Mail popped his knuckles anxiously as he walked down the library hall, past rows and rows of dusty books, to room 024. Just to be clear, he didn’t have to come tonight. He wasn’t outdated, and he wasn’t insane. He just . . . he’d had time on his hands, and this was how he was gonna burn it. Nothing to be seen here.
The group’s resident quack greeted Mail at the door. She cradled a clipboard in one hand and reached the other out to Mail as he approached. “Oh hi, you must be new here. Welcome to Vintage Media Anonymous, I’m Doctor Thrift Store. Please, take a seat and we’ll start shortly.”
Mail nodded and moved through the empty room and toward the circle of seats in the middle. The few people who milled about the room seemed blessedly content to keep to themselves. Shafts of the sunset cut in through small windows, casting shadows on dusty shelves. The whole room smelled like it was waiting endlessly for booksale day.
Mail found a chair and settled into it, back straight, feet close together, hands folded neatly in his lap. He shouldn’t be here, of course. It was all . . . a lot. The mail routes. The packages. The heavy packages. The . . . he was just here because he had a free evening. Everything was fine. He didn’t need to be here.
“Hello everybody,” Dr. Thrift said, moving from the door to her seat under the window. She pulled the bottom of her pinstripe suit tight before she sat down. “We have some new faces here, so let’s go around and introduce ourselves.” She turned to her right and nodded at a grizzled old cowhand looking fella who seemed to have settled in this room just like the dust on the floor. “Would you like to start?”
“No. I’m Cassette.”
“Hi, Cassette,” mumbled the group members.
“Anybody got a magnet for me?”
Dr. Thrift sighed and reached to pat Cassette on the shoulder. He pulled away and shot her a ‘cut it out’ type look. “Come on Cassette,” Dr. Thrift said. “Keep your chin up.”
Cassette’s chin pointed meaningfully toward the ceiling long enough to make his point before he settled down into a normal posture. Dr. Thrift rolled her eyes and looked to the next guy in line.
“VHS,” he said and waved uncertainly.
“I um . . . I got eaten by my player? But I think someone could still wind me back up.”
Mail shifted in his seat. He was next.
“Nice attitude,” said Dr. Thrift with a smile.
“Thanks, Dr. Thrift.”
The doctor looked at Mail and put on a friendly smile. What was he doing here? He didn’t belong with these nutjobs.
“Would you like to introduce yourself?”
Could he just leave? “Um hi I’m Mail. I’m uh . . . first time. I—”
“I’m just . . . yeah I’m here now.”
The door opened, and someone else slipped into the room. A phone the size of a toaster hung out of his bleached denim jeans pocket. “Sorry I’m late.”
“That’s Dialup,” VHS whispered to Mail. “He’s a little slow.”
“Be nice,” said Dr. Thrift. “We’re glad to have you, Dialup. We were just going through our introductions.” Dialup found a seat and Dr. Thrift nodded to the next guy in line. “Please continue.”
“I’m Blockbuster Video. Most people call me Buster.”
“. . . or For Lease.”
Dr. Thrift shook her head. “No no, Buster, you’ve got to think positive. Have you been doing your exercise?”
“Good. It’s nice to see everybody again. Now Mail, you’ve been sending me postcards about coming for years, but just today you show up. Why is that?”
Mail shifted in his seat. Because he made a bad decision? He didn’t belong here with pencil-wound cassettes and beepety-boop internet. “I uh . . . I don’t know.” Mail looked at the scuff marks on his worn-out sneakers. “I just . . . it’s hard you know. Christmas is over and I’m tired, but I’ve got all these bills to deliver. Bills and advertisements. They just get thrown away, you know. It’s just . . . I miss the good old days.”
“Cassette. Be nice,” snapped Dr. Thrift.
“Hi, I’m Dialup.” Everyone ignored him, except VHS who chuckled. “I’m here because I don’t feel connected anymore?”
“He’ll catch up, don’t worry.” Dr. Thrift smiled and turned back to Mail. “I meant why did you come? What are you hoping we can do for you?”
