Thomas glanced up at the clock. Twenty minutes left. God how he hated these five o’clock finishes. He would much rather start early and go early. The bus would not be full, and he would get a seat instead of standing most of the way.
“It’s all Mrs Wilton’s fault” he muttered to himself. “If she had not rung in sick again, then I’d be home. Bitch!!”
“Six first class stamps please,” asked the man who had suddenly appeared at his window, “Christmas ones if you have them.”
Thomas looked down the counter. His and Miss Connor’s window were the only two still open. She was looking at a magazine.
Thomas looked at the man. “It’s February” he exclaimed, “we stopped selling Christmas stamps at the end of December.”
“Oh. Any then. Thought you may have some left. You know, reduced price to get rid of them” said the man.
Thomas looked amazed as he counted out the six stamps and pushed them under the counter window.
“That will be two pounds seventy six, please sir,” without asking if the man wanted anything else. He took the man’s money, and gave him his four pence change. “Now go away” he said to himself. The man turned and walked out.
“Thank you,” sneered Thomas, as the man walked towards the door. He did not turn around, but gave a wave of his hand in dismissal. “Pig!” he thought.
Thomas looked down the counter. Miss Connor was tapping in her phone.
“Mr Simon would not approve of that, Miss Connor” he said. “You could start putting things away. Starting with the phone, please.”
She shook her head, and put her phone in her bag.
“Loser!” she muttered, as she took out her magazine again.
Only fifteen minutes to go. He started to tidy up his window. Stamp books away. Stationery put back in the drawer. Pens back in the pen tray.
“Bugger !!” he said, louder than he wanted, as his date-stamp and pad dropped to the floor. Further down the counter, Miss Connor giggled. Thomas glared at her.
“Magazine, Miss Connor!”
He slid off his stool and bent to pick up the offending items. “Bloody rubbish on this floor” he mumbled, “I’ll have to get Mr Simon to speak to the cleaner. Useless cow.”
It was then he became aware of the tapping noise. He raised his head and peered over the counter. All he could see at first was the parcel. He raised his eyes and saw the lady, and attempted what for Thomas, was a smile. There was no return smile. He stood up and his eyes drifted back to the parcel. In all his years at the Post Office, it never failed to amaze him, how badly some people wrapped a parcel. This one was a classic. It consisted of about five pieces of different coloured wrapping paper, all brought together, of sorts with string and bits of sticky tape. He shook his head and stared. The tapping noise started again. It was the lady, tapping on his window with a spectacle case.
“Yes?” Thomas asked. “How can I be of assistance?” his eyes straying to the parcel then back to the lady.
“I want to send this to my sister. In Spain!” she said glancing around to see if anyone was listening. “That’s abroad. Europe” she stated.
“So I believe” he muttered, “and will you want to insure the ‘package’ madam?”
“Certainly” she exclaimed, “one cannot trust anyone these days!”
Thomas looked again at the clock. “Can you put it on the scales?” he asked.
The lady did so and Thomas tapped the keys of his computer.
“What is the contents and value of the parcel?” he asked.
“It’s a valuable fur coat” she replied.
“Value?” he repeated.
“I said. It’s valuable”
“But how valuable is it? Twenty pounds, forty pounds, a thousand pounds? I need to know. For the insurance you see.” He was beginning to get annoyed.
“Oh I don’t know” she replied. “My late husband bought it. You don’t ask that kind of question when you get a present.”
“Shall we call it fifty pounds then?” he asked hopefully.
“Good God man. Gerald did not skimp on price” she spluttered. “Gerald was my late husband. He was in banking. No, no it would have been a good deal more.”
“A hundred pounds?” he ventured.
“Shall we say five hundred pounds” again looking around at her audience, which now only consisted of Miss Connor, who was talking on her mobile phone.
Thomas looked up at the clock. Five past, sodding five! Bloody woman!
“When do you want it delivered” he asked wearily.
“Immediately!” she spouted. “It is quite cold in Spain at the moment. Priority delivery please”
Thomas tapped his computer keys again. “That will be twenty five pounds and sixty two pence, then. Please.”
“Ridiculous” she screeched. “Where did you get that figure from? It’s only Spain. I’m not paying that price.”
Thomas groaned, audibly “That’s the cost to send a valuable parcel to Spain, with priority delivery!”
“Well I’m not paying that!” the lady exclaimed. “I’ll go elsewhere. I’ll use UPS or someone like that.”
She snatched the parcel off the scales. In doing so, she must have caught the only bit of string that was holding the package together. Everything came to pieces.
Thomas peered over the counter, as the lady tried to gather the coat and the wrapping paper into one bundle.
“Does Madam need any help?” he chuckled.
The lady did not reply but hurriedly ran to the door.
“I’ll be speaking to my son about you” she said as she struggled to open the door. “His name is Mr Simon. I think you know may know him!”
The door closed behind her.
“Bugger!” shouted Thomas, “bugger, bugger and more bugger!”
This time, Miss Connor did not laugh.