I received an unsolicited package in the mail. It was a padded envelope, pretty crumpled, my name and address scrawled in Sharpie. Maybe I’ve watched too many police procedurals, but I immediately analysed the handwriting as being that of a psychopath.
I tentatively slipped my finger under the gummed lip of the envelope, mindful that it might harbour traces of ricin or anthrax. I never got over that period in the early to mid-2000s where everyone was on constant high alert for powdered toxins in the post. The breathless news coverage of the time even had my poor old mum opening the gas bill wearing Marigolds, for fear that those crafty bastards over at al-Qaeda HQ might be targeting her.
Anyway, this package. Inside was a slim book of less than 100 pages. There was no accompanying compliment slip, as I might expect from a publisher looking to elicit a review or favourable comment from an auspicious commentator such as myself. Nothing. Not even a handwritten dedication on the inside pages, which I leafed through angrily, searching for clues.
Yes, I was angry. I don’t like getting stuff in the post, especially when I don’t know who it’s from. The last unexpected treat I received by mail was in 1983, for my eighth birthday, when my aunt Celia sent me a small plastic rendition of the speeder Luke Skywalker rides through the forest in Return of the Jedi. It’s all been downhill since then. Nothing but unwanted solicitations from credit firms or grumpy demands from the Inland Revenue.
I threw the book on the dining table, where my wife was trying to work at her laptop. “What the fuck is this?” I demanded. “Some twat has sent me a book with no note. Is it supposed to be some sort of joke? Or a threat?”
“I’m sure there’s some sort of explanation,” she said, calmly examining the offending item.
I charged upstairs to take a (anxiety-triggered) leak, shouting: “I’m going to burn that book.”