The postman was about to drop the card into the letterbox when he stopped to inspect it.
He hardly ever took notice of what people sent one another, but this particular postcard was too grotesque to ignore. The picture on the postcard was harmless enough, an artist’s childlike sketch of a windswept dog in front of a red ball, but the inscription side of the card made his skin crawl.
Thickened blood had been rubbed around a few words; ‘Prepare to die, bitch’.
He ran his finger over the blooded side of the card, which felt like a piece of rubbed down sandpaper, and thought for a second or two.
Placing the card back into his satchel, he walked away.
At the end of his shift, he knocked on his supervisor’s door and handed him the card. The supervisor inspected it and looked up at the postman.
‘I’ll hand it in to the police,’ he said, thanking him.
The postman was about to head home when he remembered that he needed some milk and eggs.
The supermarket was very quiet but for a whimpering young child in a buggy that was far too small for him. The boy’s mother was talking on her phone in a low, rueful voice, and when she ended her call, she turned to the child, stared at him for a moment and then hit him to the side of his face with her clenched fist.
The postman carefully approached the woman.
‘Please don’t do that,’ he said. He looked down at the child in the buggy, whose face had turned white, his eyes full of fear.
‘Who are you to tell me what to do?’ the woman said.
‘I saw you punch this child and that’s a criminal offence.’
The woman grabbed hold of the buggy and yanked it around as the boy buried his head into its fabric. ‘See ya,’ she said, sardonically, smacking the buggy into the end of the aisle as she turned the corner.
The postman asked to speak to the manager and explained what he’d seen.
‘She’s always hitting him,’ the manageress said. ‘I’ll see if I can capture it off the video and give it to the police, OK?’
The postman was about to turn into his street when he saw a man, a woman and little girl.
The woman and the man were walking ahead of the girl, who seemed intent on keeping her distance from them.
‘She’s a pain in the neck,’ said the woman. ‘She’s always causing trouble and I’m absolutely sick of her.’ The man said nothing. ‘Oi, idiot,’ she called out to the girl, ‘get a bloody move on or we’re leaving without you.’
The girl defiantly stopped in her tracks but the woman and the man continued to walk. They arrived at a car and got in.
The little girl looked over to the postman but said nothing. He wanted to walk over to her, kneel down at her feet and tell her that it wouldn’t always be this way, that she would soon be in charge of her own life, but when she heard the engine start up, she ran to the car and got in.
As the car left, he made a mental note of the registration plate and when he arrived home he looked up the borough’s children’s services on the internet and found the phone number to call.
‘Hello, I’d like to report something I saw just involving a child. I’ve got a registration plate.’ He then explained what he’d seen.
The voice on the other end tried to reassure the postman that it was probably an isolated incident (‘they happen all the time’, she said). Even so, she would certainly look into it for him.
He was sure he’d heard her laugh as he replaced the receiver.
The postman was about to make some tea when he noticed that he’d received an email from the Cafcass officer in charge of his family case.
Having been separated from his ex-wife for almost three years, she had driven a firm wedge between him and his daughter after he threw a corner of toast at her for tricking him into believing that he could take her out for a birthday treat.
The police were informed and the postman was hauled in for questioning, whereupon he was accused and later charged with GBH after a lengthy court battle.
The email read, ‘The judge won’t reconsider, I’m afraid.’ The legal jargon that followed explained in no uncertain terms that he would not be able to see his daughter, and if he tried to break the order he would be heavily reprimanded.
There were no tears left in the postman’s body. He sighed solemnly and went into the bathroom to turn on the bath taps and place the plug in its hole for his customary wash.
In the kitchen, he made himself some tea and then stripped off his clothes in his bedroom. Returning to the kitchen, he took the teabag out and put a little milk in the mug that had his daughter’s happy face on.
Turning to go for his bath, he picked out a sharp knife from a drawer, walked to the bathroom and placed the mug and knife by the taps, locking the door behind him.
As he settled into the warmth of the bath, he looked deep into the blues of his daughter’s eyes and smiled at her.
‘See you soon, darling.’