Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rusty Pails # 51: Rupert Rainwater

by Rocky Macy

Rupert Rainwater had been carrying the mail around Sprung Hinge for twenty years or more, and while he had been a regular fixture in the community, my buddies and I never knew much about him.  Oh, we'd say “howdy do” and maybe add a quick word about the weather on those days when we happened to be at the mailbox when he arrived, but we never knew Rupert very well, and he was always seemed too busy, and too painfully shy, to get to know me and my unique circle of friends.

And now he’s gone.

Rupert lived with his mother, a retired school teacher who moved to Sprung Hinge when she quit working in order to take advantage of our low cost of living.  Mama Rainwater would ride into town most Saturdays with Rupert and spend the morning, and a little money, in the shops while he ran the mail route.  The people who took the time to chat with Mama on the street said that she was a lovely person, though somewhat on the quiet and reserved side.

She’s gone now, too.

Mama passed away a couple of months ago, and a lot of us went to her funeral even though few really knew her well enough to be grieving.  Mostly we were afraid that if we didn’t go, nobody else would either, and we didn’t want to be known as that type of community.  We all felt good later about having attended because Rupert, alone in his dark suit in the front pew, was the only family present.
Some of the men from the Legion Hall carried Mama to her final rest, and the ladies of the Sprung Hinge Sewing Circle and Bucket Brigade put out a nice spread of eats in the community building after the service.  Rupert, a diminutive fellow of few words, forced himself to stammer out a little speech of appreciation and to exchange pleasantries with most of the snacking mourners.

The funeral was on a Saturday, and Rupert Rainwater was back to hauling the mail by Monday morning.  It soon became obvious that the man of few words was talking even less.  He was driving almost by rote, barely acknowledging his surroundings or the people who tried to engage him in some casual conversation.

(I even heard that Gladys Clench left one of her wonderful raisin pies in her mailbox for the lonely mailman, and when she checked that evening it was still there!)

It wasn’t long before the mail started arriving later and later, and some days people had to rush around and exchange letters because Rupert had put them in the wrong boxes.  It was obvious that he was depressed, and his depression was impacting everyone on his route.
At some point our pit bull of a postmistress, Eula Merry Lickspittle, succumbed to the rising tide of public complaints and called poor Rupert in for an official pep talk.  She ended up putting him on leave and ordered the poor fellow to go someplace and relax for awhile.  He drove off into the sunset and was never seen in Sprung Hinge again.

As it turns out, however, the departure of Rupert Rainwater did not mean that the good people of Sprung Hinge, and even me and my friends, had experienced the last of his impact.  A tornado was about to come careening through the quiet lanes and peaceful lives of Sprung Hinge – and its name was Rainwater!

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