MILES' MAILBOX: A STORY OF A MAN WHO LOST HIS MIND
This tale beings in the year of our Lord 1989. This was a monumental year in the lives of all my close friends - and in my life as well - because, being born in 1973, everyone was turning sixteen and thus getting their driver's licenses. We all got ours within about 9 or 10 months of each other, and the games began shortly thereafter!
We (of course) discovered the fabulous joy in fooling around with our girl/boyfriends in the back seat, the joy of driving way too fast while George Thorogood pumped out of the speakers, and - best of all - the joys of senseless vandalism of anything and everything we could get our hands on. One of our favorite manifestations of this was known as Mailbox Baseball.
Now, some folks will try to tell you that Mailbox Baseball should be played like the example visualized in the movie "Stand By Me" (which, not coincidentally, came out just a few years before we all started driving). The movie example features a cigarette smoking, sneering Keifer Sutherland hanging out of the back of an old convertible with a Louisville Slugger in hand while his equally thuggy cronies drove the car and rode in the shotgun seat. As the car would pass by a roadside mailbox, Keifer would swing away at the box, and his pals would "score" the at-bat depending on the distance of the flight of the newly-launched mailbox. The example showed Keifer hitting a home run, and looking on in disgust as one of his buddies was able to only hit a "foul tip" (meaning, of course, that the box never left its' bolted position at the top of the post). This was in the worst possible taste, and was to be avoided at all costs.
We, as a group of would-be-vandals, thought this to be a marvel. What a wonderful, senseless act of violence to wreak upon the surrounding county at large! The only problem we had with it was the lack of an opportunity to "finish off" the adversary - you had only one chance to deliver the killing blow before the mailbox was out of reach. A return trip was usually out of the question because (as you can probably imagine) a baseball bat makes a tremendous amount of noise when connecting squarely on a pressed aluminum mailbox.
In light of this obvious shortcoming of the game, we devised a new, more devious set of offensive tactics that proved almost impossible to defeat. In fact, we were never directly caught vandalizing a single mailbox (in and of itself a federal crime, faithful reader!). We thought that the best way to attack would be, under the cover of darkness, to send out two or more emissaries of doom ON FOOT a few houses away from the desired target, have the strike team approach as carefully and quickly as possible, and then assault the mailbox gang-style with a variety of weapons and styles until it had not a chance of survival and would absolutely need to be replaced.
We began testing this tactic on some local mailboxes in the developments neighboring our own. The first attack that ever really made us respect the awesome fury of a bat-wielding gang was the mailbox of a local elementary school. This box had successfully repelled our initial, individual efforts, but on this fateful night, a strike team of some of the most bloodthirsty mailbox hunters ever assembled had gathered en masse to defeat the dragon. Holcombe came wielding the sledgehammer, I came wielding an aluminum Fungo bat, and Vooda came armed with a 12-pound axe.
We silently climbed out of the rear hatch of the Fast Attack Vehicle (this, my friends, was Jonny Texas' mother's minivan, replete with imitation wood panels on the side) and made our way towards the unsuspecting victim. At the sound of Holcombe's awesome war cry "NOW! Right now you bastards, NOW!!!" we struck.
Axe met metal, again and again. Sledge met metal, again and again. Fungo met metal, again and again. And, after a few short seconds that felt like hours, we stopped the attack to marvel at the destruction we had wrought. The mailbox, formerly a faded white, iron behemoth that had resisted several earlier, singular efforts, was now a shadow of its former, powerful self. It was mashed so completely flat, that it now seemed as if it were made of white chocolate and was melting off the post in front of our very eyes.. We were so completely amazed by the sudden, unexpected fall of the enemy that we barely noticed the porch light come on from the house across the street. As the front door creaked open, we noticed the presence of a robe-wearing suburban homeowner who proceeded to ask, "Hey! What are you kids doing?"
He would be the first of many to get no answer from us.
We went home that day, the smell of blood and victory fresh in the air around us. A monster had been born on that fateful night-Pandora's box had been left open, and there would be no closing it for a very long time.
Many nights passed, and many mailboxes met their maker at the hands of our salty, veteran crew. As a matter of fact, the local media got wind of the plague that had settled over their formerly quiet little burg, and there was now talk of reward money being given if someone could catch or witness the offenders in the act.
They never paid out a dime. We were THAT good.
One night, we drove out to a secluded road that contained only a few rather extravagant homes, and it was there that we first became acquainted with Miles' Mailbox. Miles was a guy who we had gone to school with for years. He was a good fella, and was well-liked and respected by our little clique because of his unwavering sarcasm and his penchant for pissing teachers off at every corner. Plus, he was best friends with Seth (see the "New York Story" for more on Seth...) which made him aces in our collective book.
At any rate, as I was saying, we came across Miles' mailbox. This mailbox made all of our eyes widen in wonder, and it made our hearts flutter in anticipation at the events that we were sure to come. This mailbox was an exact little wooden replica of Miles' ultra-modern house - it was stained the same shade of brown, complete with the same triangular roof design and little clear Lexan windows. It was really a work of art as far as most mailboxes went, and it was a very accurate little representation of the house. This made it a nearly irresistible target, as well.
