- Fabula Argentea - https://www.fabulaargentea.com -

THE PEACEFUL PLACE by Saket Badola

It is a cold world, but I had to drive through it. Pennsylvania grey enveloped my car as the hard, wet rain spat on my windshield. I followed the winding road as it cut through the forest. I rubbed my tired eyes and struggled to stay awake. I’d driven through the night and wondered what time of day it was. In winter, sometimes you can’t tell the difference between morning and evening; it seemed like I hadn’t slept in days. It was the tired time of day, and I was barely holding on. I was on one of those endless road trips, where I couldn’t remember where I was coming from or where I was going.

Beyond the cold and the trees were the dark beady eyes of the world, a world which would give jackals their prey but slap a beggar man’s face. I eased on the brake and took the next exit off the highway. It led to a muddy, one-lane road. On the left side of the road, there was a long patch of dark-green wild grass interrupted only by a gas station. The tarmac of the gas station was wet from the rain. The attendant was asleep, his head resting on the counter. He probably hadn’t seen a customer all day. On the right side of the road was a diner. It had a flat roof, white walls, and blue trim around the edge of its windows. The diner was at the foothills, and behind it I could see trees and jagged rocks rise to the top of the hill. In front of the diner, across the street, was the gas station and beyond it was the highway.

I parked my car in the diner’s small lot. As I stepped onto the asphalt, a sharp, familiar pain shot up through my lower neck to the top of my skull. I’d gotten out of the car too fast, so I stopped and steadied myself. I had to let the pain pass before I took the next step. I knew if the pain stayed, it would cause a migraine, and the migraine could last for hours—even cause a blackout. I took a deep breath and stood still… the pain passed. As a teenager, I was an aspiring boxer, and in those tough years I’d taken one too many blows to the head—injuries revisiting me now that I was in my fifties. The cold wind hit me hard on the face and puffed up my jacket. I pulled the hood over my head as the rain slicked my hair and the wind whistled in my ears.

I walked into the diner. There was a white Formica counter surrounded by red stools, and the tiled floor was black and white. Red vinyl booths lined up underneath the windows on opposite walls. A family sat in one of the booths, an old man in another, and what looked like a few locals at the counter.

A tall, lanky cook with sandy-blond hair attentively stood at the hissing grill, flipping burgers. He was a teenager, and this must have been his first job. He flipped those burgers with an enthusiasm only a sixteen-year-old could muster. He was dressed in dark slacks and a white T-shirt, wrapped by a blue-and-white checked apron.

I walked to the counter and sat on a stool next to the locals. A waitress walked over to me holding a pot of coffee in one hand and a laminated menu in the other. She had long, red hair and was wearing a light-green, one-piece uniform. She had playful, hazel eyes, perfect eyebrows with long, beautiful eyelashes. She flashed a bright, life-affirming smile that could make a man fall in love and said, “Hello, I’m Emma. Can I get you some coffee?”

I nodded and said, “Yes, please. Black, no sugar.”

“So, what brings you to our little town?” she said, offering a menu.

“Just passing through. I’m on one of those long drives.”

“Well, I’m glad you came,” Emma said and poured coffee into a cup for me.

As I sipped my coffee, Emma turned to see if the other customers needed anything. As she walked away, I watched her flowing, long red hair. My mother had long, beautiful red hair like that. Unfortunately, my mother’s red hair also came with the permanent stench of whiskey on her breath and a cutting remark on her lips. My father, however, was more of a beer-and-fist-fight kind of guy. After he was done working at the bar, he’d come home and drink three six-packs, get nice and toasty, and then the beatings would begin.

As a young man, my father, Edwin Sr., was a Golden Gloves champ, but the booze got the best of him. By the time he was thirty, Senior was overweight and working at Doyle’s Bar, where the regulars wanted “Champ” to regale them with glory stories of his has-been fights. By the time he was thirty-five, no one remembered his claim to fame, so Senior would head home and take out his anger on me. In our crummy patch of backyard grass, he’d “train” me to be a fighter. With boxing gloves in our makeshift ring, we’d go 15 rounds—meaning he’d beat me, while my sister Ruth, who played the regal part of audience, was forced to sit on our backyard bench and watch.

