Start your writing week off right by asking: What happens when you accidentally open your neighbor's mail?

Unpacking the Package

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A package arrives at your home, and you open it.

Baffled at its contents, you turn it over and look at the label—it’s for your neighbor.

(Image: Suat Eman)

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5 thoughts on “Start your writing week off right by asking: What happens when you accidentally open your neighbor's mail?

  1. Martha W

    Wow, what a great group of stories! Sorry I’m a little late Zac!


    Her heart pounded as she stared out the window, watching the UPS guy grab a small box from the back. Her books.

    She brushed her light brown hair out of her face and rushed through the living room, opening the door as he knocked. He thrust the box at her and was gone before she could say thanks.

    Amy cradled the box to her chest, her one splurge this month. She was looking forward to the collection of Chekhov stories. Waltzing herself into the kitchen with her box as her partner, she danced her way to the drawer with the scissors. Fishing them out, she sliced the heavy tape open and parted the flaps with reverance.

    Lifting the paper stuffing from the box, she gasped. "No. No. Where’s my book?"

    She slapped the paper back in the box and flipped it over to see the shipping label. There had to be a mistake. And there was. It was for Vic, her neighbor. Her friend.

    But what would he need with a… she shook her head, refused to think why he would need such a thing. She folded the flaps and tucked the box under her arm, heading to his house.

    She should just knock and leave the box on his porch. Yep, she should do just that. But saying hi wouldn’t hurt. Just because she dreamed of him almost every night… that was no reason to panic over the box.

    A little shiver drifted up her spine. She knocked, too hard, too loud.

    The door swung open like he waited for her. "Amy?"

    "Hi Vic." She flipped the hand holding the box. "I got your package by mistake."

    Vic tilted his head to the side, his lips quirked up. "Why don’t you come inside."

    He stepped out and she noticed for the first time he only wore low slung jeans, the top button undone. His fingers wrapped around her arm. "C’mon."

    Amy’s breath escaped in a rush. "I don’t know."

    "I do." He snagged the box, steered her through the door.

    "Just for a minute."

    "Mmm." He eased her into a kitchen chair, placing the box in her lap. "Open the box again."

    She shook her head. "Oh no."

    "It’s yours."


    "Yeah. I’ve been trying for weeks to figure out how to get you over here. Out of that house." Vic knelt down, his hands on her trembling knees. He bridged the gap, kissed her right out of the blue. "You’re my friend, Amy. But that’s not all I want. Open the box."

    She stared at the outside, afraid to open it and see the Tiffany box again.

    "I’m getting a little worried here."

    "I’m, um, being a little dense today. You’re going to have to spell it out."

    He lips curled into a slow grin. "Fine. I love you. Marry me."

    Her racing heart slowed to match his easy calm. She smoothed her hand across his face. "Fine. I love you, too."

    And then she opened the box.

  2. Andrea

    As I arrive home from the elementary school pickup line, I spy a package by the front door. “Ah, my books are finally here from Amazon,” I think. I settle my first grader, Jeff, and his toddler brother, Kris, at the table with a snack.

    Eager to see my new books, I move to the living room and open the long-awaited for box. As I pull open the flaps, however, I’m baffled. This is definitely NOT my book order. As I peer under the layers of pink tissue paper, I’m shocked to find a juicy lingerie ensemble complete with sheer babydoll nightie and matching thong in my size! I did not order THIS. “Hhmm…,” I think. “Philip’s been busy ordering online again.” I grin with glee at my husband’s obvious intentions.

    As the kids munch away on graham crackers with peanut butter and bananas, I begin to devise a plan for the perfect at-home date night with my husband. We’ll make use of our enclosed back porch, relaxing to candlelight, while sipping champagne and feeding each other chocolate-covered strawberries. Evenings have been perfectly balmy lately in our central Florida home; I imagine a beautiful breeze gently caressing our skin. Just right for a midnight rendezvous.

    Smiling with the thought of such an adventure, I’m interrupted by Jeff. “What’s in the box, Mommy?” asks my ever-inquisitive older son. I quickly close the flaps. “Nothing for you,” I reply. “Now go back to the table and sit with you brother while he finishes his snack, please.” Meanwhile, I look down check to see where my husband ordered from. As I look for the expected Victoria’s Secret return address, I see that the intended recipient isn’t me at all. This box was for my recently divorced neighbor!

