The Letters (In Four Elements) – Derek Owens

Derek Owens

1. Her letters, no bigger than teabags, are delivered in the middle of the night and left on the roll top. No return address but the stationery is unmistakable (bunnies and brown irises).

In his sleep he tries to read them. But the packets ignite like flash paper the moment his fingers touch her prose.

In the morning: a fine layer of ash on the desk, across which he writes his name in a hand no longer his.

2. Here they are, says the dwarf, waving a bouquet of dandelions gone to seed: her letters.

Those are dandelions, the man replies; not letters.

The dwarf jiggles the stems and the seeds release, her words drifting out of reach on the breeze.

Dumbass, says the dwarf, shaking his head.

3. Were they to bundle their letters together, tightly, with black satin ribbons, then bury them in an unmarked plot, they’d generate heat enough to prevent grass from growing. Squirrels would skirt the area, made uneasy by the vibrations. Nearby moonflowers would blossom, even in daytime.

4. His were never any match for hers. Despite the calligraphy classes and paper-making seminars (although he did learn that gorgeous word: deckle).

Serifs and filigrees do not a billet-doux make, the instructors warned; gilding the surrey can’t wash the stink off the messenger. So instead of sending his final notes he tied them to stones and drowned them in the river.

I should have, he finally admitted, said to hell with language and simply kissed a stamp to her door.

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