I don’t know how long I’d been staring a hole in my coffee. I put some sugar in it and stirred. I took a sip. It was cold. I hated recalling the past, as only dark memories swirled. And now, there was only my dead father, senile mother, distant sister, one too many “boxing-related” hospital visits, and a long line of odd jobs, plus no wife and no real home. I tried religion, God knows I tried, but it wasn’t for me. I figured there was a God that could reach out to me and help me, but I didn’t know how to make that happen.

The diner doors opened, a young couple walked in, and I felt the rush of warm and welcoming air, which was odd since it was cold outside. On the stool to my right, sat a short, heavyset man with dark hair and a beard. He had on an Eagle’s cap and grease-stained blue overalls. He had thick, rough hands, and the skin around his knuckles was dry and peeling. He chewed loudly as he ate steak and eggs and talked to the waitress.

While I read the menu, Emma looked over at the man in the overalls and said, “Bob, what do you mean, you can’t drive to Point Pleasant? It’s next to the highway, and I see it every day on my way to work.”

Bob shoveled more food in his mouth and said, “I’m telling you, Emma. I’ve asked everyone, and no one has ever been to Point Pleasant, and no one knows what road will take you there.”

“Well, it’s right there!” She pointed out the diner window to a neighborhood of homes nestled in the forest on the other side of the highway. She continued, unfazed, “It’s close to the Grove Street exit on Highway 101.”

Bob slurped his coffee and said with some frustration, “Yah, I know that, Emma. If you’re driving on 101 and you take the Grove Street exit, you should see an entrance to Point Pleasant, but you don’t. You drive ’til you get to the lake. On the other side of Point Pleasant, you’ve got Birch Street. Birch starts at the highway and ends at the lake, but there’s no road connecting it to Point Pleasant.”

Emma removed a pencil stuck behind her ear and raised a notepad to take my order. While I studied the menu, Emma countered, “There has to be some street that enters Point Pleasant.” She pointed at Bob and said, “You can see it has those nice houses that have been there for a hundred years. They’re people living there, and they’ve gotta get in and out somehow.”

“Emma,” Bob said as he leaned back and pushed his plate away. “You’ve lived in this town all your life. You ever been there? Know anyone who’s been there or lived there?”

Emma gazed longingly out the window at Point Pleasant, pondering this. There was a lull in the conversation, and you could hear the rain pelting against the windowpane and the howl of the wind whirling around the secluded diner.

Bob continued with more than a hint of satisfaction, “I thought so. At Douglas High’s twenty-year reunion, a group of us were talking and the conversation turned to Point Pleasant. Same thing… no one knows how to get there. No one’s ever met a person who lives there. It has all those nice homes, manicured gardens, luxury cars in the driveways. You can even see people on the streets of Point Pleasant from across the highway, but you never see ’em here in town.”

Bob took out a ten-dollar bill from his wallet and tossed it on the counter. He got off the stool, adjusted his hat, picked up his jacket, and said, “Well, I gotta go. Anyway, Emma, think about it.”

Emma refilled my coffee. I sipped it and it was soothing, and the warm cup eased my arthritis. I looked hard at Point Pleasant to see what the fuss was about. It was a neighborhood of a few dozen homes. They were Old-World style that reminded me of houses I’d seen in small Italian villages. Each roof was tiled with red bricks, and each house was painted a different color red, blue or green. Each was constructed of stone—none of that prefab nonsense. Thick walls for small, beautiful homes. The homes had large oak doors and sat regally in dark-green, lush lawns. The streets were colored gold, which was an odd choice, but it made the neighborhood looked regal.

The neighborhood seemed built by seasoned artisanal hands, with rich, quiet money. Each building complemented the other and together formed an integrated whole. Neither one tile nor stone were out of place, not one jot nor tittle, as though the whole neighborhood was the creation of one mind that conceived it in its entirety before laying down a stone.

