The road was mudded out, yet still the mail must go through.  Chester gritted his teeth as the studded snow tires of his jeep grabbed onto the ruts and rode them like train tracks from which he could not deter. Grabbing the wheel so intently, a savage barking to his left made his hands fly off the wheel.  Just as quickly, he slammed them down again. It was Hermes, the Rottweiler, his arch enemy. If he didn’t throw dog biscuits in an arc away from the trunk, Hermes attacked his tires.  He couldn’t afford to have a confrontation with a postal customer, and his superiors were unimpressed by his pressing need to not be bitten. 

Most people had their dogs sanctioned in yards held captive by electronic devices on their collar, tied them up, or kept them crated in their house.   In other towns, the days of dogs roaming the streets were over- people had to adopt strays sight unseen from Kentucky or buy them from kennels.  But not here, where a multitude of quadrupedal piranhas, small vicious dogs, such adept ankle chewers lay in wait for daily service workers.  The only difference between them and Hermes was thirty pounds. 

Fine white teeth and a lolling tongue obliterated Hermes’ face as Chester fought with the wheel.  If he stopped his jeep, he’d be stuck: the trick with mud is to keep going or you’ll sink.  The dog’s breath was so close, it stank up the cab.  Chester slid up to the mailbox, dipped his hand into the open dog biscuit tin with one movement, and threw the biscuits. Always acting as though he was starving, Hermes leaped in a backwards arc like a caught brook trout and scampered to where he gobbled the biscuits down, time enough for Chester to thrust his hand into the over-sized mailbox, and set down the heavily dense package, which he knew from its dense weight, was gold bricks, weighing 4.4 pounds, -two bricks total-, as Hermes’ owner stepped off his porch, using a carved walking stick as tall as himself.  Hermes’ breath blew in from the left as Mr. Avery trudged down to Chester’s right.

“Could you call off your dog, Mr. Avery?,” Chester asked.                     

“Scared of Hermes, are you?   He’s just a softy.  He don’t mean nuthin’,” Mr. Avery ignored Chester’s plea.

“Have fun with your gold,” Chester said as he changed gears, eager to depart.

“Here, how do you know what’s in my packages?,” Mr. Avery snarled.

“Postmark!  It’s clearly marked from JM and sent from Las Vegas.  I buy from the same outfit; not a good time to buy, Mr. Avery; market’s up 15 points,” Chester yelled, gunning the engine, spattering mud on Mr. Avery, while keeping an eye on Hermes, making sure he didn’t run over a paw, spearing through the mud to the next mailbox.

“They all think I’m stupid, because I deliver the mail,” Chester thought, as he deposited more mail along the long country road. Little did they know that Chester was a computer genius, able to take apart and build his own computers and software: he’d met his first computer in 2nd grade, written his first program in 4th grade, first game in 6th grade, and had his first bust by FBI at 15 for copying commercial software, albeit for personal use.        

Further up the road, he didn’t forget the next unleashed dog, and kept a fistful of biscuits ready, his elbow hugging tight to the wheel for guidance. This dog was a German Shepherd, tall enough to reach the hood of the jeep’s engine, and reach Chester’s seat, literally, through the door.  Five biscuits thrown erratically kept his mouth solely on biscuits.

It was Chester’s own jeep, paid for by selling gold bullion.  Therefore, any repairs to the seat through dog damage or to axles due to mud ruts came out of his own pocket.

Bags of mail emptied, he arrived back at the post office to drop them off, and wiped off his glasses, ready to be blasted for surely Mr. Avery had called in a complaint. Two complaints, in fact, from mud spattered on his clean new corduroys, and for gunning his engine so close to Hermes, trying to run him over.  

“You know that’s not true.  That dog’s a menace.  He attacks my car.  I was watching the dog and didn’t see any mud thrown up on Mr. Avery.”

“You’ll have to do better, Chester.  We don’t want any complaints.  Zero. The postal service is losing enough business these days, due to computers.  Before I forget, we’ve had another complaint that you’ve been givin’ Mrs. Clive’s dog biscuits and that’s expressly against the manual: No dog biscuits are to be given by postal workers. What if one of the dogs choked?  It brings it in front of your vehicle!”

“Just the opposite,” Chester protested.  “It gets them away from the vehicle.”

“It’s the second time we’ve had to talk to you about this.  You’re due at a PDI, pre-disciplinary interview, next Tuesday at 4p.m.”

“My route doesn’t finish in time for that.  You know that.”               

“Start earlier,” the postmaster closed his door, to settle his seat at his desk and have his heavily milked coffee and shortbread cookies, left by a grateful postal customer, even though they weren’t supposed to accept gifts.

So much stress from the dog biscuit complaints had put Chester’s appetite off. He wasn’t hungry.  His cheeks hollowed out.  How was he supposed to do his job without keeping the dogs away? Same dogs, same problems, same complainers.

And it was only Tuesday.

Next day, same muddy track, same mud-slicked incline, but no Hermes jumping off the lawn.  Instead, there was a rectangular white van in the driveway, with the motor running, and the door of Mr. Avery’s house was open.

Chester was setting yet another package of gold into Mr. Avery’s mailbox when his engine stalled out.  His arm stuck deep inside the mailbox, he heard yelling from Mr. Avery’s house, “Help, help.”

A scruffy looking guy ran out of the house, holding onto a big screen television. Why wasn’t  Hermes biting him?

Chester jiggled the keys but the jeep refused to start.  He grabbed Mr. Avery’s mail, reaching back into the mailbox for his box, and sprinted across the squishy melted snow-soaked lawn towards the door.  “What are you doing?”        

Another scruff with dark curly hair emerged, wearing a tan coat, blue jeans, sneakers, holding what appeared to be boxes of silverware.

Chester smacked him with the box of gold bars, and the scruff dropped the silverware, ornate silver splattering out of maroon velvet holders sprinkling to the porch.  The scruff reached for a concealed knife out of his pant leg and Chester smacked him again, a bone cracking snap.         

The scruff grabbed his arm and fled as his partner yelled, “Come on, come on.” 

Thinking, “I’m in big trouble now,” Chester entered the house.  Hermes was lying on his side, savagely kicked, barely breathing.

“Who’s there?,” Mr. Avery croaked, lying on his side at the bottom of the stairs, his plaid shirt askew.  His leg was bleeding through his corduroys, and bent crookedly.

“Me, Chester.”

“Are they still here?”

“No, they’ve gone.  Can I use your phone to call an ambulance?  I don’t have cell service here,” Chester lifted his phone, searched for service bars.

“No, check Hermes first.”

The dog’s breathing was raspy, his eyes open.  Chester leaned over and his heavy tail thumped slightly once.

“He could be dying, Mr. Avery.  Can I use your phone now?  Or try to stop the bleeding on your leg?”

“Bring the dog to me.”

“I can’t, Mr. Avery.  What if he’s really dying. And we’ve got to fix your leg, at least apply pressure to stop the bleeding.”

“Bring him,” Mr. Avery reached his hands out.

Dreading a bite in retribution, Chester stuck his hands under the immobile Hermes, cradling the two parts of the hind leg that was clearly broken in one hand, and gently dragged him over, earning not even a snarl. 

“He’s severely injured, Mr. Avery.  I’ve got to call an ambulance for you, and contact a vet for him.  He has a broken leg and possibly broken ribs, too.”

“Thanks son,” Mr. Avery lay his hand on his dog.  “Phone’s on the kitchen counter.  You can make that call now.”