Posted by: sulya | 4 October 2009

500 Words of Fiction: Good Enough

letters

Stacked all around, in pile after pile. Veritable Corinthian columns of paper. More yellow in hue at their base, more white as they reached ceiling. For a moment it seemed they were rows of aging teeth teetering around me. There need only be the pinky red curve of gums where there was instead a floor. Perhaps a red carpet? Scalloped baseboards would have done the trick?

May I ask, I started, what is in these rather prodigious piles of paper?

Letters.

The answer was so curtly delivered there was the sense that had he been able to shorten the very syllabic structure of the word “letters” he would have. There was also a mischievous twinkle in his eye while he waited to see if I would fall for the ambiguity of his answer. Did he mean individual letters of the alphabet? Or, did he mean correspondence?

One of many small dogs brushed past my feet. Brown, shaggy, of very questionable pedigree though suggesting a Maltese and some sort of Terrier had had an interesting time. I had seen no dog door and wondered, suddenly, if the yellowing at the bottom of each stack of paper weren’t in fact pee. I decided the aroma would be unbearable had that been the case and then decided not to fall for his trick.

To whom have you written so many letters then? Friends? Family?

To one person. He seemed disappointed but impressed that I had cut to the chase rather than play his game. A woman. A woman I once loved and will likely always love.

Are these copies?

No. He smiled. Pleased with himself, finally, for this had clearly shocked me.

And he was right to be smug. I was flabbergasted. Jiggered. Befuddled.

I mean it was three lifetimes worth of writing. More. It was more. And this woman he loved, would likely always love, had never read a word of it.  My mind reminded me that he was eighty-seven years-old.

When, I stammered, when did you –

I was nineteen when I first saw her.

Did you ever speak to her? It was an insensitive, instinctual question prefaced on some vague, very contemporary sense that anyone who would do this must be a stalker of some kind.

I did in fact, he smiled. Impressed again, I think, that I had the temerity to ask such a thing so bluntly. We were lovers.

I’d come to interview him about his new novel. He’d read my work, watched my interviews, and decided to invite me to the house. His agent said he’d been doing phone interviews for years and before that he’d met journalists and academics at cafés.

In short, he’d never before shared this world of the painfully unspoken with anyone who could, in turn, share it with the world.

Why me? Why now? My voice was unbearably small.

I’m dying and you look like her, speak and move like she did. Cliché, perhaps. But in the end, it would seem,  good enough.

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Responses

  1. Blown away by the photo.

    Look forward to each new 500 Words.


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