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Two-and-a-half-minute Fiction Prahject

Two-and-a-half-minute Fiction ‘Prahject’: Take 50

All I can say about this entry is that I came up with the second line while washing my face after a run, knew I wanted to use it, and knew exactly what I was going to write came up with the rest as I went. That’s usually the best kind though, no? And I love the photo this week. No idea who it is. Perhaps that’s for the best too. But I definitely think it’s the girl in the story.

… which is called “Letters.”

“I can’t tell you that,” she said.

He gave her a look that said, what a ridiculous thing to tell a psychiatrist.

She wanted to tell him. To tell someone, anyone. It wasn’t fair to keep it to herself really. But there was too much static in the room here, too many things going haywire, she couldn’t tell it the way she wanted to. It was like the way she had to turn off the radio before she could start writing a letter, or else she’d start writing down the lyrics seamlessly into the opening lines about the weather.

She hated writing about the weather, but her Momma said it was a courtesy you gave your reader, to give them something or somewhere to place you in. Mrs. Lafly in intermediate English had said people who have nothing to talk about, talk about the weather, and she believed that. So, she’d try to turn the weather bit into a kind of written song and dance routine. Some clouds given a cameo during a Sunday walk, the sun beating through the dining room windows during an afternoon spent peeling apples at the table, a few sprinkles here and there to perk up the tulips around the lamppost.

It felt natural to internalize her thoughts. All the diaries and notepads and newspaper pages that she had scratch out her every though onto, that’s where she thought everything lived. And she wanted to do it all the time. So much, that she started to sneak through the back doors of the high school’s indoor pool to escape math and home economics and gym. She felt as though those classes were all the same anyway: gym provided a terrible pair of navy shorts and a white blouse that required starching and pleating and ironing, all of which was taught in home economics, and to help you count all those pleats — math class.

Mrs. Lafly had seen her out back one day during a smoke break. Mrs. Lafly hadn’t said anything to her, in fact, she downright pretended not to see her. It wasn’t until the freckled amazonian girl with the incredible hand-eye coordination had noticed that her completely average, completely ill-pleated, completely unathletic target had gone missing from gym class, that her parents were called in — or more specifically, her Momma. Then the whole house of cards fell and Mr. Crampton, the math teacher, and Miss Trefoil from home economics came forward with the gym teacher to announce her absence. And Principal Gardner had suggested a session or two with his ex-wife’s psychiatrist, a real gentleman, he had said, a bona fide gentleman. He knew that including the word gentleman in the same sentence as psychiatrist would stop her Momma’s heart from beating so fast.

Trouble was, there wasn’t even one in her county, so on Saturday’s her Daddy would drive her over to Mason county and sit in the Moose lodge for an hour while she sat on a leather couch and talked about life and the things she did like about school: learning about the solar system, the still life she was working on in art class, a term paper she planned to write about a book that her county’s library had banned, and the letters she wrote.

“Who do you write the letters to?” the psychiatrist had asked.

She told her Momma that the letters were to her cousins in Horristown, or an old Sunday school teacher who was in a home now. But they weren’t. And she had an idea that her Momma knew that, but her Momma wasn’t going to stir the pot. It wasn’t until the letter writing had become math, and home economics, and gym class that anyone had paid any mind to it. And then when the letters suddenly started returning, the sessions with the psychiatrist became more frequent.

“Who do you write the letters to?” the psychiatrist asked again, this time lighting a cigarette and fanning out the match with his slim wrist.

She thought about the last letter she had written him. How nicely she had described the neighbor dog’s litter of puppies, and the fresh lavender she had found in on the hillside by the house and cut it to put in the parlor.

“I write them to Tim,” she finally said.

She looked down at the newspaper clipping that her right hand clutched, the one she kept in her waistband pocket. It was a 3-inch piece with a photo of Tim and a headline that read, “Local Boy Killed, Mourned,” and she thought what a terrible thing it was for a man to die so young.

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