I felt a peace come over me as l viewed the neighborhood and wondered what was unique about this place. Yes, it didn’t look like the neighborhoods I’d driven by. Yes, it was more beautiful, but there was still something else. I thought about it for a few minutes and realized what it was: it was the colors. The homes had been painted brighter than anything I’d ever seen. The red was redder than a field of cherries, the blue had hues I hadn’t seen in any ocean, and the green was greener than a lush, moist lawn. I looked again, and yes, it was subtle, but it was there. The colors were unlike anything made by man or nature. Also, from a distance, the streets, oddly, seemed dry, while it was pouring rain. The whole neighborhood looked bright, like it had its own private sunshine. It had the brightness of a shimmering rainbow on a soft spring day. Yet, the sky was slate grey, and the sun hadn’t been out all day. It wasn’t something you would notice unless you were paying attention, but I was paying attention.

Emma was right. There were people walking about. I saw an older, black woman crossing the street with a boy—her grandson, maybe. She seemed peaceful, and so did the child. He was holding her hand as they crossed to the park. She walked upright with a swift and fluid motion. She showed none of the afflictions of old age. The boy held his head upright. It was strange, as if he’d escaped the distractions of youth.

“So, you see it too,” Emma said, as she refilled my coffee cup.

I snapped out of my thoughts and looked up at her.

“I saw you staring at Point Pleasant,” she said with a smile. “I do the same thing every day. There’s just something about it. Every time I’m having a rough day, I just look at it, and I feel a calm come over me.”

“I know what you mean. What do you think makes it special?”

She thought about it as she placed a hand on her hip and stuck a pencil above her ear. “I think it’s the people in the neighborhood. They seem prayed up. It’s like they’ve got Zoe life.”

I rubbed my temple as the pain flared and said, “Zoe life? What’s that?”

She looked into my eyes and said, “Zoe life is the life of God—the very stuff God is made of. It’s like, you know, the essence of the universe.”

I sighed as the pain passed and replied, “Well, those people certainly have something.”

“So, you want anything to eat, hon?”

“No thanks. I’m good. Is it true you’ve never met anyone from Point Pleasant? They’ve never come to the diner?”

She thought about it and slowly shook her head. “You know, I never thought about it ’til today, but no, I’ve never spoken to any of them.”

“Has anyone?”

Placing the rubber tip of the pencil between her lips, she contemplated. Then, with her eyes she gestured at an old man sitting in a booth. “That’s Earl. He’s lived in these parts forever. He knows everyone. If anyone knows someone from Point Pleasant, it’ll be him. You might go over and talk to him. He’s real friendly.”

I looked at Earl—a fella right out central casting. Earl was likely in his eighties, but with a lean physique that looked hard as flint. He sat upright with the posture of a drill sergeant. His white-smoke grey hair was buzz-cut short and each strand stood at attention. Yet, he had light-blue, friendly eyes and a thin smile even eating breakfast alone. He was wearing a black tracksuit with a white, horizontal stripe and a vintage Ace Hardware cap that would’ve fetched a few hundred bucks on eBay. Not that Earl would know anything about vintage caps or eBay. He’d probably paid ten cents for that cap in the early sixties and complained about the high-ticket price. Before him was a plate of pancakes and Earl had smothered them with an obscenely thick layer of butter and syrup. He had sliced those pancakes into regimented pieces and was about to pounce on ’em… an old-time marine on a mission, the kind that carry shrapnel in their knees. But he struck me as the kind that liked to talk, so I walked over and introduced myself. “Hi, Earl is it? My name’s Edwin. I hear you’ve lived in this town all your life.”

Earl looked me up and down, sized me up good, and then, offered his hand and a firm handshake. “Sit down, son. Yes, my famly and me been in these parts of Pensivanya for nearly a hunnert and fifty years.”

I sat down in the booth opposite Earl and said, “I wanna know about the history of this place, and Emma said you’d be the man to know.”

“Yea, that’s about right. My great-grandpa came here from Ireland. Came to town right off the boat and worked as a farmhand. My famly been here since.”

“Earl, Emma and I were talking about Point Pleasant. She said she’d never met a person from that place. In fact, she said that none of the locals have. Have you ever met anyone from Point Pleasant?”