This night, it was really as dark as it got in that part of Bucks County. In addition, there weren't any streetlights because the house had no close neighbors, and the property had no sidewalk to speak of. Again, it was an irresistible target. We couldn't wait. Holcombe had been in a particularly vicious frame of mind regarding mailboxes lately-his normally jovial demeanor turned positively ANGRY when anyone broached the subject. Thus, he was the perfect assassin, and was subsequently given the assignment. Holcombe took out his favorite weapon, his trusty sledgehammer, and made his way towards the victim.
You know how some images are so powerful that they literally leave a mental imprint on you, like the image of Babe Ruth leaning on a bat in full New York Yankees uniform shortly before his death, or the famous image of Neil Armstrong in his spacesuit, holding an American flag on the moon for all of the world's nations to see? Well, the instant before Holcombe swung the sledge was like that for me. He put both hands on the handle of the warhammer and brought it way back over his head until the hammerhead was touching the ground. He resembled a horseshoe turned upside down. It was incredibly majestic...and then he swung.
The force of the sledge screamed down on the unsuspecting mailbox until it finally made impact...and Holcombe had swung so hard that he had literally bashed it to bits. The English couldn't have been prouder than us of their effort when they sunk the Bismarck of the mighty German Navy in the Great World War!
We were all watching the silhouette of the image from about 50 meters away, and when Holcombe hit the thing, we all cheered in celebration. He had done his job well; almost too well, scoring a direct and fatal hit, and now it was time to go bring him home (none too soon, as it turned out). We turned the Fast Attack Vehicle around, and as we approached Holcombe (who was holding the sledgehammer over his head like a victorious soldier), we noticed that lights were popping on all over Miles' house like they had just heard a car accident in their front yard. As Holcombe leaped into the van, we could see Miles' dad running out of the front door, across the yard, and out into the street in his slippers and robe. He was shaking his fist and swearing at us as we drove away. It was simply glorious.
Now that we were safely out of the direct line of fire, we congratulated Holcombe on his victory in earnest. In that shining moment, he was our hero, and we all wanted to be like him. Who wouldn't want that? It was like having Conan the Barbarian with a sword or Luke Skywalker with a lightsaber sitting next to you
This would be a nice, triumphant time to end the story, don't you think? Perhaps cut it off here, so that we can all ride off into the sunset to bask in our collective glory? Maybe have a few envious vandals throw a parade or two in our honor? Well, sorry, folks. This was only the tip of the iceberg. It was going to get better, and soon.
I think it was I that drove by Miles' house again at some point a few weeks later. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the mailbox had not only been replaced, but it was as though someone had gone to the trouble of crafting new little parts to replace the ones that had been damaged beyond repair, and had put the whole thing back together again, good as new! When I reported my findings to the generals back at HQ, we knew that another plan was in order to strike back-the enemy had rebuilt and was obviously again ready for war!
The first weekend night after my sighting, we struck again. This time, I think it was myself or Vooda that went for the attack. Suffice to say, that we blasted the mailbox back into submission once again. This, we thought, would be the final attack. The losses suffered by our enemy were surely too severe to recover from, weren't they?
Imagine, then, my shock at seeing the mailbox standing once again as I drove past it later that week. This time, though, some more serious repairs were evident. This time, Miles' father (presumably, he was the poor soul making all of the repairs) had been forced to put some new pieces into place, but not of the same quality as the ones that they replaced. In short, the mailbox still looked like the house, but there were signs of weakness. The replaced parts weren't of the same impeccable quality as the original replacements had been. Had the artisan charged with repairing the home's replica given up the ship? Or was the enemy simply tiring of fighting a war of attrition that was sure to lead to his defeat?
Back at HQ, we planned another attack. Again, we waited until the first weekend evening, allowed it to become dark, and embarked on Round 3 with our ever-vigilant opponent. This time, when the weapon of choice (we had all pretty much agreed that the sledgehammer was the instrument of choice when it came to destroying Miles' family's mailbox) made contact with the enemy, it proved strangely passive. We barely had to persuade it to shatter- it almost fell apart like a gingerbread house.
Puzzled and strangely unsatisfied by our somewhat hollow victory, we retreated to the solace of Vooda's house to discuss what had happened. It didn't make any sense- the mailbox which had so appealed to us in the beginning was starting to lose its appeal. Fast action had to be taken. We decided that the course of action would now involve taking hostages.
Round 4 began and ended in much the same manner as the other attacks had-with the same stealthy approach on foot followed by the inevitable swing of the sledge. As in the previous assault, the box fell easily to our onslaught. But, instead of allowing the pieces to be rebuilt into the mailbox form for our pleasure, we took our first hostage. How defeated they would feel when they noticed that, in addition to our ritual destruction of their mail receptacle, we had stolen a large piece that would obviously need to be recreated in miniature before the shattered box could be rebuilt. Ha! We reveled in our victory...the enemy would surely crack and surrender!
