A shaving kit to Christopher Ellis on Newbury Lane, two bottles of almond cherry shampoo to Tirzah Amrein on Cromwell, four sets of furnace filters to Kumar Ramdatz on Eagle Lake Dr, and six whole cases of black, Sobranie cigarettes, straight from Russia, to Mr. Collins on Burns Avenue.
Daniel Peterson delivered it all.
Each morning, before dawn, he drove downtown to the Amazon fulfillment center, loaded up his truck, and started his deliveries. In the mornings, he covered the East end of town from Washington Boulevard to 14th Street. In the afternoons, he hit the West side, from Second Avenue to the river and even some of the suburbs beyond.
But in the evenings, when the rest of his deliveries had been made, Daniel Peterson made his special deliveries. These, he liked most of all.
In the old times, before the pandemic, he’d been a business intelligence manager for a large bank. He worked in financial analytics. Optimizing Growth Opportunities for High-Value Clients is what the mission statement said. The job came with a nice paycheck. He drive a nice car and wore a nice suit to the office. Most days, he enjoyed what he did. The job was nice. Nothing more. Just … nice.
But, when the pandemic hit, upper management used it as an excuse to cover over their past financial mistakes, and furloughed half the company. He got a job delivering for Amazon to fill the gap and found that he liked that much more.
The kids had grown and gone. It was just Daniel and his wife Lisa on lockdown together. He’d leave in the morning, make his deliveries (he hadn’t started his special deliveries yet), then come home to share dinner with the love of his life.
Then, Lisa got sick.
Her cough turned into a fever. They couldn’t go to the doctor, so they tried the hospital. He dropped her off at the Emergency Room entrance, said “I’ll be right in,” and went to park the car. When he got to the door, they security folks said he was not allowed in. “Quarantine restrictions,” they said. “You understand.”
It took almost a full day to find out where in the labyrinthine maze they had taken his Lisa. By then, her cough had become much worse. They had intubated her and left her in a wing in the emergency ward. The doctors left her cell phone next to her on the bed. She could not speak. He spent the next two days telling her how much he loved her over the phone. Over and over. She died sometime between three and five am. He had fallen asleep with the phone in his hand.
Daniel Peterson tried to go to work that day, but he had misplaced his keys. He spent the day wandering from room to room, looking for them. He looked all day, watching the sun push shadows across his living room, his bedroom, his kitchen, and back again. But he couldn’t find anything.
The special deliveries started shortly thereafter.
Daniel Peterson got to know several of his regulars the longer he delivered. Some folks would run quick to the door to sign for a package, standing on the porch to discuss the weather, the news, anything. Others held back and waited for him to leave, venturing out in masks and protective gear only after he was more than a safe social distance away.
Mr. Tim Johnson, who lived in an apartment building on Andover Street told him all about how this COVID thing was a plan by the radical Left to bring Socialism to THESE United States. He regularly ordered books with angry people on the cover. All the books talked about secret societies bent on world domination.
Jana McCullough, mother of five, stood on her porch, nervously smoking a cigarette as she signed for another case of red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon from Oregon. Her children screamed like banshees in the house behind.
“The schools might be remote again in the Fall,” she said, taking a long, silent drag. She started crying.
You learned people’s tendencies when you delivered. That’s one thing Daniel Peterson really liked.
The Bossley family on Hickory must have been struggling with their new baby because they ordered case after case of newborn diapers. The expensive kind. They said thank you from behind decorative glass doors a couple times per week. He smiled and waved back
Shirley McPherson on the East side ordered two new sweaters a day at least. She was like clockwork. Mrs. McPherson was either attempting to dropship her way to financial security, or she had a rather odd shopping addiction. She opened the packages right in front of Daniel Peterson, pressed the sweaters to her face, and breathed in deep.
“Thank you so much,” she’d say, as if he had given her a long sought after and well-loved Christmas present.
The problem, for Daniel Peterson, was what happened after his work ended. He climbed back into his nice car to make the trek home, and the memories and the loneliness hit him like a tidal wave. There was the park where his kids had played. He remembered pushing his daughter on the baby swing on bright, Saturday mornings. Here was the ice cream shop where he and Lisa had their first date. They sat in the park together, not saying much to each other.
“So,” Daniel Peterson began. “Are we a thing now?”
“I guess,” Lisa said. And that was that.
It was worse at home. The scenes of his past life played on an endless loop, presenting him with long-forgotten memories every time he entered a room. The silence in his house was deafening. He stayed up late most nights, streaming odd documentaries on Netflix just to keep his thoughts at bay.
One day, he noticed the regular deliveries of children’s books he delivered to Betty Sawyers on the West side had begun to pile up. Betty had 25 grandchildren in 15 different states, and she liked to give them away as presents.
Betty was old and hard of hearing. Perhaps she hadn’t heard the doorbell, Daniel wondered.
Daniel Peterson checked the doorknob just to check in on Betty. It was unlocked. He entered the living room, and saw Mrs. Sawyers lying dead on the couch in her living room. He called the police who, in turn, sent people to collect the body and notify family.
When no one was looking, Daniel Peterson took her recent delivery of books and loaded them into the back of his truck. That night, when his regular work was done, he drove to Charles Ave on the west side.
One of his regulars had spoken about a family member who had lost his job to layoffs and could not afford, among other things, children’s books for their kids. He located the house, and left the packages on the front porch with a note saying, “for the kids.”
He rang the doorbell and started to walk away when a woman in sweatpants and a ratty t-shirt stopped him.
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “We didn’t order anything.”
“I know,” he said. “But these are still for you?”
She opened the package, and began to cry.
“Jim,” she said. “Jim, come here and see this.”
Her husband stepped onto the porch, looked at the books, and read the note. They hugged each other tightly, wiped away a few tears, and turned to Daniel Peterson, who stood silently on the sidewalk.
“Who sent us this?” Jim asked.
“It was a special delivery from a nice, old woman who loves kids,” Jim said, and turned to leave. He could hear squeals of joy from the children as he walked away.
Daniel Peterson drove home that night with a smile on his face.
A new package of socks. A case of imported, Japanese beer. Mint condition Spiderman comic books. A new office chair. Daniel Peterson delivered it all. His memories of his life from before became bright, and he slept soundly that night and many nights thereafter when he had occasion to make special deliveries.
**** **** **** ****
Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph Courtemanche, Jamie Greening, Kathy Kexel, Derek Elkins, Rob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . What’s on YOUR Amazon Wish List?