Jackson frowned, his arms burning under the weight of the cardboard box.
“Are you sure, Ma’am?”
The barrel-shaped woman occupying the doorway in pearls and a snug peach bathrobe gave an exasperated sigh. Her plucked brow curved into a sharp arch.
“You don’t think I know who lives here?”
“No, I didn’t mean that Ma’am.”
Her pinked lips pursed together and her blushed cheeks grew rosier. “Of course you didn’t.” She swung the door closed.
The stain glass bouquet in the window stopped at the tip of Jackson’s nose. Through the watery panes, he could see her lingering in the corridor, watching him. He shrugged off her stare and remained on the stoop. Rereading the hand written label on the top of the box, Jackson sought out the numbers lining the threshold.
“82 and 82.”
He sighed and gave the woman’s wavered shape a tilt of his cap before heading back down the brick steps. The winding path, lined with petunias led him back to his square, dirt brown truck and blinking hazard lights. He rested the box where the passenger seat would have occupied and climbed into the driver’s seat.
A few pokes at his computer confirmed the address and name. He double checked the bar codes and again found them identical.
“This is the right house,” he muttered.
His analog watch clicked away the seconds. The presence of the packages lining the shelves behind him bore into his shoulders. If they could have tapped an impatient foot, the echo would have been deafening.
She’s got to be wrong, he thought.
He glanced over at the petite mail box tucked in the manicured lawn. Cursive letters spelling Perkins flowed in honey tones against a grassy backdrop.
His shoulders drooped. His hands gripped his saucer sized steering wheel and counted the numbers around his odometer.
Just leave it, suggested a devilish inner voice. His conscious countered with a reminder of his code of conduct.
Jackson glanced over and frowned at the box. The wall of the door well pressed against the side as if a magnet had drawn the package and his truck together. His brow deepened.
He hadn’t put it there had he?
A bit of movement in the corner of his eye pulled Jackson’s attention.
From the side porch of the brick faced manor trotted a lean man in grease stained denim and hunched shoulders covered in an over-washed tee-shirt. His shaggy head glanced back at the front door with each stride as he hurried across the lawn. He drew to a cautious stop at the open doorway of the truck and panted.
“Hi…” His hands fumbled with one another and his bespectacled eyes glanced up at the box. His licked his lips as if a starved man before a roast.
“Afternoon,” said Jackson. His hands wrapped around his wheel as a sudden wave of apprehension swam through his veins.
“Do you have a package…a package for Adam Perkins?”
“That one’s for Adam Perkins. 82 Alder Lane.”
The man’s pale face broke into what Jackson supposed was a grin. The fellow however looked more nauseous than happy.
“The lady at the door…”
“Oh, my mom’s a bit…” Adam circled his temple with a bony finger.
“Ah…” Silence, broken only by Jackson’s ticking watch, hung between them for a few heart beats.
Jackson felt an annoyed stare shooting from his pending deliveries.
“Well…great.” Jackson pulled out his signing unit and held it over the package.
Adam gripped the pen in his right hand then adjusted it into his left. An angular signature scrawled across the digital panel. Jackson made out the A and J although the rest looked more like a child’s attempt to draw a straight line.
He rested the unit in its recharging stand and heaved the box back into his arms. The weight felt more out of balance than when he had carried it up to the stoop. He shrugged away the eerie notion as he stepped down to the road again.
“Here you go,” he said.
Adam sickly smile grew, plumping sallow cheeks.
“Thanks,” he said, taking hold of the package. He adjusted the weight onto his hip, jostling it carefully as he ensured a snug hold. “Um…Have a good day.”
Jackson gave a curt wave but Adam had already turned back toward the house.
With a shake of his head, Jackson mounted his seat again. He chalked up the low growl he thought he heard from the departing box to his imagination. The rumble of the truck’s roaring engine muffled everything else.