(The Refrain)

by Ron Williams


Informed by recent headlines concerning the U. S. Postal Service’s ongoing economic crisis, this story details the work-a-day activities in a postal facility, as its workers struggle to provide reliable customer and delivery services in competition with the rise of the Internet. However, the focus is on one well-meaning but disturbed postal worker combating the intimidations of a malicious supervisor, while battling his own inner demon.

Hector Soto, a U.S. postal worker with a fifteen-year career as a mail carrier, abruptly finds himself dismissed from his duties by a malicious, manipulative manager rumored to be having an affair with his wife, Myra. When he attempts to confront Myra, a violent exchange ensues, and she bans him from their home by court order. Now, brooding in his rented studio apartment, he reminisces through the collection of diaries he began as a boy, when abused by his domineering father, when his only friend and confidant had been a G.I. Joe action figure. At first, his G.I. Joe (his alter ego) had spoken to him in his thoughts, until one day, shockingly it materialized to advise him face to face.

Joe had faded from Hector’s life when he became a teen, but has returned, inducing disturbing hallucinations and urgings of murderous wrath. Soon, Joe rematerializes as a ghostly phantom warrior, taunting Hector with Myra’s infidelity and her conspiracy to take his beloved daughter from him. Despite Hector’s efforts to resists, he finds himself succumbing to Joe’s dark counsel.