    Dismayed, my plans of a sexy evening alone with my husband quickly vanish, only to be replaced by my normal life: dishes, diapers, and drudgery. I realize quickly that I have a decision to make. If I give the box to its rightful owner, I have to admit opening the box and knowing what’s inside. If I keep the box, not only do I have to explain to Philip how we could afford something so wonderful, but live with the guilt of deception. Neither option is appealing!

    Somehow, my usually comforting “what would Jesus do” method of decision making only frustrates me. “Mommy we’re done. Can we go outside?” asks Jeff, quickly followed by Kris’s “YEAH!”. Well, it seems my quandary is tabled for a moment. Carrying the box to the bedroom to await a decision, I tell my boys to get their shoes on. Sometimes, decisions are best put to a slow simmer….

  3. Dorraine

    Zac, had some fun with this one! Thanks.

    Bagels verses Breakfast Tacos

    My lord it’s hot as boiled crawfish today. Well, I’ve got the back porch fan on, flying like the washer spin cycle. Yeah, I’m good. Gonna hang out back there and read The Alchemist. Robin, my buddy, said it would save me. I just love her to death. There’s a really huge, I mean intense decision me and Jay have to make; to move or stay put right here in Louisiana. I think that’s why she gave me the book. It’s got some hoody doody crap about pyramid treasure.
    Anyhoo, hubby got offered a real good job in Boston, and I just wouldn’t fit in. Those northerners talk fast. And eat tons of bagels. Just give me breakfast tacos and don’t talk while I eat. I’m not a dramatic person, but what the heck?

    My dog, Joe Joe starts yapping at the portly squirrel hanging upside down from my bird feeder, sucking up the bird seed. Oh, I know that one. He’s a regular. Opening the window, I grab a wooden pear from a bowl of fake fruit. I fling it hard and scream, “Get outta there!” The pear hits the squirrel hard on the noggin and he hits the ground stunned, me cheering like a maniac. And he’s back up. And he’s off. Nothing phases that thing. I’m gonna have to sell Twinkies and beer on the corner to pay for bird seed.

    Outside, barefoot, I check my mail. I’ve got the cell phone to my ear because my friend Chico is buzzing about hair issues-the humidity here makes his hair frizz. It’s an extra frizzy day…yada, yada. So I grab the mail and say a quiet whee-ee-ee when I see this big envelope. Back inside I rip into the package as Chico tells me he’s buying new anti-frizz shampoo at Wal-Mart. At this very moment.

    I pull two dolls from the envelope. Blinking, I shut my eyes and open them again. Wide-eyed I study the one with a braid down her back, like mine, and the name Karen stitched on her sun-dress. Hey, I have a sun-dress like that. And hey, my name is Karen.

    “Um, I have to go now, Chico. No, it’s not you, really. I feel sick.” He is protesting as I click off.

    I look at the other doll- slick black hair, brown beaded eyes and a dimpled chin. That’s a creepy version of Jay. Now, I’m a Cajun girl and I know when I’m looking at voodoo dolls.

    I throw the dolls on the table and with shaky hands flip the package over. In black sharpie are the names, ALLEN AND SUZANNE BOUDROUX, our older neighbors. I’ve never cared much for them but I’ve always been nice.

    Sitting on the floor with my head between my hands, I’m thinking these people are nuts. And what did we ever do to them? Now Jay does let Joe Joe go over on their front yard and poop. But he doesn’t do it on purpose. The dog just runs over there.

    Hubby got home early after my phone call. I wasn’t dramatic. I just said come home early. When he walked through the door, I squeezed him hard and said, “Darlin’, we’re going to be eating lots of bagels.”

  4. Mandy

    The nap had been overly optimistic. Although she couldn’t imagine who would be on her doorstep at 2:30 in the afternoon (didn’t people work anymore), Fletcher was clearly eager to find out. Of course, Fletcher was eager about everything. That seemed to be part of what it meant to be a dog. Emily was pondering all of this as she straightened her t-shirt, finger combed her hair and pattered down the hall towards the front door and all of the barking. When she opened the door, much to Fletcher’s slack-eared dismay, there was no one on the porch. There was however, a brown UPS truck paused at the stop sign that seemed to suggest that a glance downward would be likely to solve the mystery. Yup, there it was. A small brown box waited patiently for her notice.

    Bending down to collect it and ushering Fletcher back in the house, she wondered what was inside. They had moved into the house only last week and the “We’ve Moved” postcards that she’d finally convinced Jeff were quite practical and not silly at all, still sat on the kitchen table. She couldn’t think of anyone but the real estate agent who would know the street address. It was surprising, but surprises could be fun and she felt a flutter of expectation as she slid the knife beneath the brown line of packing tape.

