Little Timmy Johnson was a very sick boy. The doctors had tried hard, but they could do nothing more to help him. Timmy wasn't scared, but he had one wish. He wanted to receive postcards from all over the world, more postcards than anyone else had gotten in his whole life; enough postcards to get him into the Guinness Book of World Records, where he would live forever and ever.
When his mom told a reporter for the local newspaper, the Clarion, they printed a big story on the front page. Only 780 people lived in Mapletown, but just about every one of them mailed a postcard to little Timmy. They sent hundreds and hundreds; picture postcards and funny postcards, postcards from faraway places like Nebraska, postcards with a picture of a dog pulling down a baby's diaper. The second-grade class even made postcards from shirt cardboard for Timmy. There were so many postcards that poor Mrs. Peterson, who ran the local post office, was just about overwhelmed. And the mailman, old Mr. Burns, who had carried the mail on his aching back for forty years, could barely even lift his mailbag.
But still little Timmy was very sad. Hundreds of postcards were not nearly enough to earn him a place in the Guinness book. And just when he was about to give up, a producer on the ABC Evening News heard about Timmy's plight and decided to help him. That night Peter Jennings told the nation about Timmy's last wish, and the very next day postcards began arriving. Hundreds of postcards, then thousands, then tens of thousands arrived every day. Newspapers and magazines carried the heartwarming story, and even more postcards arrived. More postcards than anyone had ever imagined arrived from every state, and then they began coming from Europe and Asia and even little islands in the Pacific Ocean that no one ever knew existed.
There were so many postcards nobody knew what to do with them. Old Mr. Burns tried to deliver a sackful one day and made it about fifty feet from the post office before he keeled over and died. Mrs. Peterson lasted almost a month before the stress got her and they had to put her in the loony home. With so many postcards arriving daily no other mail could get through. Bills weren't delivered so they couldn't be paid causing hundreds of people in town to lose their phone service and electricity. The most terrifying words anyone had ever heard became "The check is in the mail." Stores couldn't bill their customers or reach them by phone, so within three months most of the shops on Main Street had to shut their doors.
And still the postcards continue to arrive by the tens of thousands. It was the most mail anyone had ever gotten. People from all over the world were trying to fulfill little Timmy Johnson's last wish. It made them all feel so good.
With the town pretty much shut down, except for the convoys of big mail trucks that roared down Main Street all day and night, people started packing up and leaving. Families that had lived happily in Mapletown for generations boarded up their homes and left. Mapletown became a ghost town.
But then, an amazing thing happened. A miracle, some people said. Little Timmy woke up one morning and his pain was gone. He could breathe easily. The doctors attributed his incredible recovery to his joy at receiving more postcards than anyone else in history and earning his place in the Guinness book. Little Timmy Johnson was cured!
The news of his recovery spread slowly, so the postcards continued to arrive. No one could stop it. By that point the town was pretty much deserted and Timmy had no one to play with. So each day he would try to climb to the top of his postcard mountain, which continued to grow and grow and grow. Eventually it was estimated that Timmy had received 12 million postcards from every state and more than ninety countries around the world!
All traces of his disease seemed to have disappeared. But sometimes fate is not so kind. The disease had simply been in brief remission. One morning he awoke and it had returned. A few days later, Little Timmy peaceful passed away. His doctors reported that he had died with a smile on his face, knowing that he would live forever in the Guiness Book of World Records.
As the news of Little Timmy Johnson's death spread around the world, the deluge of postcards ended. A few days later the citizens of Mapletown began returning. Once again, people dreamed of living there. They took the boards off their homes and reopened the stores. Mapletown was slowly coming back to life.
And then the first condolence card arrived...
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