Return to Sender
by Marc Shapiro
He was married. He had a kid. He was a writer.
Which was why he always made a point of getting to the mailbox first.
Anything that even hinted of money immediately went to the top of the pile, to be opened first and proudly presented to his wife. Bills and assorted shut off notices were buried deep, only to emerge when his seemingly endless string of crap jobs could justify at least a partial payment to keep the home fires burning.
Finally, there were those neither fish nor fowl missives which almost always spelled trouble. Today was shaping up to be trouble. A scribbled, barely legible scrawl of a return address on a plain white envelope. The address in simple block print. Not Mr. and Mrs. Just Mr. This one would be read in private.
It was a letter from somebody who had read a couple of his poems in Road Kill Magazine. Surely you remembered Road Kill. Every town had a Road Kill. A freebee literary mag that boasted it would take over the world and usually folded around issue two. As it turned out this woman/girl/fan/stalker/, the mind boggled at the possibilities, had read his stuff in Road Kill, loved it and was forward and to the point.
She jogged his memory when she reminded him that they had dated a few times in college. He remembered college, that free ride to fame and fortune that, ultimately didn’t carry as much weight as the person he had slept with or the connections his parents had. But, he sighed, that was another story.
He continued to read. She grilled him as to whether or not he was in a relationship and did he want to get together. His mental spine stiffened. Out of nowhere, he had a not so secret admirer who was offering herself up to him like a groupie blue plate special. He read the letter a second and third time, wracking his brain trying to remember what she looked like back in the day as his truly dark self contemplated what she might look like today.
Instinctively, he crumpled up the letter and put it in a far out of the way place.
He and his better half had had a rough week. It was all about and always about the money. He was feeling insignificant and little kid like and what it would be like to run away with the circus. It was a dangerous combination. For five minutes, he thought about the possibilities.
She was probably a psycho. It would be hot and juicy for a nano second and then she would become a tell all monster who would destroy his world.
Then he thought about the woman who had been with him a long time. The one who had supported them when he could not. The one who encouraged him when nobody else would. The one who was a wonderful mother to his child when he was not always the most attentive father.
He grabbed the letter, tore it into endless little pieces and walked it out to the driveway trash bin where he buried it deep. This would be the stuff of fantasy for decades to come.
But at this point in his life, reality was about all he could handle.
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Coming this fall from Riverdale Avenue Books, a most unusual literary experiment…Hey Joe: The Unauthorized Biography Of The Song.