You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.
Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.
Before I accept and, hopefully, meet the challenge (!), let me say something about brevity. I’m not a pithy individual. To me, “brief” is something lawyers do, or men wear.
*** *** ***
I knock on the door – 4337 Eagle Avenue.
“Coming,” quavers from inside the house. Shuffling, then the sound of locks being undone just enough and a door opening two inches, still chained.
“Yes?” Peering in, I see a woman in a t-shirt and jeans, white hair mussed up as if awakened from sleep.
“Are you Mrs. Esther Bream?” A nod. “I found this letter addressed to you and wanted to return it. That’s all.”
I pass it to her through the chained door. She grabs it clumsily, closing the door abruptly. I stand for a moment, turning to walk down the stairs. And then I hear the chain being loosened, the door opening.
“I’m sorry . . . thank you.” She says awkwardly.
“No, I’m just glad you were home to get it.” And I turn again to walk away.
“Wait. Where did you find it?” she asks and I turn around again, facing a woman in her late 60’s, her bright blue eyes looking outward without focus.
“On Peck, near Route 3.”
“Oh, okay,” she pauses. “You must think me awfully strange,” she says, fingering the envelope, then holding it out to me. “Can you tell me the date on the postmark?”
“February 4, 1994.”
“Ah. Yes, that’s what I thought. You see, this is a letter from my husband. His last letter.”
“I’m sorry . . . I didn’t mean to pry . . .”
“No, no, that’s fine. I understand. If I found something like this, I’d probably read it, too,” she smiles sadly. I wait, knowing there will be more.
“He died in a crash a week later. He always sent letters from the places he flew to – he was a pilot with United. I kept this one . . . ” her voice trails off.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” I reply, feeling helpless to assuage a grief two decades on.
“No, that’s okay. We had a good marriage, but sometimes I still miss him, that’s all. But . . . I lost this letter a long time ago. In fact I think it was shortly after the funeral. I was so angry at myself for misplacing it. My daughter tore the house apart, but we never found it. That’s why I was acting that way; I knew exactly what it was, you see.” She clutches the letter close to her, wiping away tears.
She was right. I did read it.
Please don’t read this part to your mother. I don’t want to hurt her or you anymore than I have to. I wanted this letter to be a happy one, for her sake. I want you to know how much I love you both, but it is too hard to do this anymore. I don’t know if you’ll understand, but I hope in time you can forgive me.
Well, I’m in Morocco today and went into the Grand Bazaar. Let me describe the Bazaar to you . . . ”