Shirley woke up to the sound of her alarm clock ringing on the side table. With half open eyes she reached over and hit
the snooze button. As the beeping stopped she rolled over to her husband’s side of the bed; it was empty. He had to
work the early shift and left a few hours ago. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Shirley woke up, again, to the sound of her alarm clock ringing on the side table. With half open eyes she reached over
and hit the snooze button. She considered, for a brief moment, falling back to sleep, but the prospect of being rudely
awakened by that incessant beeping in seven minutes forced a groan from her mouth. She sat up and rubbed her eyes
before turning the alarm clock off. Now she had to get up, if she fell back to the pillow she’d fall asleep again and who
knew when she’d wake up? Her boss would be pissed and—after her recent lack of progress—she might get fired.
She climbed out of bed and after slipping out of the t-shirt and shorts she’d slept in, stepped into the shower. It started
off cool, just what she needed to wake her up in the morning, but it suddenly turned hot. It was getting so hot that she
was forced to jump out of the shower for fear of being burned. Another sigh, now she’d have to call the super and get a
plumber up here. Knowing him, it would take a week before anyone came; she hated the apartment building just as
much as she hated her job.
It was a cup of coffee—strong like she liked it—and then off to work in a comfortable dress. She could never
understand why businesses wanted their employees to dress in suits when no customer would ever see them. Who
cared if guy sitting in a cubicle typing on a computer for nine hours wore a suit or t-shirt? It was a pain in the ass to
dress nice four days a week; Friday was casual.
She locked the door behind her and walked to the elevator. She lived on the fourth of five floors and was forced to
wait as the old machine rose from the first floor. The doors finally opened and she rode the elevator down, alone, with
her coffee cup still in hand. She’d need the coffee to get her though the day and she abhorred using those Styrofoam
cups next to the machine at work.
When the doors opened again, allowing her to walk into the apartment building’s lobby, she saw a strange man
standing near the mailboxes. He looked somewhat familiar, but he didn’t live in the building. She knew everyone in the
building, it was a good idea to know who to run to in case of an emergency and who to avoid. This man, standing in an
old trench coat and cowboy hat, was not a resident. She lowered her gaze and walked out to the parking lot and her car.
Shirley woke up to the sound of her alarm clock ringing on the side table. With half open eyes she reached over and hit
the snooze button. As the beeping stopped she rolled over to her husband’s side of the bed; it was empty. He had to
work the early shift and left a few hours ago. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Shirley woke up, again, to the sound of her alarm clock ringing on the side table. With half open eyes she reached over
and hit the snooze button. She considered, for a brief moment, falling back to sleep but the prospect of being rudely
awakened by that incessant beeping in seven minutes forced a groan from her mouth. She sat up and rubbed her eyes
before turning the alarm clock off. Now she had to get up, if she fell back to the pillow she’d fall asleep again; and who
knew when she’d wake up? Her boss would be pissed and—after her recent lack of progress—she might get fired.
She climbed out of bed and after slipping out of the t-shirt and shorts she’d slept in, stepped into the shower. It was
warm and comfortable. After she was done she wrapped a towel around herself and walked to the kitchen. It was a
small apartment, that was true, but it was warm and she thought of it as home. There wasn’t any room for children, but
that was all right since her husband couldn’t do much. It was a cup of coffee—strong like she liked it—and then off to
work in a comfortable dress.
As she walked to the elevator she saw Mrs. Ramirez, her neighbor, standing outside of her door. Her normally pristine
hair was a mess; it almost looked as if she burned it on the stove. Shirley hoped the old woman wasn’t trying to cook
herself, she’d heard that Mrs. Ramirez was senile. The old woman slid back into her apartment as Shirley waited for
the elevator. She noticed, with some disgust, a black stain on the wall paper. She loved her apartment, but the building
was falling apart.
She rode down the elevator alone and stepped out into the lobby.  There, standing near the mailboxes, was a strange
man. He looked somewhat familiar, but he didn’t live in the building. She knew everyone in the building, it was a good
idea to know who to run to in case of an emergency and who to avoid. This man, standing in an old trench coat and
cowboy hat, was not a resident. She lowered her gaze and walked out to the parking lot and her car.

Shirley woke up to the sound of her alarm clock ringing on the side table. With half open eyes she reached over and hit
the snooze button. As the beeping stopped she rolled over to her husband’s side of the bed; it was empty. He had to
work the early shift and left a few hours ago. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Shirley woke up, again, to the sound of her alarm clock ringing on the side table. With half open eyes she reached over
and hit the snooze button. She considered, for a brief moment, falling back to sleep, but the prospect of being rudely
awakened by that incessant beeping in seven minutes forced a groan from her mouth. She sat up and rubbed her eyes
before turning the alarm clock off.
After slipping out of the t-shirt and shorts she’d slept in, stepped into the shower. It was warm and comfortable. After
she was done she wrapped a towel around herself and walked to the kitchen. It was a small apartment, that was true,
but it was warm and she thought of it as home. She drank a quick cup of coffee, content on getting more at work and
left in a comfortable dress.
A sign on the elevator said out of order and she moaned. Four stories, right about fifty-two steps. She passed Mrs.
Ramirez’s closed door and entered the stairwell. The walls were covered by black smudges, but she ignored it.
Smudges were better than graffiti.
She stepped out to the lobby and saw the man by the mailboxes. He was standing in the center of the wall, eyes looking
at the names posted on each box. His back was to her, but she didn’t care. She’d rather him not see her at all as she
walked out of the building and to the parking lot.

Shirley woke up to the sound of her alarm clock ringing on the side table. With half open eyes she reached over and hit
the snooze button. As the beeping stopped she rolled over to her husband’s side of the bed; it was empty. He had to
work the early shift and left a few hours ago. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Shirley woke up, again, to the sound of her alarm clock ringing on the side table. With half open eyes she reached over
and hit the snooze button. She fell back to sleep, but was immediately woken by what sounded like a large vehicle
backing up. She yelled in anger and jumped out of the bed to look out the window. Confusion set in as she saw
construction equipment sitting in the back of the parking lot.
They were right where her car was supposed to be!
She ran out of the apartment, forsaking shower and coffee and to the elevator. Strips of yellow tape blocked the
entrance and she was forced to take the stairs. She ran out of the deserted lobby and to the parking lot, dressed only in
a t-shirt and shorts. She was a little self conscious at that moment and wrapped her arms around her chest. As she
turned to the parking lot, she saw the strange man again, as well as all of the residents of her building, standing in a
crowd around a stone pillar. The residents were looking at the pillar while the man watched the machines.
She watched in horror as a wrecking ball swung through the air and collided with the side of the building—her very
apartment—and shattered the structure. Blackened bricks and charred wood fell to the ground as the ball reappeared.
The strange man turned around and looked at her. She recognized him now; the cowboy hat and burns on the side of
his face changed his appearance somewhat; but she knew it was her husband.
He turned away from her and looked to the stone pillar. All of the other residents stepped away, their eyes filled with
pain and horror. Slowly she walked to the tall stone, feeling grass under her feet where there was once pavement and
began to read the carving.

IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO
DIED BY FIRE ON DECEMBER 1st
TWO-THOUSAND AND TEN.

Shirley fell to her knees as the burned out husk of her apartment building crashed to the ground behind her. Her
husband, the only resident not killed in the fire because he was working the early shift, walked away.  
The Man at the Mailbox
By: Michael J. Bertolini