Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Pip's Impossible Task

Pip was an approved Poster, with a red arm badge and everything. He was only rated as a triangle level messenger, but he'd been working hard at learning the ropes since his older brother had brought him into the Post Guild a few months ago and Pip knew, with pride, that not many kids as young as him had a badge yet. He was five-and-seven-twelfths and he knew the purple district so well that he could work alone, standing at the post until someone came along with a message to deliver.

Pip was doing just that one afternoon when he got called into the guild headquarters. The post he was standing in front of was a wooden post as tall as his shoulders and about as big around as a grapefruit that was hammered into the ground at the corner of two streets. The top half of the post was painted purple, as was the post on the next corner at the other end of the block, and the post after that, and the post after that. Four streets over started the grey district, where Pip's older brother Oliver knew the streets, shops, and people well enough that he was rated for both grey and purple, but Pip had enough just learning to find anything in the purple district without getting lost.

A fellow Poster appeared in front of him.

"Pip Squeak? You're wanted at headquarters."

Pip exchanged places with the older boy.

He had memorized the way to headquarters, go down to Church Street with the big church on the corner, then two streets, a left, two streets, a right, three streets, another left, past the old dead tree, turn at the library onto Library Street, and it's four more streets down from there. In a town where half the people don't ever learn to read, streets are usually named after landmarks. Headquarters was a building in an identical row of red brick buildings with grey roofs, the lamplighters were just coming out to begin their work. Pip knocked at the door and Slink let him in. She remembered to ask him for the password this time.

"Applesauce." Pip replied.

"Ben wants you, upstairs." She said, shutting the door and climbing back on her chair to be able to see out the peephole again.

Ben waited until Pip was seated in the office before he began.

"I've got an important job for you, Pip, something that no one else can do."

"Really? How? I'm the youngest-"

"Yes, I know, but you're really the only one. Now. Do you want it?"

Pip considered, then nodded. Ben was so nice, he couldn't say no, and being the youngest made him important already so maybe that was why he got an important job.

Ben produced an envelope, sealed, and with some writing on the front. "You need to deliver this to a person named Bunny Cartwright. She goes by the name Stew, so ask both ways. She's about my age, seventeen or so, and she has dark hair and she scowls a lot."

Pip looked it over, then tucked it carefully into the inside pocket of his jacket. "Okay?"

"One more thing. You'll need this."

Ben solemnly handed Pip a magnifying glass. Pip stored it in his other jacket pocket.

Ben continued. "You'll have to go outside your district for this one. She doesn't want to be found."

Pip's eyes went wide. "If she's hiding..."

Ben nodded.


"We don't know. That's where your job comes in."

Ben handed Pip a patchwork armband without any shape stitched on it.

"This will get you help in any district, it means you're on a special mission."

"What's the seeing glass for?"

"You'll know when you need it. It's not part of the message, though."

"And no message? Just the envelope to deliver?"

"Right, just the envelope. Still sealed. Bunny is a champ at disappearing, good luck."

Pip squared his shoulders. He wanted to do it right.

"Thank you." He left the office.

Post Guild Rule Number Four:

When you do not know the person your message goes to, ask until you find someone who does.

Pip asked Oliver, Todd, Slink, Jess, Amber, Janey, and finally Nan. Nan knew, she could describe Bunny well enough that Pip wouldn't go asking every dark-haired girl around whether she was Stew. Armed with the knowledge, Pip stepped bravely out into the unknown. Or, well, he left the building anyway. The unknown would have to wait until he got out of his home district. The wind shushed around him, moving a few leftover leaves and discarded bits of paper.

It was almost dark by the time Pip left headquarters, he went home to sleep and ask Oliver to feed his fish while he was gone. Oliver promised to explain to their mom that Pip was on an important Post mission.

Bright and early the next morning, Pip set out with a sandwich, the envelope, the magnifier, and a sense of hope. Through the purple district he looked, then through the grey district. Finally he came to a corner where the next block had a green painted post. He'd never been further from home. Pip crossed the street into the green district, looking always for Bunny.

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