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Jonah hadn’t anticipated pissing anyone off when he threw out the mailer. It was simple mail sorting. Bills, magazines, and the birthday card from Grandpa tossed into a pile on the counter to go through later, while political postcards, credit card offers, and flyers from random restaurants landed in the trash bin.

The mailer fell into the latter category. The glossy cardstock was bright yellow and covered with rainbow-colored font, which, with its pictures of furniture set into starbursts, looked like a product of Microsoft 2003 Word Art. It was impossible for it to not catch Jonah’s eye, if only because of its headache-inducing design.

Hey, Jonah! Have you checked out Reggie’s Recliner Emporium? We have more than—

He didn’t read any further, just answered the question with a “nope” and discarded it with an advertisement for a pizza joint he’d sworn off after a bad anchovy incident.

When the second one appeared in his mailbox a couple weeks later, Jonah had the same M.O.—no malice, and almost no thought. It briefly registered, filing itself away in his own mental mailbox due to the bolded black text across its front.

JONAH! The mailer practically screamed. Come put your feet up at Reggie’s Recliner Emporium! 

If Jonah would’ve been in the market to purchase some furniture, maybe he would’ve listened to the mailer. But his butt was plenty comfortable in the well-loved, if not a bit worn sofa he owned, and he saw no reason to hold onto something he didn’t need.

Which was his logic when he received the third and fourth mailers despite the flyers urging him otherwise. One came with a discount off a new La-Z-Boy and another employed a testimonial from a customer named Tom Hanks saying that while most recliner shopping was like a box of chocolates, at Reggie’s you actually did know what you were going to get: quality. Jonah was 99.999 percent sure the testimonial was not from the Academy Award winning actor, and for a good 30 seconds, he laughed in pure disbelief at the tactic.

But the brief entertainment was not enough to get him to shop at Reggie’s.

A week and a half later, however, when Jonah came home to find a portly man in a powder blue leisure suit banging on his door, he didn’t find himself laughing anymore. From the edge of his driveway, he stared out of the windshield in shock at the red-faced, middle-aged man with such a thick head of chestnut hair Jonah wondered if all of it belonged to him.

The man beat his fist against the door again, causing the small wrought iron lantern beside it to shake. “Hello, I’m looking for a Mr. Jonah Hunter! Is he home?” the man yelled.

“No,” Jonah wanted to answer. He debated flicking off his blinker and speeding away but he couldn’t deny—this tubby little man piqued his curiosity. Over the years, he had dealt with his fair share of door knockers, but never one who called him out directly—or dressed like Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation.

With a turn of his steering wheel, Jonah pulled into his driveway, and emerged from the hatchback lugging a paper sack of groceries. If this person was a madman, at least Jonah could throw a few cans of corn at him.

“Are you looking for me?” Jonah asked.

The man whipped around on the stoop, and with as much determination as a wind-up toy solider, marched his way over to Jonah. “You Jonah Hunter? 383 Rockfield Court?” he asked.

“That’s me,” Jonah said, motioning to the address screwed into the gray siding. “How can I help you?”

The man gritted his teeth and extended a finger right in the face of the Batman printed on Jonah’s t-shirt. “Why are you ignoring me?”

Jonah squinted at him, thoroughly confused. He couldn’t recall ever seeing this man in his life, and definitely not deliberately avoiding him enough to merit this reaction. “Ignoring you? I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are.”

“Of course you do! I’m Reginald “Reggie” Roland of Reggie’s Recliner Emporium.” The man reached into his suit coat and produced five colorful pieces of paper. “You’ve ignored my warm, clever invitations. You ignored my coupons. You ignored Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks! Who does that? The man is a national treasure.”

“But it wasn’t really Tom Hanks,” Jonah said. While the name and the flyers triggered all the switches of Jonah’s memory, his brain still couldn’t make sense of what was happening in front of him—or more accurately, why it was happening over a few pieces of junk mail.

“You don’t know that,” Reggie said.

Jonah’s eyes widened.“I mean—”

“Young man, I am the Recliner Royal of the Rochester area, you think I don’t have resources?”

