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A Parcel of Utmost Importance

“Excuse me! Excuse me, miss.” Theodore Elliot III called, tripping over his luggage and too-long pant legs. The woman halted, glancing skyward before turning her attention to the bumbling fool of a man chasing after her. 

“How can I help you, sir?” 

“The train is leaving,” he wheezed, clearly not used to the slightest excursion. 

“It would appear so, sir,” the stationmaster said, pivoting on her heel to make her escape. It should be noted that her shift had ended approximately thirty-seven seconds ago. The train’s horn blared as it, too, made to flee.

“You don’t understand. I must return this. It is of the utmost importance that it is delivered today,” Theodore said, waving a parcel in the air. The stationmaster stared blankly, apparently not privy to the seriousness of this affair. 

“Perhaps you should have arrived on time then,” she said, trying to grasp what little professionalism remained in her demeanor. Theodore huffed. 

“I most certainly did! The train leaves every hour on the fifteenth minute and tenth second. I arrived at precisely 5:15:07,” he bellowed. 

“Yes, well, the train doors must close five minutes before it leaves. Those five minutes are reserved for passengers to settle and the crew to check tickets. Once the doors are closed, they will not be reopened until they reached the next station,” the woman sighed as if she recited these exact words at least twelve times a day.

But then it struck him.

The next station.

That’s it! 

Without so much as a goodbye, Theodore dashed up the stairs and out the station, waving for a taxi. If he was quick enough, he’d be able to reach the next station before it departed, and then he’d be back on schedule.

Now, if only he could hail a damn taxi.

When one finally rolled to the curb, it wasn’t Theodore it stopped in front of, no, it was a dashing young couple.

Desperation was a wild thing, at least, that’s what Theodore would say. He pushed the man into the woman, sending them both careening towards the ground.

“Pardon me,” he hollered as he threw his luggage into the trunk and launched himself into the back seat, locking it just in time for the young man to bang an angry fist on the window.

“Hello,” Theodore said to the driver. “ Milano Station, please.” The driver merely shrugged and pulled into traffic.

And traffic it was.

Cars inched and stopped, horns blared and people shouted. Apparently, everyone was in a particular hurry today.

“This is a highway, not a damn parking lot!”

When five minutes had passed and still, they hadn’t moved, Theodore tossed a couple of dollars at the driver, grabbed his parcel, and ran down the street.

His luggage was all but forgotten.

At this rate, there was absolutely no way he was going to make it to the next station. While it was only a town and a half over, too many cars crowded the road. Theodore scanned the sidewalks. And that’s when he saw it — a police horse standing tethered to the park fence, two officers standing next to it having a casual conversation.

Now, Theodore had never been the one in his family to partake in Equestrianism, that was his sister Agatha’s specialty, but truly, how hard could it be?

The answer was: quite hard.

The moment Theodore crept up to the horse, swung an ungraceful leg over its saddle, and snapped the reins, the horse reared. The police officers shouted. Everything had erupted into total chaos as the horse bucked and stomped, the officers trying to avoid getting kicked.

Then the horse was galloping down the sidewalk, the cars a blur as Theodore gripped the horse’s neck, fighting to stay atop. Perhaps he would make it to the station after all.

He did not.

As his horse trotted through the station’s parking lot, Theodore could hear the departing horn bellowing. A weary sigh escaped him — he needed to deliver this parcel today. He promised to return it the moment he’d finished, and if Theodore was anything, he was a man of his word.

Theodore dismounted his stolen horse. The sun was beginning to set, painting the stone buildings with a fiery orange glare, and he was running out of time.

“You look rather lost, sir,” a man in a black top hat said, tapping his cane on the bench in which he sat.

“Not lost, late,” Theodore said, an aching discouragement filling his chest — he had run out of options.

“Perhaps I can be of service,” the man said.

“Unless you can summon a train that will take me straight to Winsberg, I don’t believe there’s anything you can do.”

The man in the top hat simply smiled and continued to tap tap tap his cane until the cobble beneath them rippled and warped and disappeared.

It looked as if the man had snatched the sky and all its stars and placed it before them in a spiraling pool. Theodore stared, mouth agape.

“In you go,” the man said.

“You want me to go in that,” Theodore gasped, shaking his head. “Where does it go?”

“Exactly where you need to be,” the man replied.

Theodore thought. And thought and thought. What other options did he have? He was a man of his word, after all. So with one last look at the parcel in his hands, he jumped.

And spun.

And swirled.

Until he landed rump first on the cobbled streets of Winsberg, right on Maryette’s doorstep.

Theodore cleared his throat, straightened his suit, combed his hair, and then he knocked – an anxious little flutter spreading through his stomach.

Maryette opened the door.

“Hello,” Theodore said, as the woman’s face lit up in utter delight. “I have something to return to you.” Theodore placed the parcel in his hand, which was in fact, a book. “Maryette, you wouldn’t believe the day I had.”

“Please, please, come in,” she said. “Tell me all about it.”

At last, the parcel of utmost importance had been delivered and Theodore and Maryette were quite happy indeed. 

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