The postman fumbled in his bag to pick out the next batch of post destined for Pemberton Avenue. The road was quiet this morning, with all the residents out at work or school. All but one. The postman shivered as the early morning frost still lingered and tickled his neck in the breeze. He kept moving to stay warm, thinking of the flask of hot coffee waiting for him back at the van. Only two more streets and he could help himself to a hot drink on his short break.
As he came to the last house on the avenue, there was the face he had been expecting to perk up his chilly morning as she was there every morning, waiting for him. The welcoming smile beamed from the wrinkled face and the aged hand waved to say ‘hello’ and beckoned towards the door. The postman smiled and waved back, but he shook his head as there was no post today. Just like yesterday. No need to knock on the door to make small talk with this lovely lady. This was a shame to the postman. Speaking to this elderly lady was such a delight. She would ask questions, offer him a hot drink and speak to him about anything and everything. But, like always, the postman had a schedule to keep. There was no time to stop and talk today. Maybe next time, if there was any post to deliver.
Ethel checked the time. It was almost eleven o’clock. The postman would be here any moment. She shuffled to the kitchen to make sure the kettle was full and hot. Cups were washed and dried in case he needed a hot drink in this weather. It was bitterly cold today and she could feel the chill in her unheated home. The cost of household bills had risen again so she kept the central heating off. Ethel was wearing her long, winter cardigan, her fleece lined slippers and the fire was on in the living room where she spent all of her day, and sometimes the night. The TV was on too for some background conversation. Daytime TV was good for that.
She made it to the window and waited, looking at all the houses surrounding hers. Everyone on this street lived busy lives, they were always going places. To work, to school, out to see family, out to see friends, to the shops, to the cinema. No one ever had time to stop and talk. Not like the old days, Ethel thought as she remembered the days gone by of neighbours standing together on the pavement, talking and laughing. There was never a day without seeing half a dozen different people all wanting the same thing; to talk. Not anymore.
Ethel made it to the window just in time to see him. His dark hair was hidden under a black hat today, covering his ears from the wind. She caught his eye and waved. I’ll have post today, won’t I? I’ve not had any for a week. Ethel thought to herself. It was only ever bills and junk mail she received, but it was something. The bills would get filed, and the junk mail would go in the recycling ready to go out tomorrow to be collected. If she timed it right, she would get the bin out just in time for the binmen to arrive so she could say hello to them too. Today though, she would speak to the postman. Her first conversation in three days.
The postman shook his head and kept on walking past Ethel’s house. No post today. No interaction today. No need to speak out loud today. Again. Ethel let the net curtain drop back in to place in the window and made her way back to the armchair to sit back down in front of the TV. Where she had been sitting all morning. Where she will sit all afternoon. And where she will spend all her evening. Not talking to anyone.