Earl looked me up and down again with his piercing green eyes. I sensed he aimed to divulge something important and was assessing if I was worth his time.

He pointed at the highway outside the diner and said, “Back when I was a little boy, 101 was just a two-lane dirt road. That was back in the forties, and I remember Point Pleasant being right there.” Earl pointed at the enchanting neighborhood. “’Twas just as beautiful and bright back then as now. In fact, ain’t changed one bit. As a boy, I worked at my famly’s car garage over there.” He pointed to a rusted tin shack right across the 101 highway from Point Pleasant. “My father and grandfather were mechanics, and so was I,” he said with a flicker of pride. “Anyway, the shop’s gone now. Grandpa bought it back in 1905. My father took over the garage, and eventually, so did I. So, my famly has known about Point Pleasant for over a hunnert years.” Earl continued, “Every day we’d see folks going about their lives, walking the streets of Point Pleasant. And we never met dos people in town and no place else.”

I looked at Point Pleasant again and back at Earl, “Never?” Earl shook his head, no. “And it’s always looked like that?”

“You mean the color? Yeah, it’s a little too bright, ain’t it? You don’t see that kinda color no place. When I was a boy, Pa and Grandpa tried to get that kinda color. They mixed up a bunch of paints at home, and they couldn’t get a red that red, and they worked at it. It became my famly’s pet project, and that’s me being polite. Some say we was obsessed with that place.”

“How do you explain that color? Any of the other old-timers have theories?”

He shook his head as he poured sugar in his coffee. “If by ol’-timers you mean folks in town or the Dutch, then the answer is no. It’s strange, but most of ’em don’t even notice Point Pleasant unless you point it out to ’em. Look, my great-grandpa was a farmer in these parts. And before him, the Indians been in these parts for hunnerts of years. Grandpa said the Indians he knew told him that the peaceful place—that’s what they called it—had been here as far back as they could remember. In fact, during the French and Indian War back in the 1700s, both French and British soldiers saw a beautiful village with bright buildings in the thick of the forest, in the middle of no place. But no ones could figure out how to enter the place, and since they were busy fighting a war, they stopped trying.”

With that, Earl, stuck his fork in another piece of pancake, raised it to his mouth, and bit into it. I gave him a minute and said, “You really think the soldiers found Point Pleasant?”

Earl looked out the window at Point Pleasant and took a long, deep breath. He seemed to breathe in life itself looking at that place. Then, he shifted his gaze to me and replied, “When I was a boy, maybe six, my grandma and I went to lower Pensivanya to visit relatives. We stayed all summer. We’d go to town fairs, go on river cruises, things like that. Anyway, in dos parts, they’ve got ol’ caves in the mountains. One Sunday, Grandma and I spent the entire day exploring dos caves with a guide. The guide said Indians had lived in dos caves for fifteen-thousand years. He showed us all these Indian paintings on the cave walls. Most of ’em were pretty boring for a boy who’d been to the movies, but one of ’em caught my eye. It was a small village smack in the middle of a forest. It stopped me stone cold. It was Point Pleasant.

We both looked at Point Pleasant and said nothing for a while.

“Earl, did you ever try going to Point Pleasant?”

He laughed, “Me and Pa spent an entire summer vacation trying to get there. We’d cross the highway, get close, and next thing we knew, we were behind Point Pleasant next to the lake or someplace. Or we’d try going through the woods from one side or another and we’d get hopelessly lost in the woods. So, yeah, we tried all right.”

“Do you know anyone who’s been there?” I asked.

“The Indians told Grandpa that the tribes always had a pathfinder who knew how to get in and out of the village. But the Indians believed that Point Pleasant was a sacred place, and the pathfinder was a holy man, so they never asked him no questions about it. In fact, when they told Grandpa stories about Point Pleasant, they always whispered.”

“Is there anyone like that now who goes back and forth?”

“When I was a young boy, every now and then, I saw the mailman walking the streets of Point Pleasant.”

“The mailman?”

