The Corybantic Courier

It was the time of year when, all at once, everyone had a message or package to deliver. Something of the utmost importance that needed to get to its destination tout de suite. And not a moment later. Then again, it was always “that time of year.” For Alphonse, the decision to become a courier had arisen from a place of wanting to perform a job that was active, rather than passive. Purposeful, rather than decorative. He had started out as a bike messenger in the early 00s, mastering the winding roads of Paris’ arrondissements with the skillful dexterity of a masterful Operation player. He was unfazed by abrupt swerves, hostile honkings and shouts of, “Connard!” as he whizzed past–determined in his mission to deliver. 

Over the years, alas, his enthusiasm for the work waned (as all enthusiasm for anything tends to wane when one gets older). His limbs grew sorer, more prone to the aches and pains of overuse, and he surrendered to becoming a less “chic” deliverer by operating a truck for a courier service called Vite. When he first began, he had to admit that there was something infinitely more banal about this side of the delivery realm, the one that relied on vehicles to make people’s wishes their command. He found that, without the breeze whipping against his face and the constant threat of imminent danger, there was little thrill to “graduating” to driving as opposed to biking. But he knew he had no other choice. He had gotten married a few years ago and his wife, Alma, was becoming less and less fond of telling people at parties that he was a bike messenger. Not that “delivery person” sounded much more glamorous, but at least it implied a lesser sense of puerility than a grown man riding a bike all day. 

When Alma had first met Alphonse (incidentally, at an instant during which he had parked his bike outside her house momentarily to go over his next round of addresses), she was charmed by the whimsy of his profession. By his “seize life by the couilles” attitude. Something she interpreted to mean that he might go farther in life than he ended up. Instead, he had “advanced” as minimally as possible by simply adding a car to his repertoire. She wanted him to achieve more, to pursue something grander. At the very least, opening his own courier company that allowed him to oversee others as opposed to him continuing to be under the thumb of someone else who didn’t care about him as a person–only that he got the job done on time at any cost. 

The cost of late was barreling down the A20 autoroute to get to Occitanie, where he was due to drop off a number of packages in Toulouse. It was dark and he had to get there by dawn. He had to make it on time. There was no other option. No other excuse. It wasn’t “be there or be square” it was “be there or otherwise find another job.” At the moment there was no other job, no other prospects whatsoever for someone who had been doing what he had been doing for this long. Sure, he had a formal education, but that was ages ago at this point–and what, exactly, could a degree in philosophy be parlayed into other than fortune telling (which he sometimes offered when a delivery gig found him at a more attractive woman’s apartment)? He scoffed at himself, then started coughing uncontrollably–a paroxysm that forced him to look away from the road too long and careen off the shoulder. As the truck lurched and swayed through the high seas of grass, he tried to regain control of the wheel, but to no avail. It was as though the truck had been possessed by some sinister spirit whose sole purpose was to derail the Southern masses from getting what they had ordered. Did they not, too, deserve to get what they paid for just as much as the Northerners? But oh, empathy for “customers” had been Alphonse’s downfall from the start of transitioning from bike courier to delivery pawn. Because it’s impossible to have empathy for someone who can’t have empathy for you–no matter what a so-called empath says. 

After the truck had finally seen fit to stop thanks to passionately kissing a tree, Alphonse practically rolled out of the driver’s seat and fell to the ground. What a wild ride it had all been. And in a split second he could see every road he had ever traveled laid out in front of him in a swirling whoosh of a supercut flashback. There was l’Européenne autoroute that led to the French-Belgian border, la Provençale that led to Provence, l’Aquitaine that led to Bordeaux… and then, of course, all those mini highways and byways unto the city of Paris and its outlying banlieues. A microcosm of the delivery universe in and of itself. 

As he lay there pondering the interconnectedness of everything not just metaphorically but literally, he realized there could be no other way for him to die except like this. The only element missing was that he did not want to be remembered as the corybantic courier whose frenzy was a hindrance rather than a help to delivering his packages. He had to find a way to get the truck operating again even if it meant using up his last precious breaths. 

***

Madame Molnard had dozed off in her easy chair, dreaming of the special pillow promising lumbar support she had ordered just two days ago that would arrive this afternoon. Her reverie was cut short when Alphonse’s truck burst through the living room and he thrust the package right at her face before backing out and continuing on. He persisted all through the small hours like this, running into lawn figurines and fountains, careless about bulldozing someone’s maison or not. The point was, he had made his deliveries. On time and ahead of schedule. Alma was sure to mention this both at his eulogy and to his employer, who was being sued by the property damaged residents that had fallen victim to the corybantic courier.

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