“Die together,” whispered Cassette.
That got him a sharp glance from Dr. Thrift.
“I don’t know. I just came. Had the evening off.”
Cassette sighed and settled back into his chair. “Big mistake.”
“Cassette, I think you and I should step outside for a minute,” Dr. Thrift nodded toward the door.
“What? Once we start coming there’s no getting out. We’re obsolete, or did you not read the sign?”
“I wrote the sign, and it says ‘vintage.’ Now, one more disturbance and we’re going to have to take a break.”
“Who cares what the sign says?” Cassette snapped back. “We’re stuck here, Thrifty. Nobody gets out once they come. Vintage, obsolete, it all means the same thing: outdated. We’re done.”
Dr. Thrift stood up, setting her notebook on her chair. “A word, Cassette?”
“Vinyl got out,” VHS piped in. “He’s cool again.”
“He had to put up with that snobby hipster chick though,” Cassette noted with a smirk on his face. “And have you heard him lately? They don’t even know how to make music worth his grooves anymore. I’ll take my chances in a dusty attic.”
“Cassette! A word. Now.”
He grunted and walked out of the room with Dr. Thrift tight on his heels.
Mail watched the door shut with longing eyes. Why had he even come? It’s not like he only delivered bills. And hey, bills were still important, right? Ugh, maybe this was the place for him with thoughts like that.
Buster shuffled in his seat right next to Mail. “Hey, you still do letters and stuff, right?”
Mail perked up. “Yeah, when I can get them.”
Buster pulled an envelope out of his coat. “Could you get this to my brother? We . . . we never got along much. Always had to compete, you know? But I haven’t heard from him in forever, and I’m worried.”
“Yeah sure.” Mail looked down at the envelope. “Um, no address?”
“He’s in Hollywood? That’s all I know.”
He’s in Hollywood? Yeah, because that was a small . . . Oh. Right. Hollywood. “I’ll do my best.”
“Thanks. It’s . . . important. You know. Family.”
VHS nudged Mail and pointed to another door at the far end of the room, adorned with a glowing exit sign. “Better go now, or Thrifty’ll make you sit through the rest of the meeting.”
Mail perked up. An escape. “Thanks. I uh . . . hope it goes well for y’all.”
“Be nice, Cassette!” Dialup said to nobody in particular.
Mail took one last glance at him, then stood up and walked out the door just a little faster than was probably necessary. Hollywood, huh? Yeah, it was time for vacation anyway.
Did you like Brandon’s story? Leave him a comment below!
The Introvert (A.K.A. Gabrielle R. Pollack)
Join the Introvert’s mailing list to receive 100 Writing Prompts!
Join the Introvert’s mailing list to receive 100 Writing Prompts!
“Well, I’m back.” The emotion those words spark in Lord of the Rings fans across the world perfectly describes how Brandon feels on a daily basis when he finishes writing and starts working on homework. (Yes, writing comes first.) His fictional worlds, where the suns never set and Rutel is Servant-Lord of the Sky, leave him wanting more…but unfortunately life is still a thing. When Brandon can’t hang out in Faërie, he fills his time with normal mortal things like homework, work, friends, (oxford commas) and family. He enjoys backyard football (or any sport), board games, English country dancing, and reading. He doesn’t particularly enjoy (but still spends time) driving, doing math, and waiting for YouTube ads to end.
Brandon enjoys writing-related-but-still-not-actually-writing activities including critiquing, outlining, and updating his blog, The Woodland Quill. Some of his favorite books (there are too many to list) are The 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson, Look and Live by Matt Papa (warning: nonfiction), and Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. (Due to his Lord of the Rings reference at the beginning of this blurb, he’s not going to bring that pinnacle of literary genius up again, although he probably should and sort of just did.)
Brandon lives on the Nebraska plains, where the people don’t actually live in teepees but do plant as much corn as the stereotypes suggest. His wonderful family keeps him somewhat grounded in reality, his friends keep his extroverted personality from imploding while he’s writing, and his ice cream keeps him . . . happy.
Poor ice cream.