“Yes, Barrett the mailman. Pa asked Barrett how he got there. He said he just drove to it on Grove Street, and in a flash, he’d be inside the neighborhood. We tried same, but of course we couldn’t get in. “One winter day, right here at this diner, Pa bullied Barrett into driving us there. Barrett didn’t wanna, but Pa told him to, ‘Cut it with the chit chat. Quit jaggin’ around and take us now!’”

I leaned in and said, “What happened? Did you get there?”

“Well, Pa was sitting next to Barrett in the mail truck, and I was sitting on Pa’s lap. We were driving down Grove and in front of us was the lake, and to our left was the forest and beyond that was Point Pleasant. Barrett turned his truck to the forest. I thought he’d found a dirt road that cut through the trees to Point Pleasant, but I knew such a road dint exist. In a flash, Barrett and the truck were transported to Point Pleasant and me and Pa were in the middle of the lake, behind Point Pleasant. ’Twas the middle of winter. The lake was nearly frozen, and me and Pa were floating in it. Thank the Lord we knew how to swim. We swam hard to shore. As we got close to the bank, I got tired and Pa had to grab the neck of my shirt and pull me. By the time we gotta the bank, I was unconscious. I’d hypothermia and Pa dragged me out the water. Some townsfolk helped rush me to the hospital. Boy, was it cold. I nearly died.”

Earl pushed the plate of pancakes back and continued, “In a couple two-three days, I came home from the hospital, but I just wasn’t right. I’d be in the dry, warm living room, looking out the winda at the falling snow, and I’d start to shake hard. I’d take long hot baths to stop the shakes. I’m sure ’twas all just in my head, but it went on for weeks. After that, Pa and me, we never spoke to Barrett again. We never asked him about Point Pleasant or nothing. In fact, Pa and me, well my entire famly, we never talked about Point Pleasant again.” Earl stared at the wall; his taut cheeks and strained neck muscles told me the memory was still fresh.

“Barrett still around?”

Earl sipped his coffee as though he wanted to wash away memories of the ice-cold lake. “Nah, he left a while back. Since then, we got ourselves another mailman. His name is Boone.” He lowered his cup and looked at me, “Actually, Boone eats lunch, right here, at this diner. If you wait half an hour, you can chit chat with him.” Earl looked at his watch and said, “Look, I gotta go. Me and the wife are walking a 5K this weekend and I gotta train with her. She’s a strict woman, and she gets upset when I’m late.”

With that, Earl rose. “Whatever you do, don’t ask Boone to drive you to Point Pleasant or nothing like that.”

I got up, shook Earl’s hand. “Thanks for the advice, Earl. I’ll just talk to him.”

I ordered lunch and waited for Boone. By the time I finished my burger and pie, a mail truck drove into the lot and parked. The mailman got out of the truck, slung his mail bag over his shoulder and walked in with a proverbial spring in his step.

He looked to be in his mid-forties, was of medium height and build, and had a beard and a tan. His carefree, green eyes scanned the diner and his smile revealed the whitest teeth I’d ever seen. He walked up to the counter next to me, placed his mailbag on the counter, and sat down on the adjacent stool.

He considered me with his lively eyes and said, “So, you’re here to see me, right?”

“Yes,” I hesitated. “How’d you know?”

“I just know these things. Enough about me, how was your journey? Driving through Pennsylvania, right?”

“Well, yes. Wait—how’d you know that?”

“You’ve been asking about Point Pleasant, and I’m the mailman for Point Pleasant. Anyone that comes into its orbit comes into mine.”

Emma placed a plate of fried chicken and a glass of soda in front of Boone. She smiled and said, “Your usual, Boone.”

“Thanks, Emma,” he eyed the food hungrily, “Boy, I do love the food in this diner. There are seven diners in this area, and I’ve eaten in every one. This is easily the best.”

He poured hot sauce on the chicken, picked up a piece, and bit into it. He was busy with his food, so I waited. He finished his first piece of chicken, put it on his plate, and took a long sip of soda. Satiated, Boone’s shoulders dropped, and he leaned back.

