Chapter XII

Living in the 5th Dementia

Leaving the estate sale was no easy task for Isabel Renitent.  This was due to the facts: 1. Her husband, Albert Renitent, was a complete gadget nut and 2. They were at the estate sale of a physicist and inventor that had mysteriously disappeared two years ago.  As a rule, Isabel would only allow Al to purchase one item from these sales, be they estate, garage or yard.  This rule began after Al came home one Saturday afternoon with 200 ceramic figurines of dolphins and mice that he found at a yard sale down the street from their apartment (which ended up costing $500).  As Isabel was leafing through Steven Hawking’s, A Brief History of Time that was in a box labeled “$1.00 BOOKS”, her husband came up to her looking as excited as a small child at Christmas.  “I’ve found what I want, honey!” exclaimed Al, barely holding back all his excitement.  Isabel glanced up from the book to see him holding what looked like a small vacuum cleaner.  She thought to herself, “Maybe with this vacuum cleaner, he can keep his office a little neater.”  She set the book back into the box and replied, “OK, let’s buy it and leave before you change your mind.”

 Two days later, while at a stop light, Isabel was trying to find the ringing cellular phone in her car when she came upon the strange vacuum underneath the passenger seat.  Feeling frustrated that her car had become somewhat of a mess in the short time that she let her husband borrow it, she took the vacuum and threw it into the back seat where it made a short beeping sound.  Finally, she found her cell phone underneath a wrapper for the fast food franchise called “Burger Village.”  With an exasperated sigh, she answered the phone with a rushed, “Hello, Isabel speaking.”  The raspy voice that came back was that of her boss at the United States Postal Service, “Mrs. Renitent, you are late for work today. This isn’t like you.”  Isabel replied, “I know, and I’m almost there.  I had a little trouble getting out the door this morning.”  With an urgent tone in his voice, her boss said, “OK, just hurry up.”  As the dial-tone began to emanate from the phone, Isabel pulled into her parking spot and rushed inside the building. 

“Could you come here a minute, Mrs. Renitent?” asked Isabel’s boss as she came out of the changing room in her postal worker uniform.  As she shut the door behind her, she glanced over to the desk where her boss was sitting.  The only item on the desk was a sheet of paper, an ashtray and a metallic desk lamp.  Isabel sat down in the chair opposite her boss’ desk as he began into his speech, “Mrs. Renitent, there are certain standards that the United States Postal Service holds its mail carriers to and . . . “  Cutting him off, Isabel asked, “You’re firing me?”  A little perturbed by her forwardness, he replied, “Yes, we’re going to have to let you go.”  Furious at this news, she raised her voice a little as she said, “Today was the only day I’ve been late in four years!  Why then, are you firing me?!” 

The cigarette in her boss’ mouth bobbed with every syllable as he explained, “This was not my decision to make, and the order came from much higher up.”  As she got up to leave, he also stood up and walked her to the door.  “I’m sorry to see you go after the years of service you’ve given,” consoled her boss, the cigarette still bouncing with every move of his mouth.  Isabel would later wish that she had stopped and thought a little before acting.  Because there didn’t seem to be any reason behind her firing, something snapped inside her as she turned to her boss and said, “You know, I have one piece of advice for you, boss . . .”  At this point, she gave her boss a swift punch to the mouth, which in turn caused him to swallow his cigarette.  As he lay on the floor choking, Isabel nonchalantly said, “. . . Quit smoking,” as she quickly marched out of the Post Office. 

Sitting outside the Post Office in her civilian clothes, she thought about where she was going to go next.  It was at this time that a strangely dressed man caught her attention out of the corner of her eye.  Wearing a white baseball uniform, slim sunglasses and holding a book-shaped package. He was fervently watching his wristwatch.  The alarm on his wristwatch went off and the mysterious character walked into the Post Office.  Isabel, slightly dazed at the strange sight she just saw, got up off the bench she was sitting on, got in her car and started home. 

Driving back to her apartment, Isabel noticed something very strange.  Every time that she turned a corner, she could hear something sliding around in the back seat of the car.  It wasn’t the sliding that was strange, but the sound that occurred as the item slid across the seat.  She quickly glanced back to see that the strange vacuum was the item sliding around.  As the vacuum slid closer to the middle of the seat, it let out a louder tone than when it was near the doors.  Back in the parking garage for the apartment, Isabel got out of the driver’s seat and headed to the back seat of the car to investigate. 

She took the vacuum and swept it across the back seat with the same result.  It was at this time that she realized that this wasn’t a vacuum cleaner; it was more of a detector of some sort.  Isabel quickly ran up to the apartment to get the tool box.  After she had removed the back seat of her car, she noticed a very strange hole where the middle of the seat used to be.  When she ran over the hole with her finger, the hole got bigger and revealed what appeared to be a swirling vortex.  She was befuddled by this strange hole, so she pulled at it some more and it became larger. 

