Charlie Parsons slept in until ten, so didn’t hear the knock on the door. The post office had neatly place a doorknob notice outside Charlie’s house, with only a few blank spaces scribbled in by the delivery person: Parsons, 1010 Worth (meaning Charlie’s address, 1010 Worthington), Parcel, and Pick up After 4.
He had no idea who the package was from or how big it was, not to mention what it was. He hadn’t ordered anything from Amazon, Cheffy Chef, or Sears, not recently, and it wasn’t his birthday for another four months.
But a visit to Gill at the post office was always a most pleasant diversion. She was pretty, though her looks were startling to Charlie— he had not previously been a big freckle fan— and she always looked one in the eye, in a warm and welcoming way.
Gill had a nasty cold; the freckles on her nose were an alarming shade of purple, and her welcoming eyes seeped moisture, but Charlie refrained from scolding her about spreading germs. It was too late for that. She fetched his package with a smile. It was small and Charlie’s name and address were printed out on a label, with no return address visible. When she set it in front of her on the counter, she hesitated. “What’s that?” she said, her voice hoarse.
So that’s how the post office was emptied and the RCMP turned up. Charlie wouldn’t leave, and his friend, Constable Horowitz, couldn’t bring himself to force him to leave, so Charlie observed from a short distance behind a helmet with a protective screen.
“Seriously, Glen?” Charlie said, as the officers poked at the package, took pictures of it, and managed crowd control, as about half a dozen people had gathered outside. The constable ignored him. Charlie could hear the ticking sound. Surely modern terrorists were digitally inclined? But, Glen said wisely, you never know.
They’d asked Lionel, the post office delivery man, if he had noticed anything suspicious about the package or noticed the ticking. He said he had noticed, and concluded the contents of the package contained a clock, which, since Charlie hadn’t answered the door that morning, he thought was pretty appropriate.
A form resembling a man, covered head to foot in padding, boots, moon gloves, and a thick helmet, used a tool resembling a scalpel, which slid silkily through the craft paper and tape, revealing a white box.
He gently lifted up the lid of the box.
Inside was an alarm clock, resting in red tissue paper. There were no wires or other devices in the box. Glen told everyone to stand down. Only the eyes of the human being hidden behind the layers of padding could be seen, and those eyes looked vaguely disappointed.
Charlie took off his own helmet and approached Glen, who, with gloved hands, was examining the clock. It was white, with a white face and silver clangers. “Battery operated, alarm set to go at ten pm but not turned on.”
“Where do you even buy one of those things?” asked Charlie.
Glen shrugged. “You know what? This is a serious offence.” He looked up at Charlie. “What’s it mean? What’s the joke?”
“I honestly don’t— hey what else is in the box?”
A piece of paper that looked like it was torn out of a magazine had been tucked in under the clock. It was a coupon for two dollars off a pair of HeatMe! sport socks. Glen held it up and Charlie took a closer look.
According to the print next to the page number, the coupon had been torn out of the February issue of Ice Fishers’ Digest.