick tick tick.”
“Let’s stay calm,” Murphy said. “Can you tell me who the Mail Führer is?”
“Like you don’t know. She’s the person in charge. She’s the one who cuts your marching orders.”
The line went silent for a time.
“Do you mean the Postmaster General?” Murphy asked.
“So you do know,” John said in an “ah-ha” voice.
* * *
Before the police came and after his nightly ritual of filling his water bottles from his neighbor’s hose, he left the house dressed all in black with his aluminum baseball bat laying across his shoulder. He had duct-taped a towel around the bat to muffle the sound. As he roamed through the neighborhood bashing mailboxes, he imagined how grateful his neighbors would be once they discovered that they couldn’t get mail anymore. He hoped a few of them might take up his cause, going into other neighborhoods and relieving good, honest working families from the totem pole of fear and hate and repression symbolized by their rural route mail receptacles.
* * *
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to get her here in sixty minutes,” Murphy said. “Is there someone else you’d like to talk to?”
“Yes. A TV news crew. I don’t care which station.”
“I’ll tell you what,” Sergeant Murphy said. “You release Officer Bradly, and I’ll get that news crew for you.”
“Are you kidding? Do you really think I’m that stupid?”
“I don’t think you’re stupid, John.”
“You better not. Because I’m not stupid. You have an hour to get the TV people or I’m going to pop another cap into this Mail Nazi’s ass.”
With that, John hung up the phone again.
* * *
“They’re here,” Sergeant Murphy called and said forty-five minutes later.
“Send them in.”
“I’m not stupid either, John,” Murphy said. “I’m not giving you more hostages.”
“I’ll send Officer Ed out if you send the reporter and the cameraman in,” I said grudgingly.
“I’ll send them out again when I’m done.”
“I can’t do that, John. You know that.”
“I’ll still have a couple of guns,” John said. “We’ll get to have our shootout.”
“No one wants that,” Murphy said.
“If you don’t send the camera crew in, I’m going to shoot this cop in the thigh. I’m not sure when the femoral artery is, so I hope I miss it when I shoot him so he doesn’t bleed out all over the floor. I’m not going to shoot him with this piss-ant .38 either. I’m going to use his Glock.”
“Wait a minute,” Murphy said quickly. “Let me see if the news people are willing to go in.”
“I want you to know this isn’t personal,” John said to Bradley. “You’re just on the wrong side.”
“Sure,” Bradley said. “I understand.” John knew he didn’t understand. He was just a soldier following orders, blissfully unaware of the tremendous evil he was doing.
Murphy came back on the line.
“They’re willing to go in,” Murphy said. “I’ll let them go in when Bradley comes out.”
“You’re treating me like I’m stupid again,” John said. “You send them in and I’ll send Bradley out.”
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
“I haven’t lied to you so far,” he said.
“Okay,” Murphy said. “We’ll do it your way. I’m taking an awful risk. Make sure you keep your word.”
“Tell them I’m in the kitchen,” John said.
A male reporter and a cameraman entered the house and went to the kitchen. John held the gun on them. He had the reporter retrieve Bradley’s handcuff key and let him loose.
“Go,” John commanded. Bradley left without hesitation. John stood up and turned to the reporter.
“Start interviewing me,” John said.
The cameraman manipulated some buttons on the camera and gave a thumbs-up.
“I’m here at the residence of Mr. John Schwartzkopf,” the reporter said. “Mr. Schwartzkopf was holding a police officer hostage, but he released the officer in exchange for my cameraman and myself entering the residence.
“Why are you doing this, Mr. Schwartzkopf?” the reporter asked, shoving the microphone in John’s face.
“I’ll tell you why. I hope the people who are watching are paying attention because they’re about to hear the truth.
“For hundreds of years, people have suffered the tyranny of the Postal Service and the dictatorship of the Mail Führer. Nothing ever good comes in the mail, and that’s an understatement. The USPS uses the police to let all of the big corporations to send enormous bills to everyday people who are tricked into believing that they actually need to pay money to receive services like cable, electricity, water, etc. People don’t know that the big corporations don’t actually need the money. All they do with the money is line the pockets of the fat-cat CEOs on Wall Street.
“Even dogs know that the Mail Nazis are evil. Trust your dog. Trust your instincts. You know I’m right. Anyone in a uniform is a Mail Nazi. Take it to the street. Abolish the postal system now.”
John stopped talking.
“Is that it?” asked the reporter.
“That’s it,” John said.
“What are you going to do now?” he asked. John admired the fact that the reporter seemed so calm. In the same situation, he’d be shaky and stuttering. Come to think of it, his situation wasn’t much different.
“I’m going to send you out,” John said. “Thanks for coming in. It was very brave. I hope the Mail Nazis don’t do anything to you for coming in here.”
John watched them go. After a few minutes of silent reflection, he held the Glock in his right hand and the .38 in his left. He walked out the front door, taking aim at the nearest Mail Nazi.
He didn’t get a single shot off before he heard the loud pop that knocked him off his feet. Sitting up against the door jam, he looked down at his chest. Blood was flowing freely. It wouldn’t be long until he was dead.
A policeman in tactical gear approached him from behind a riot shield. He moved the shield to the side as he knelt down in front of John.
“Right conspiracy, wrong conspirators, comrade,” the policeman whispered. He bopped John on the head with a hammer, and then a sickle came out of nowhere and tore out John’s throat.