Old Mr. Hilliard had been the neighborhood postman for as long as anyone could remember. In the early days, the saying was, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That certainly applied to old Mr. Hilliard.
In his youth, he walked proudly, toting his heavy bag, delivering birthday wishes, holiday cards, unwanted sale flyers and the even more unwanted, dreaded bills. He delivered everything but the kitchen sink, and a newborn baby.
Through the years, old Mr. Hilliard had aged and grown weary. The spring in his step had disappeared with the spring of his life and now, his swift gate had become an almost painful trudge.
After several years on foot, he was able to complete his rounds in a new truck, but there were still those houses whose mailboxes weren’t standing at attention along the side of the road. Walking up to the door was becoming more and more difficult, and he viewed the trek as a pestering chore.
Sometimes, when seeing a neighbor, he would politely nod, but the days of stopping and having mundane conversations about how Sally and Bob were doing at school, had long since passed. Also long since passed, at least for him, was the romantic notion that he was part of a history that hearkened back to the Pony Express.
He had heard the nicknames more than he cared to hear, such as “dogmagnet, postie, messenger of doom,” and the one he despised the most, “the snail man.”
One day, during his appointed rounds, he discovered a side road that led to a quiet patch of land, where an abandoned house stood in silent recluse. On a whim, he parked, put his feet up on the dashboard and closed his weary eyes. As he listened to the soft chirping of birds, he drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
He awoke with a start and realized that he was an hour behind in his rounds. He quickly gathered his senses and continued as if nothing had happened. Arriving late to the post office, he lied when he told the supervisor that time had escaped him as he was chatting with a new neighbor. Getting away with only a slight scolding about minding his duties, old Mr. Hilliard grinned as he walked to his car.
Every day, he re-visited that patch of land. It had become a sort of haven and he found himself anxiously awaiting each stopover. As the days became shorter, his retreats became longer.
After several months of his coveted, blissful rest and relaxation, he began to realize that he would be unable to deliver the mountainous amount of mail still in the truck, so he decided to throw the contents down the hill behind the house.
Who was going to know? He told himself that most of it was junk and would eventually end up on a hill of garbage anyway, so he didn’t feel the slightest bit of guilt after the first time. He got away with it for quite a while, but eventually, people started complaining that they hadn’t received their mail.
The post office investigated and after following old Mr. Hilliard, they discovered more than six thousand pieces of mail at the bottom of the hill.
Due to his age, federal charges were not levied, but he lost his job and his pension. The judge rendered what he thought was a fitting penalty. He sentenced old Mr. Hilliard to pick up garbage people threw out on the street… for two years.