Mail-Order Millionaire

By: Carol Grace

“Is that what you’re wearing right now?”

“This is what everyone is wearing now,” she said briskly, “under their clothes until the end of winter, and if you’re in three feet of snow, I suggest you order a pair of men’s underwear from the next page.” Anything to get his mind off her picture.

“Fine. Throw one in.”

She grabbed an original order blank. “Size?”

“Extra large.”

“And now your work address.”

“Mount Henry, New Hampshire, home of the world’s worst weather.”

“What are you, a park ranger?” she asked, scribbling furiously.

“Meteorologist. Every three hours I go outside and read the instruments at six-thousand feet.”

“Isn’t a six-thousand foot climb a bit much to ask of a mailman?”

“All I ask is that you send the boots by express mail. The mailman brings them to the ranger station at the bottom of the mountain and the ranger brings them up in the Sno-Cat,” he explained with exaggerated patience. “It’s a very good system, foolproof. Until now, that is.”

Ignoring the implication that somebody at the company was a fool, she promised she’d send another pair of boots that very morning, and that if he didn’t get them the next day, she’d come up there personally and deliver than. As soon as she said the words, however, she knew the Northwoods would never approve such a plan, despite their “customer is always right” policy. But why worry about something that would never happen?

“Will you bring them up in your long underwear?” he asked.

“Absolutely,” she promised airily, certain that now she had fed Maxwell Carter’s name into the computer the boots were as good as in his hands, or on his feet. Then she said goodbye and proceeded to clear all the other lines by taking care of the remaining problems in record time, exchanging sweaters, making adjustments in shoes, jackets and flannel-shirt orders. And after that she went back to the warehouse, ordered another pair of boots and slapped the preprinted label on the package. But instead of trusting the mail room, she walked down Main Street to the post office, where she said goodbye to the boots and to Mr. Maxwell Carter forever.

On slushy sidewalks she trudged back toward the three-story brick building that dominated the town, sidestepping pools of muddy water. New Englanders called it the mud, the season between winter and spring, and for good reason. Of course, she wouldn’t care if the mud came up to the top of her boots if the sap would run. If the sap would run she’d make syrup, and if she made syrup, she’d sell it and when she sold it...

“Miranda.” Her sister Ariel almost bumped into her on the sidewalk. She grabbed Miranda by the arm. “I was looking all over the office for you. Are we having lunch today or what?”

Miranda looked into the round blue eyes of her older sister, surprised to find it was noon already. Together they headed back down Main Street toward Simpson’s Diner.

“Where were you?” her sister asked when they were sitting across from each other in a booth.

“At the post office, rushing an order to a customer.”

“Must be pretty special if he rates a trip to the post office,” Ariel said with a hopeful gleam in her eye.

Miranda pulled her gloves off and looked at the menu. “He thinks he’s special because he works outside in three feet of snow and he expects me to drop everything and rush his boots to him— Oh, no.” She slapped her palm against her forehead. “I forgot to send the pair of long underwear he ordered. Knowing him, he’ll complain to Mr. Northwood next.”

The waitress came by and Ariel ordered the clam chowder and half a sandwich before asking, “What do you mean, ‘knowing him’? How well do you know him?”

Miranda told the waitress she’d have the same, then turned her attention to her sister’s probing gaze.

“I don’t know him at all, but I told him I’d deliver the boots in person if they don’t get there tomorrow.”

“How exciting. Is he married?”

Miranda leaned back against the vinyl padding of the booth and sighed. “How should I know? I suppose you would have asked him?”

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