Knowing this was my chance I said, “How long have you been doing this? I mean, how long have you been the mailman for Point Pleasant?”

He looked up from his plate and said, “Around forty years.”

Forty years!” I said, surprised. “You don’t look that old.”

“Well, I’m that old,” he said with a smile. “It’s Point Pleasant. It keeps you young. But, you knew that.”

“Yes, I suspected. Everyone there seems to have life. Emma called it Zoe life.”

He chuckled. “Yes, that’s right. Emma likes the word ‘Zoe.’ It’s a Greek word. Did you know that?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yup. It means the absolute fullness of life.” He smiled again. “Did you know when I realized that?” He picked up his second piece of chicken.

“When?”

“On my first day as the mailman here. At the post office, I loaded the mail truck and started my route. It was a summer’s day, the sun was sunny, the breeze was breezy, and the town was pleasant, no pun intended.”

He beamed, in love with his joke, and continued, “My first stop was the library and from there I drove downtown and delivered mail to the mom-and-pop shops. Then, I drove to the neighborhoods close to downtown and delivered mail to the red-brick houses. You should come with me; it’s quite scenic. I was about done with my shift and the last place I needed to go was called Point Pleasant. The guy I took over from, Barrett, pointed to Point Pleasant on the map and said ‘This is Disneyworld. It’s the greatest place on earth.’ He said that and laughed. I could tell it was a special place, but I’d no idea how special. So, I was driving up to Point Pleasant, but I couldn’t find a road in. I figured the map was wrong and had to drive around looking for a way to enter. I drove around it again and again, and about the seventh time, a portal opened in the middle of the road, and Bam! I drove through it. Next thing I knew, I was in Point Pleasant.

He put down the chicken, “You know, it’s actually a small neighborhood—just thirty-six houses. From the diner it looks big, but it isn’t. I mean, for just thirty-six houses it’s big, but it only has one street. The whole mail route takes just an hour.”

I wanted to ask him about the portal, but I chose to play it cool. “So, who lives in those houses?”

He raised his eyebrows, lowered his voice, and said, “That’s where it gets interesting. There are thirty-six people there, each with their own house. They live there sometimes a few days, sometimes a few hundred years, and then they move to another realm. And the day they move, another person arrives to live there.”

Did he just say a few hundred years? A barrage of questions shot through my mind, but, again, I played it cool, “Who’re those people?”

Boone pushed his plate aside and sipped his soda. “Have you heard of the old Jewish legend of the thirty-six tzadikim?”

I must have had a blank look on my face, because Boone nodded and continued, “A tzadikim is a particularly good person. And by that I don’t mean like Aunt Sue who was a decent, kind soul you’d confide in. I mean people so good, the light of their soul lights the entire world. I mean people so good that their goodness upholds the world, and without them the world would plunge into utter darkness. That’s what it means to be a tzadikim. Jewish legend has it that at any given time there are thirty-six such people in the entire world, and if even one’s removed, the world will come undone. There’s a battle between good and evil and the tzadikim tip the balance in favor of good. If just one’s missing, the balance falls to evil, and next thing you know, the moon turns blood red, the sky turns ash dark, stars fall from the sky, and men destroy men.”

An eerie silence ensued; then, he continued, “I’m being metaphorical about the moon, the sky, and the stars—not about men destroying men. Things like the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide and Communism occur when we don’t have all thirty-six tzadikim.

“These thirty-six tzadikim live in Point Pleasant?”

“Yes.” Boon nodded. “Since they’re precious, they’re separated from the rest of humanity. Legend calls them the hidden righteous. During their life, no one, including them, knows how special they are. Then, when innocent people face disaster or persecution, a tzadikim emerges from obscurity to save them. But the tzadikim always return to obscurity because they’re the hidden righteous. At the end of their life, all thirty-six come together in a secret place and work together to save the world.”

“Is that why no one can get to Point Pleasant?”

“Exactly. Only one person goes to Point Pleasant, and that’s, well, me—the mailman.” He said this with mirth of a child.

“As a mailman for Point Pleasant, what do you do?”

