23rd March

Mr Smith

‘It’s me again,’ the man with the parcel said.

‘So it is,’ the woman behind the post-office counter said.

‘Interestingly, according to the leaflet you gave me, I may not send ammunition in my parcel, except air-gun pellets. Yet I am prohibited from sending an air gun. Where is the logic in that?’

‘I don’t make the rules,’ she said.

‘Clearly not, for you are not an imbecile. Have you seen this bit? This symbol, of acid being poured onto someone’s hand, represents corrosive products, which the leaflet says are classified as dangerous. But a product marked by this symbol along with the words “Danger – causes serious eye damage”, is apparently not classified as dangerous. So. Burns your hand: prohibited. Blinds you: safe to send. According to this leaflet.’

‘Do you want to send the parcel or not?’

‘I do.’

‘Well, would you please sign the declaration at the bottom of this label.’

‘Another document!’ he exclaimed gleefully.

‘This one goes on the parcel.’

‘And proves what? Since you haven’t inspected the contents, you have no idea whether my parcel is safe. You are taking it on trust. Do you trust me?’

‘It doesn’t matter whether I trust you or not. You just have to sign the declaration or I can’t accept the parcel.’

‘My point being, if I am intent on sending something dangerous, I’m going to sign anyway, am I not? Would you like to see some ID?’

‘No, that’s not necessary.’

‘Then I shall sign as John Smith. Is that all right?’

‘Is that your name?’

‘Why do you ask?’

‘It sounds like you just made it up.’

‘But it’s one of the commonest names in the world. You see, you don’t trust me.’

‘Just sign the bloody thing,’ a voice said loudly, from behind the rack of greeting cards.

The man bent over the label presented to him. ‘Robust advice from the gallery,’ he said conspiratorially.

‘Thank you,’ the woman said. ‘Mr Smith. That will be £3.86.’

He smiled at her. ‘Is that all?’

‘It’s not bad, is it?’ She sounded relieved.

‘So little to send utter devastation across the Atlantic? It’s terrific. Thank you for your excellent service. Good morning.’

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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