    Maybe it was Jeff, sending a little something special to his bride in their new home. Pushing back the cardboard edges, her breath caught. What? Was this what it looked like it was? Rifling through the packing materials for a better look, she suddenly hoped with a kind of desperation that this package was not from her new husband. In that moment, everything her Mother had ever said about the dangers of internet dating suddenly filled her ears. “You’ve only known him for four months, What do you really know about a person from email, Emily do you really think this is a good idea?” All of it flooded back and spun through her head until she thought she wouldn’t be able to catch her breath.

    The faces of the smiling women on the cover of that book, their bodies situated in an awkward ring around the lone man at their center, unsettled her. She could see a strangely vacant presence behind their eyes, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The horror of the package lay in the words stamped earnestly below them. “Polygamy Works: Women Speaking to Women”. What was Jeff thinking? Fumbling through the pile on the counter for her cell phone, the better to confront her new husband immediately with, the writing on the box caught her attention.

    Ned Wortherly. This package was intended for Ned Wortherly. Ned Wortherly was not her husband. It seemed likely that he was somebody’s husband and Emily felt a momentary twinge for whoever she was, but suddenly this was no longer her problem. Sure, she had to figure out a way to get this cargo to Ned and that was sure to be an awkward new neighbor introduction, but she would deal with that later. After a nap.

  5. Mark James

    The minute I heard knocking, I knew something was wrong. My delivery was so late, it wasn’t coming and I didn’t know any of my neighbors.

    “What?” I said through my door.

    “I have your mail.”

    I opened the door. Somebody’s kid. “I don’t get mail.”

    She held out a box. “This gun was outside my door. It has my dad’s name and your apartment on it.”

    I looked up and down the hall. “You tell anyone else about it?”

    She rolled her eyes at me. “You mean like my dad, the lawyer? Yeah. I went down to his office and asked if he wanted to call the cops before I brought your gun over.”

    I leaned against my door, crossed my arms over my chest. “I didn’t know ‘Smart Mouth’ was a subject in school now.”

    She leaned the other way, her hands and my box behind her. “It’s summer. I’m doing it on Independent Study.”

    When I heard myself, I tried to remember the last time I’d laughed like that. I couldn’t. "Can I have it?“

    “Who sent you that in the mail?”

    “Do you wake up asking questions?”

    “Only when I don’t know what’s for breakfast.” She handed over the box. "How come it came with the wrong bullets?"

    I knew I should have taken it and just let her go, but I hadn’t talked to someone who wasn’t afraid of me in a long time. “What do you usually get in the mail, kits from Junior Spies R Us?”

    She tried to see past me. “I don’t get real guns.”

    So far, I’d been lucky. Nobody was hearing Westside Lake’s answer to Nancy Drew grill me. “Why don’t you come in? All that talking must be making you thirsty.”

    “I’m not coming in there. Look what you just got in the mail.”

    At least she didn’t say ‘gun’ out loud again. “It’s a gift.”

    “You must think kids are pretty dumb.”

    I knew grown-ups a lot dumber. “Why’s that?”

    She tapped at her head. “Cause nobody gets guns through the mail. Unless you’re a terrorist.”

    First ‘gun’, now ‘terrorist’. Better to get her inside. “I do some acting. It’s a prop.”

    “A prop with a firing pin?”

    My mouth almost fell open. “What did you say your dad does?”

    “Before he gets drunk at night or after?”

    “Look, there’s nothing bad in here.” I moved so she could see the small kitchen behind me. “Cold Coke in the fridge.”

    She went by real slow, didn’t take her eyes off me. “I can scream pretty loud.”

    I shut the door. “If not, you can always cross-examine me till I surrender and let you out.”

    “Those weren’t cross-examination questions. I wasn’t asking you to admit anything.”

    Oh no. When I did a job, I never got a name, just a description and a photo. Her dad. A lawyer, a drunk; in trouble with the wrong people for saying the wrong things.

    “How come you’re looking at me like that?” she said.

    “Just wondering if you like long car rides.”

    “That’s so lame. We’re twelve stories up. Cops make it over the bridge in two minutes flat. How would you get me out of the building with me screaming all the way?”

    Give you a drink of something I shouldn’t have and take you down the back stairs. “You like your Coke over ice?”