The following week, when on my way to school, I noticed that the part had (predictably) been replaced. It was of the same poor quality as the previous replacements. We knew the enemy was reeling from its losses. Just as predictably, We decided that the course of action would be a saturation attack - regular assaults, each featuring a hostage being taken. We hit the box on three, perhaps four consecutive weekends, each time taking a piece of it with us. There were close calls - don't think that fighting a war of this type was easy - we were nearly caught when Jonny got the front bumper of the Fast Attack Vehicle caught in the earthen curb on one side of the road while he was turning around, and it was touch-and-go as to whether his license plate had been readable by Miles' father (who had come hurtling out the front door at the first sound!) The mailbox was always put back together, each time with new parts, until the wobbly, pathetic shell that formerly represented their home so accurately barely resembled a fragment of itself.
Imagine our surprise when, a few weeks later, we saw that the mailbox was gone! Gone, and replaced by a big, industrial-strength cast metal box bolted onto a length of 4" by 4" fence post which sat encased in a huge clump of cement in a freshly dug hole!
Our brain trust called an immediate meeting. We quickly formulated a plan, but it was some weeks before we could put it into action. This time, a more complete solution was necessary if we were to finally strike the final, demoralizing blow to the enemy.
We were unable to attack for several weeks. Finally, though, the night was perfect for what we hoped would be our final attack, and finest hour. We had waited until the weather was positively atrocious-it was literally pouring rain on that fateful night. This time, the Fast Attack Vehicle had been left at home in favor of a more appropriate vessel of doom- somebody's pickup truck (perhaps Vooda's or Johnny H's...memory escapes me at the moment). Holcombe and I got out of the truck a few hundred clicks down the road from Miles' house. We carefully approached, trying not to talk or make any unnecessary amount of noise. We finally reached the mailbox. The mood was tense...you could have sliced the apprehension in the air with a dull knife. Holcombe and I looked at each other, nodded, and struck.
This time, we had left all of the offensive weapons at home. We used only our heads and our backs! Holcombe and I crouched down on either side of the mailbox, put one shoulder each under the box, and lifted. It took a few moments, but it finally started to lift, and within about 5 seconds, we stood with a gray mailbox bolted atop a length of fence post with a huge, dripping, muddy clump of cement on its end. It was glorious- we felt like Olympians standing atop the platform while receiving gold medals (Although in this case, the medals were made up of a muddy, gnarly stolen mailbox, freshly liberated from someone's front yard). At this point, the driver of the truck wheeled quickly towards us, and we dumped the mailbox into the bed and jumped in after. Away we drove, with Miles' father again giving chase in the front yard, muddying his slippers and getting a good soaking at the hands of he rains. He didn't stand a chance, and we quickly outpaced him.
We drove the mailbox to a thicket of nearby woods and dumped it into a ditch where a fairly active stream ran through. As far as any of us ever knew, the mailbox never received a single piece of mail again. Shortly after, we noticed that any evidence of the mailbox was completely gone from Miles' front yard. They had filled in the hole, planted grass, and finally agreed to forget about it. They eventually installed a small brass old-style mailbox which was bolted to the left of their front door. It still remains there to this day.
Many years later, a mutual friend led to the reunion of myself and Miles. It was nice to see him after all of those years. Months later, after we had reacquainted ourselves with one another, during a night of rather heavy drinking, I breached mailbox baseball etiquette and confessed the whole series of events, leaving out only the names of my partners in crime. Expecting the worst, I braced for Miles' reaction.
It was incredible-he laughed so hard I thought he would surely choke! "Man," he started, "I can't believe that! That was sooo fucking funny- you should have seen my dad. You wouldn't have believed it."
"How so?" I asked. At this point, World War III couldn't have drawn my attention from what Miles was about to say.
"Man, he freaked, that's all," Miles said. "He was consumed with you guys- all he talked about was 'catching those punk sons of bitches' towards the end."
I was vomiting with joy.
"He started missing work, and his hair was falling out, and he had started to drink more than usual. You just can't imagine- he was completely screwed up from having you guys do that to him every week. I tried to tell him to lighten up, that it was just mischief and not to worry, you know, but it was no use. He started spending every weekend night on the couch near the front door, just so he could try to catch you guys. It just about broke him...no shit. He was really going crazy, like he questioning the whole American Dream and everything. Thank God you guys stopped when you did, or he may never have recovered! He was really going off the deep end...I just can't impart that to you enough. But I have to admit...I'm not mad at you at all. That was so funny when it happened. I almost couldn't wait to see what you guys had done when I would wake up on a Sunday morning. And there my pop would be...Chewing his fingernails, all nervous and cranky because he'd been up all night, but reveling in his small victory: 'Miles', he would say, 'I got the little punk sons of bitches...they didn't dare go near MY goddam mailbox...and...' It was scary, but it was awesome. I take my hat off to you for coming clean about it, too."
We never spoke of it again. Miles never told his father, either. I think that the whole thing was better left dead and buried for Miles' poor old pop. But it was the crown jewel in our mischief chapter of our lives...for at least a little while. But that's another story for another time.
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