“I go each week to pick up their mail,” Boon said, pointing to his mailbag. “Look in the bag and you’ll see.”

I peered inside and saw plain white envelopes.

“I get one envelope from each tzadikim every week.”

“What’s in those envelopes?” I questioned, eager for him to continue.

“Goodness. The light of the world is in each envelope. I take these envelopes from Point Pleasant, then travel to thirty-six fields around the world, and let the goodness out. It flows into the fields, pollinates the flowers, and multiplies itself.”

“See, once I enter Point Pleasant, I park my truck, open each house’s mailbox, and get the letter. Then, I enter the house of the tzadikim. I’m not sure where the tzadikim is… the house is always empty. Next, I enter the backyard. There, I’m transported to a perfectly quiet and empty field in a remote place. I open the envelope and flecks of iridescent light glide out like shimmering, blue-and-purple June bugs in the midnight hour and disperse over the vast field. Then, the entire field sparkles with the brightest colors you’ve ever seen. The field looks like, well, like the bright homes of Point Pleasant, and the colors start singing. And it’s music you’ve never heard. The music fades and I’m transported to the backyard of the tzadikim. I repeat this thirty-six times, once for each home, and drive home. Some days, a few flecks of shimmering light follow me home and they sing to me. I’m telling you, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

“How do the thirty-six get to Point Pleasant?

“If you live an exceptionally good life, you have too much lifeforce in you to pass, at the end of your life, this force carries you to Point Pleasant.”

And with that, Boone stopped speaking. I shifted my gaze to my hands, then the table, and said. “I’d like to see it. Will you take me there?”

He smiled and nodded.

I felt a rush of hope rise in my heart—a feeling lost long ago. “How do we get there?”

“Every week, I drive to Point Pleasant, and switch realms mid-drive. I call it a portal, but really, I don’t know how it happens. I think I travel between two worlds, and next thing I know, I’m in Point Pleasant.” Boon looked at me. “We’ll drive together. You’ll see.”

“I won’t end up in the lake?” I replied with a wide grin.

“No.” He laughed—a deep, hearty laugh. “The mailman never ends up in the lake.”

“What’d you do before you became the mailman?”

“I think I came from another place, another world. I was driving on 101, came to this diner and met the previous mailman. It was time for him to return to the world he came from. Long story short, he gave me the job.”

“And you just accepted?” I asked.

“I knew it was my destiny, so I took the job and have been doing it since.”

Then, his twinkling green eyes caught my gaze. “Look, it’s time for me to return to the place I came from. And that’s why you’re here.”

What?” I asked.

“You know you’re the next mailman, right?”

I just stared at him, yet he continued, “Think about it. Normal people remember their immediate past. You, however, are coming from nowhere and going nowhere, and here is the only thing you can remember.”

“I can’t be. I’m on a road trip. I’m driving to… uh…” I hesitated. I knew I was on a road trip. I knew I was going somewhere. But where? I could not recall my destination. “I mean, I started my road trip from…” I faltered.

I knew I hadn’t slept in a while, and I’d been driving through the night—maybe even the night before and the one before that. But the last thing I remembered before the drive was working at the bar in Boston and I hadn’t worked there in decades, and I couldn’t remember anything in my immediate past.

He smiled. “So, you realize you’re the mailman.”

I didn’t say anything.

“Do you know why you were chosen?”

I shook my head.

He nodded slowly and said, “Because you lived a lifetime of pain… pain caused by other people. You have experienced little goodness in your life. You know how important it is.”

He continued. “Look at the envelopes, then you will know that it’s you.”

I stared into the mail pouch. The envelopes were so clean, so pure, so beautiful.

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AUTHOR BIO:

I am a computer programmer, working on statistical analysis for clinical trials of investigational oncology compounds. I live in Maryland with my family. Previously, my work has been published in Fiction on the web and Ariel Chart.

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WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “The Peaceful Place”:

We liked author Saket Badola’s piece because not only does it give a rather unique view of the world, but it’s also an uplifting piece. We felt that Saket Badola’s theme here was appropriate as well for this time of year. And we loved the unexpected ending.