Writing101 – Day Five Prompt

The challenge:

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.

“Dear Janie:

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.

Dear Esther:

Well, I’m in Morocco today and went into the Grand Bazaar.  Let me describe the Bazaar to you . . . ”



6 thoughts on “Writing101 – Day Five Prompt

  1. First off, I am quite fond of the cliffhanger you’ve given us at the end of this entry. You’ve hooked me and I’m wondering what comes next as far as the letter is concerned.
    Description, especially of the widow and her demeanor, are top notch. I can almost picture her in my mind, right down to the melancholy expression on her face. I can also nearly feel the unease that the narrator has in the moment; “do I stay or do I go…? Oh! She wants to talk? I guess I’m staying, then.”

    Grammar and punctuation are good. I like the dialogue; it’s pretty easy. Pacing is good and the overall tone is more than suitable for the tale.

    Thanks much for sharing!

  2. Steve:
    Thank you so much for your very precise comments. I’m not a fiction writer, so this was quite the challenge. Reading others, I was pretty verbose! But glad the words captured the scene and, I hope, what had happened. I suppose I wrote it in a way that one could project themselves onto the story. I think I know what happened, but someone else might think something completely different. Glad you enjoyed it! Off to read your entry!!! Fondly, Steve

  3. I loved it too Laura. Not a fiction writer myself but you did make it very “present”. My trouble is I can’t figure out the letter, he asks his daughter not to read this part, and apparently she sees anyway? And yes, the cliffhanger, what really happened to him? Am enjoying learning from people who “aren’t” fiction writers as I contemplate moving into it!

  4. I left things deliberately vague. There are three to four possible conclusions to the letter. And, although I wasn’t trying to be obtuse, it was clear (!) that Esther, the older woman, is blind, right? So her husband writes letters to her to be read by her daughter, Janie. That’s why he starts with “please don’t read this to your mother.” Now what could he be referring to in his comments to Janie? Is he leaving her, is he going to commit suicide quietly, or is he going to commit suicide by crashing a plane and therefore, killing all aboard? Or really a fourth possibility, is he planning on suicide, but the plane crash happens before he can do it? Glad you liked it – and that it made you wonder what was going on. I think this way you can project your own conclusions on the story. I know, maddening, isn’t it? But I like things that make me think and wonder about them. Hope you do too!

  5. Note – when I say “leaving her” I mean is the father leaving the mother? Is her blindness just too much to bear?

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