The Missing Postcard

 

It was several years ago when I found myself driving across the U.S. in the winter. My dad had been deceased for a couple of years and I was on my way to spend some time with my mother in Oregon .  The trip had been fairly uneventful for most of the trip with the one exception being the gas gauge.  It was hanging up on the old car that I was driving and would show the tank 3/4 full and then all of a sudden drop down below 1/4.  After the first time of almost running out of gas I learned to watch my miles on the odometer and even if the gauge showed I had gas I'd pull off and fill it up.  This worked pretty well for the first part of the trip but finally road weariness took its toll on both me and the car.  The odometer stopped working and I lost track of the miles and the gas.

I was out in the middle of Nevada headed north when the gas gauge suddenly dropped from 3/4 to just above empty.  The first time I saw it I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach and cursed out loud all at the same time.  I pulled over to the side of the road and studied the map.  I should not have expected anything better and it wasn't.  It looked like about 50 miles in any direction and I didn't have that much gas.  What's worse I had decided to take the less traveled roads and enter the southeast portion of Oregon by traveling north through Nevada .  I was about 50 miles north of Tonopah with the next community of any size being Austin .  My mind flashed on several thoughts but the one that stayed with me was a gas can that I had held at a gas station several days before.  I had considered carrying some extra gas but the ten dollar price tag seemed too high at the time.  Now I thought back as to how much I'd give to have that gas can.

After a short break I decided I might as well try to drive as far as I could and hope that someone would come along with some extra gas that I could buy.  I got back on the road and each hill crest I hoped for something in the distance.  I've never been so happy in my life when I made a wide sweeping curve and saw a tiny settlement on the two lane highway.  I pulled into the only business in the tiny community of Carvers.  They only had one kind of gas and it was the highest that I'd paid on the entire trip but I was happy to do it.  An older man came out and pumped the gas and offered to check under the hood.  While he finished up I eased on inside the store.  The place had a thick layer of dust on everything and most of the shelves were empty.  I bought a soda and as I wandered around the place looking at all the old junk that nobody seemed to want, I found a pile of postcards. 

I hadn't talked with my mom for a couple of days and I knew that I would be at her home before any postcard but I thought it might be cute to see how long it would take for a card to get out  from the middle of nowhere to her house.  I chose a card that had a picture of the State of Nevada and an old sign in the corner that said "Greetings from the middle of hell".  I turned it over and penned a short comment that said, "Looking forward to being home.  Everything OK here."  That was it.  I didn't say dear mom or hello mother...nothing.  I didn't sign it either.  I figured it would be obvious who it was to and who had sent the card when it arrived.  Next to the front door was one of those old standing machines that dispensed postage stamps.  I didn't think much about it as I put a coin into the slot and pushed down on the tiny handle.  I was anxious to get back on the road and quickly tore off one of the stamps, licked it, and affixed it to the corner of the postcard.  I dropped the card in a small box hanging on the wall that said U.S. Mail and was soon out the door and on my way.

Very late that evening I pulled into my mom's place in Glendale and she was as happy to see me as always.  Over the next several weeks I got busy around her place fixing things and getting her firewood ready for the next winter.  Every so often I would think about that postcard but it never came in the mail.  I knew it might take several days for the card to arrive but I still expected it to eventually get there.  But it never came.  Toward the end of my month-long stay, Mom asked me if I would help her clean out some old stuff down in the basement.  I said, "Of course, and soon we found ourselves going through Dad's old match book collection and a bunch of old tax records from years before.  Most of the stuff was well on its way toward decomposing but as I was throwing it away I came upon a pile of old postcards.  I was thumbing through them when something caught my eye.  It was a postcard that looked to be identical to the one I had purchased and sent from Nevada .  My legs started to shake and I sat down and turned it over.  This was a very strange coincidence and I was interested to see where the card had come from.  There it was...addressed to my mom at the same post office box that my folks owned since they moved to Glendale in 1946.  There was no salutation and it simply said, "Looking forward to being home.  Everything OK here."  And what was really strange was that it had no signature. 

I tried to not be upset as I asked my mom about the card.  She glanced at it and said, "Oh that's one of the cards that LeRoy sent me when he was coming back from New Mexico on one of his trips down there.  Carvers...hummm, that's probably in the middle of Nevada on one of those back roads he liked to take." 

I looked at the postmark and it said, "Carvers, NV Jan 12, 1958."  I turned the card over and over in my hand and what really scared me was that my dad and I had handwriting that was almost identical.  I studied that card for the longest time trying to figure out if I had sent it or my dad had sent it.  I mean it had to be him since it was dated 1958 but it was identical to what I had mailed only a month before.

We put the postcards back in the box in the basement and as far as I know they're still there.  A few days later I returned to the East and for the longest time when we talked on the telephone I would ask her if she had gotten any postcards lately.  She always laughed and said not that she remembers.  And do you know to this day that card I mailed from Carvers, NV has never arrived Or did it?