For a few minutes she debated internally what to do next.  Finally, feeling adventurous, she stuck her hand into the hole and could feel something inside it.  Grabbing the mystery item, she pulled her hand out of the hole to discover that it was mail.  Most people wouldn’t be surprised to find mail behind the back seat of their car, especially the car of an ex-postal worker, but this mail was addressed to someone in Georgia and Isabel lived in California.  Isabel had had enough strange events for one day, so she waved her hand back over the hole as it returned to its original size and reinstalled the back seat. 

The next day, Isabel paid a visit to a Physicist friend of hers that she had met in college.  After describing the whole situation, Isabel asked, “Well, what do you think?”  Her friend seemed almost in shock by her tale.  He finally summoned enough sense of mind to tell her what she had discovered, “Isabel, you aren’t going to believe this, but you have found a wormhole that connects the back seat of your car to a mailbox in Georgia.  Do you still have this ‘vacuum cleaner’ with you?”  Isabel, with a look of skepticism replied, “Yeah, it’s in my car.”  Getting up to leave, her friend said, “Go get it and meet me at my car.”

A few minutes later, the friend was kneeling in the back seat of his car with the vacuum, listening for a tone from the vacuum.  Finding the point at which the tone was the loudest, he stuck his hand into the vortex and pulled out a piece of mail, this time from New Mexico.  Being the scientifically curious person he was, Isabel’s friend turned on the vacuum cleaner near the vortex.  Turning the vacuum off and setting it to its reverse setting, he turned it on again and the vortex shot out of the vacuum onto the back window of his car.  At this point, he put the mail back through the vortex, looked over to where Isabel was standing and said, “We have a lot of work to do.”

***

One year later, Isabel and her Physicist friend were just about to present their idea to the head of the United States Postal Service.  Their idea was as follows: In every car in America, there is a portal in the back seat that leads to a wormhole that connects the back seat to a mailbox.  Using the vacuum cleaner, the back seat vortex can be transferred to anywhere that there is a surface for it to reside.  As a result, you could put all the portals from the back seats of cars in one place and you’d have a convenient link to every mailbox in America.  In this way, you could put mail in mailboxes and take mail out without the arduous task of going to each mailbox and wasting gasoline in the process. 

Underneath a large portrait of Benjamin Franklin, the head of the USPS leaned his chin on the palm of his hand as he listened intently to their idea.  After letting them finish he said, “This is certainly a very efficient and amazing discovery you two have made, but there are reasons why the Postal Service cannot implement your plan.  First of all, it is too efficient to be used as a means for the mail to be delivered.  This is a government branch, which inherently has to be inefficient.  Secondly, and most importantly, thousands of Postal Workers will lose their jobs if we start using this system of mail delivery.  And finally . . .” Isabel had heard enough.  She had heard this rejection speech one too many times, so she grabbed the vacuum cleaner and stormed out of the room, leaving her friend to clean up the presentation.

Isabel was through with people who couldn’t listen to reason.  She got in her car and drove out to the country.  It used to be that Isabel was so obsessed with the USPS that she remembered where, when and how mail was transferred from one office to another.  Out in the country, she stopped her car at some railroad tracks near what looked like a military bunker and got out with the vacuum cleaner.  Not quite thinking straight, she got some rope out of her trunk and tied the vacuum to the tracks.  “If I remember correctly, there should be a train carrying some cross-continental mail passing by here in about an hour” Isabel thought to herself.  As she drove off to start her new life somewhere else, Isabel Renitent finally understood the phrase “going postal.”

The derailment was all over the news that night.  A train carrying mail from Los Angeles to Philadelphia went off the tracks out in the countryside of California, spilling all of its cargo.  No one was hurt in the accident, although the engineer of the train did have some broken bones.  Police at the scene were confused as to what caused the derailment.  Their only clue was what looked like a mangled vacuum cleaner and some rope.  One of the items that didn’t make the news happened to be a package that was on the train.  Out in the field with a multitude of other packages was a leather-bound book with the title “Through the Door” embossed on the cover with gold print.  Some of the original packaging was still attached to the book.  The address that it was to be sent to had been destroyed except for the recipient’s name: Richard Tomerstein.  All that was left of the return address was the name: Captain Random.

Note: This was one of those key linking chapters in the novel that introduced the wormhole concept, if not in a slightly different context that was introduced earlier. It also linked up nicely to a future chapter, the linking bit of which was added after the fact to make the chapters go well together. Also, as you can see by previous chapter numbers, there are chapters missing. This was mainly due to the titling scheme I have been using for the chapters, as well as not having written the chapters yet.

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