The moment she heard the news, she ran outside and got into her car.
She drove the thirteen miles to the nearest Target, slammed the driver’s side door shut, and raced inside.
Grabbed a red plastic basket — she was going to need it.
It wasn’t until she reached the stationery section that she broke down and cried.
A young mother with an antsy toddler in the front seat of plastic carts slowed her steps to raise an eyebrow at the girl on hands and knees, scooping packs of blank note cards into her basket.
She filled it to the brim with all the supplies she needed to fight the system: packs of pens, blank invitations and thank-you notes, note cards and envelopes.
The cashier at the checkout counter, a sweet old man with the smile the size of Kentucky, scanned each item and placed them gingerly in the bag.
“You heard what they’re saying on the television, right?” he said. “About the postal service?”
“I heard.” She bounced up and down on her heels, rubbed her hands over her biceps. “Uh huh. I heard.”
“It’s not gonna shut down right now,” he assured her. “Been around since the country’s founding and it’s not going anywhere.”
She ignored this.
“I figure if I send at least fifty letters to fifty people, and those fifty people send fifty letters, that’s already thousands of letters in the mail. That’s already thousands of people having a conversation.”
“You kids these days.” He laughed and handed her a receipt. “You think you can just do something small and it’s going to matter to the higher-ups. The government’s a big mess. A big self-centered mess.”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “All those government people, they all have family too.”
He handed her one of the bags.
“So they want to keep in touch with their families. They want to get a handwritten note still on their birthdays.”
“Honey,” he said. “My family stopped sending me birthday cards almost 50 years ago.”
“What’s your name?”
She reached into her bag and pulled out a sticky note pad and a pen.
He tapped his nametag. Carl. New Team Member etched underneath.
“Well, Carl New Team Member, I’m going to add you to my list.”
“Don’t do me any favors,” he said.
“I’m not. I think you know 50 people who want a letter. I think you can save the postal service.”
And then she exited the store, hauling her bags to the car.
It was raining outside when she got back to her house. She darted to the front door, juggled her house keys and slipped inside.
Then she sat down, wrote straight through the night.
When her wrist ached and her eyes closed, she thought about the generation after her. The generation dedicated to text messages deleted every two years when they traded in for new phones. She thought about her own pile of letters, crumpled and stained at the bottom of her desk drawer.
She could smell the parchment, feel the pages beneath her fingertips. She didn’t know what would happen if she didn’t have that.
She waited until the sun came up before she walked the mile to her driveway and stuffed the mailbox full. She raised the red flag on the side and waited, dazed, worried the mailman wouldn’t come.