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Sep 6, 2008 at 8:34pm
Andrea sat at her coffee table with a pen in her hand. A wastebasket sat beside her, half filled with paper wads. These represented the numerous abortive attempts at the Dear John letter she had been working on writing for hours. Her lack of skill with words compounded the problem. Her letters always produced this kind of waste. The wads in the wastebasket contained as little as a single sentence up to a half page.

“Coward!” she cursed herself. She had never ended a relationship in person. Her husband, George, had died in an accident three years before. Ever since, she found herself unable to have serious relationships. Whenever she started to get close, she pulled the relationship ripcord. Now, she found herself doing so again to stop her perceived freefall. This would be her fifth aborted relationship in those three years.

Andrea thought herself lucky that none of the men had become violent after receiving the letter. One had blubbered and begged, calling her for weeks asking what he had done wrong. Finally she said, “Adam, you’ve done nothing wrong. You deserve a woman who can make you happy. I can’t.” She hung up and had never heard from him again.

Only one joyful place existed in the room: The fire she had started to ward off the winter chill. It danced with a brilliant orange jubilance that both lit and warmed the area near it. While the room was warm, Andrea felt as if her heart was made of ice. How cold did a woman have to be to break up by mail?

Jason, her seven year old son, entered the room carrying a pair of scissors. He casually grabbed a piece of paper that was still blank and flat. “Can I turn on the TV mom?” Jason placed the scissors on the coffee table and began folding the paper up.

Andrea handed him the remote. “Go ahead.” She looked down at yet another blank sheet. Robotically, Andrea began writing again.


You know that I’m a widow and that I’ve had relationship trouble the last three years. Not only that, I’m a coward. I don’t even have the courage to tell you in person.

I haven’t told you much about George, but I owe you a full explanation of everything. When I’m finished, I hope you understand.

Andrea recalled the Saturday night that George had died. One of his friends, Andrew, had retired and a retirement party had been organized for him. The caterers made enough food to feed an army and a bartender had been hired as well as a band to play Andrew’s favorite music throughout the night. All three knew their business.

The band called itself Rainmaker and specialized in 60’s era rock. They accepted requests and received quite a few. Andrea and George each asked for an era favorite. Not surprisingly, many were Beetles hits. No guest was turned away from the stage disappointed. Some songs had been very good for dancing, so Andrea and George took advantage of the opportunity. They hadn’t been alone in the thought.

The caterers served Swedish meatballs and miniature smoked sausages as appetizers. For main dishes, they served pork loin smothered teriyaki, chicken planks basted with a barbecue sauce, and roast beef for those seeking a lighter dish. On the side, they made baked potatoes with every conceivable topping available for use, mashed potatoes, two kinds of gravy, and corn on or off the cob. Three desserts were also provided.

As the night went on, both George and Andrea had ordered several drinks, getting different ones each time to test the bartender’s abilities. The barkeep had been a middle aged man who was only too happy to display his mixology skills. He not only mixed each drink perfectly, but also with flair as the bottles flew and tumbled through the air. His craft had fascinated Andrea to an increasing degree as the night went on.

Near the end of the party, George served himself another plate of food and weaved unsteadily back to the table where Andrea waited for him. As he sat down, the chair nearly tipped over. He reached into his pocket and held the keys out to her. “I’m not feewink so good. You dwive.”

“Arrigh,” she replied as she accepted the keys. Andrea noticed George’s skin looked a little gray and even though she wasn’t sober either, she thought she’d be able to get them home. “Eadup firs.”

“Yeah, righ” George returned and dug into the platter he had served. He paused at intervals to take a few deep breaths before continuing.

Andrea, noticing these breaks, realized that George really was very near to disgracing himself in front in front of all his friends and more than a few strangers. “C’mon, lezgo. We needa giya da bed.”

George swallowed one more bite and then nodded agreement.

No one noticed the unsteady couple as they wobbled their way toward the exit. It took a combined effort to open the door. Once outside, they made their way to the blue Mercury they drove. Both felt glad to be parked near the door.

Andrea helped George into his seat, then stumbled over to the driver’s side. After three attempts, she found the ignition key. Somehow, she managed to reach the parking lot exit without hitting anything. As Andrea drove, she realized there were two broken yellow lines. Some part of her mind knew there was really just one. She chose one to follow and tried to focus her eyes. When she came to a traffic light, she failed to notice that it shone red. Hearing a screech, Andrea hit her own brakes.

The white full-sized Chevy truck slammed into the front passenger door. Andrea fell unconscious. She woke in a hospital bed with a cast on her arm and her neck wrapped in thick foam. When she asked a nurse about George, the woman only shook her head.

“ALVIN!” a man screamed, breaking Andrea out of her reverie. There on the television stood Alvin, Simon and Theodore the singing chipmunks. Once again, Alvin wasn’t paying attention. In a chair across the room sat Jason who had just finished carving a paper snowflake. Despite his youth, he had a knack for making them.

Andrea glanced back down at the letter and read it to herself. She didn’t remember writing any of it, but the page bore a slightly less detailed version of that tragic night at the party. It had a closing, too. It read:

So that’s the whole story. I’m sorry it drives us apart and I hope you find happiness and love.

Andrea didn’t remember writing anything beyond “I hope you understand.” She was about to add it to her collection of failures when she realized this one said it all.

Only her signature remained to be added. She signed it ‘Andy’ since Ben had taken to using the nickname. After folding it to fit, Andrea slid it into the envelope she had addressed before she had begun this task. Sealing it in, she decided to hang it out for pickup early the next morning. She took the wastebasket to the fireplace and threw the wads one by one into the dying flames.

Three days later, Ben sat at his kitchen table examining his mail. He found a weekly sale ad for the local grocery store, a solicitation for satellite television service, and a power bill. He set them all aside in favor of a letter from Andrea that had also arrived that day.

“A letter? Why not a phone call?” Ben muttered. He tore the envelope open and pulled out a single handwritten sheet. As he read, Ben shed a single tear. He’d had poor luck with women. All the dumps had started to get him depressed. A Dear John letter through the mail was a new low.

As Ben started to read the letter a second time, he stood began walking all around the house on auto-pilot. The tasks he performed were done on a subconscious level. He completed them with the precision of one who had thought about them often. After he finished them, Ben walked through the sullen overcast day and placed the letter back in the mailbox without its envelope.

Neglecting to get a coat, Ben sat on his porch swing. He had a box of Marlboros on the arm of the swing along with a Zippo. Inside the box lay one last cigarette which Ben placed between his lips. He flicked the Zippo and lit the cigarette with it. After the first puff, Ben threw still lit Zippo onto the wood of the porch.

The Gasoline there burst to life and surrounded Ben in a wall of flame just close enough to deny him exit, but far enough not to harm him yet. Ben smoked his cigarette and watched the flames creep closer. He flicked the butt into the flames, pulled a hunting knife off his hip, and pointed the blade at his chest.

Word Count: 1506
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Entry · 09-06-08 8:34pm
by Topazknight

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