A few things happened, all at once. I received a strange letter – an irate letter – a seething, caustic, boiled newt type of letter. The words mordant and vitriol come to mind, words to indicate corrosive liquids. The letter ended with Thank you for your attention, a sentence undoubtedly penned in battery acid.
The text ran 308 words, about the length of our postcard fiction. I considered savage replies. I had only just stumbled the final steps of a journey to a land at the bottom of the world – an expedition that spanned first hours, then days; a long shuffle between airplanes, and airports, and processions, and dreams. When I arrived in the new city I met R–, and S–, and other wonderful people whose names began with the letters M, and K, and most of the rest of the alphabet. And still I thought about that one poisoned letter, as its author intended.
You reach a new city, and above you the Wicked Witch blackens the sky. Surrender, she writes. Surrender. Then R’s father died, and the trapdoor collapsed again in the foundation of the world, and I stopped thinking about writing anything at all.
After a while, I had to ask: How did he do it? You want to know these things in order to make sense of it all. You later discover the knowledge makes no difference. Did he leave a note? It seemed to matter if he did, or did not. He did. What final words did he choose?
Someday, we will exhaust our dictionaries. Our pens will slumber and run dry. Our words are finite. They have an end. Our writing will end. Some words I wish to spend before it is too late: forgive me, and be forgiven. Love, and be loved. Grant us the strength and humility to choose carefully, and well.
Issue 19 · December 2013
Table of contents
- Postcard Prose