The postman has never penned a letter. Not on paper. For the postman a letter has always been a prayer sent upward from head to heaven. He has also never left home. Now, Mother rests abed, breath labored, bedsores hot. For supper, he serves her mashed potatoes and coleslaw, and afterwards he reads from Pearl S. Buck.
Once, when the route he walked was new, he had been bored and had thought to pass the hours through a game. He would make up a letter and pretend the letter he made up expanded the envelope he held.
Dear Ronald Reagan, You were correct about catsup. Stand fast. --A fan.
As he bulked calf muscles he made up others. Dear Mrs. Chen, Your daughter’s a whore. At the car wash her tongue transgressed Tommy Jones’s earlobe. Beware.
Back then, on clammy summer days, women had pressed glasses of lemonade on the open palms of postmen, laborers, pool boys. Back then, he had gulped.
He remembers after the pope was shot he made up a get well letter. He remembers he suggested the pope sojourn to Lourdes, ask salve from Bernadette and Mary. But he never wrote the letter down, never dropped the envelope through any slot.
Years have passed. He dropped the game long ago, has learned to empty the head, feel only soft sun or snow on the face, step over ever larger asphalt cracks. Empty, he has learned, empty.
Now, Mother falters. She’s packages of grey curls; alabaster hands; slender, grommeted beak. He wants to post her, so she can stay en route forever. Even more, he wants to know there’s someone out there to open the box.
(A note on form: this story employs the Oulipian constraint of not using the letter “i”).
Megan Savage is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Indiana University where she is the Fiction Editor of Indiana Review. She hails from New England, and it is taking her some time to learn the names of Midwestern flora and fauna.