Jonah wanted to laugh—at the words themselves, the confidence with which Reggie delivered them—but fearing he was dealing with a somewhat loose cannon, Jonah restrained himself and instead shook his head as he walked towards his house. “I’m sorry, but I can’t be the only person who got those in the mail and didn’t come to your store.”

“Wrong!” Reggie bellowed. “We ask each shopper who comes into Reggie’s Recliners to fill out a survey and share their name and where they heard about us for the chance to win a gift card. And they all do! Do you know whose name was missing when we cross-checked the mailing list?” Reggie paused for dramatic effect, and inched closer to Jonah, his crocodile-skin loafers sinking into the grass. His warm breath hit Jonah, smelling like Coke and something spicy. Maybe tacos. “You. Only you.”

“Oh-kay.” Jonah shifted his groceries into his other arm, his potential weapons growing heavy.”But if every other person comes in, shouldn’t you be happy with that?”

“No. The marketing agency gave me a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, and I am not 100 percent satisfied, and neither are they,” Reggie said, circling Jonah, who pivoted so he could keep his eye on him at all times. “Their process is supposed to be rock solid. They have research that proves that no one is able to resist a celebrity endorsement or a coupon, and surely not both. But then, there is you.” Reggie stopped, and gripped the railing, the meat of his fingers turning white.

“Do you know what the agency calls you? An outlier, an oddity, a stumper.”

The labels clearly enraged Reggie, but Jonah took them as a badge of honor. Not the worst thing he’d ever been called.

“They even offered me a partial refund because of you.”

“And you didn’t take it?”

“No. I did not earn my title as the recliner royal through refunds!” Reggie threw his hand onto the railing, the gold band of his watch clanging against it. “I did it through getting bodies into the store, letting the customer feel like royalty themselves when they sit in one of my chairs. I want sales, not sorrys.”

In a way, Jonah was flattered that his visit to the store means so much to Reggie, but in another, much more concerning way, it felt, well, a tad bit obsessive. And that was an understatement.

“Listen, I appreciate your dedication, but I wasn’t ignoring you. I just don’t need any furniture right now, so didn’t feel like I needed to come in,” Jonah said.

“Come on, man. Everyone can use something. A new chair, maybe some artwork. I looked in your window, and I saw you have a fireplace. A painting could look nice over it,” Reggie said in his best sales pitch voice, but the only thing it convinced Jonah of was he needed to have Reggie leave his lawn in all his powder blue-glory ASAP.

“Yeah, it might, but I’m good right now. If I ever need anything, though, I’ll be sure to come in, and get you that sale,” he said, half-truth, half-desperation-induced lie.

Reggie paced in his circle once again, eying up Jonah and his bag of groceries, before he planted his hands on his hip, and nodded. “Well, that is good to know Jonah. Thank you for your time,” he said and held out his hand for Jonah to shake. “I hope to see you soon.”

“Yeah,” Jonah said, and shook his hand as if he was touching a hot stove: with brief contact. It felt too simple. Was he really going away this easily? If so, couldn’t he have sorted out this logic himself without throwing a tantrum on Jonah’s lawn?

From his steps, Jonah watched Reggie walk to his white Toyota Supra, and waited for him to vanish down the street before emptying his mailbox, going into his home, locking all the doors, and drawing the curtains so no one could get a shot of his fireplace again. With each noise, no matter how small, he found himself running to the curtains to see if Reggie had returned for a second act.

But as the sun rose the next morning without incident, his uneasiness had lessened and he felt comfortable enough to reopen the windows and step outside to grab his mail when he noticed the mail truck parked down the street.

In the box, he found only one item—another vibrant mailer from the emporium.

“Well, he’s persistent,” he murmured to himself, looking on one side of the card and then the other, wondering what made Reggie decide to come to his house rather than wait for the results of this flyer offering him a deeper discount.

“Sir, your mail.” Jonah looked up from the flyer to see the postal worker handing him a stack of the usual suspects—bills and magazines—and the small smirk he sported fell from his lips. He flipped the emporium mailer one more time, searching it, but coming up empty. No stamp.

Shit. He needed a new mailing address.

Sarah Razner

Sarah Razner is a reporter of real-life Wisconsin by day, and a writer of fictional lives throughout the world by night.

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