Horror Stories

Gretchen Tessmer

A Dying Art
Photo Credit: Julia Crawford

I got your letter yesterday. I found it in the mailbox on my way out, nestled between a bank statement and a grocery store flyer. Yesterday was Halloween. I had a party to go to at the college so I read it fast, folded it along the ready-made crease lines (writing on the go again, are you?) and slipped it into my pocket.

The party was not great. I was supposed to be a sixties go-go dancer but I didn’t have white boots. I thought black ones would work just as well. But they were suede, buckled and sexy as hell. I looked like a street walker, no question. But Anna Louisa (my constant wing girl—you remember her, right?) approved and I went with it.

Left Anna Louisa at the bar sometime around midnight. She gave me her phone for safekeeping but forgot to give me her keys (but, if you remember, breaking and entering is kinda my thing). Taking the phone was a mistake. Her ex-boyfriend was in a chatty, call-every-other-minute mood. I switched the ringer off after the fifty-second call.

Wandered downtown. The first line of your letter reverberated in my head with every heel click on the sidewalk: “I’ve been thinking…” And then something about timing. Tick, tock. Clip, clop.

I ran into a boy from a million years ago on the street outside Maxfield’s. He was drunk off his face and impressed by the outfit. “Always so straight-laced, honey, well this is a new look. Knew you couldn’t have a body like that and not…” That sort of thing. He wanted to buy me a White Russian and get a hotel room.

I laughed and made excuses. I waved off an invitation from a few frat boys headed down to the pizza parlor. “But, c’mon, baby, it’s pizza time…” That sort of thing. I was across the (empty) street and blamed the (non-existent) traffic for taking a rain check. I walked back to Anna Louisa’s under a starry, starry night. I fell onto the cot in her bedroom and slept without dreaming. Anna Louisa and her ex-boyfriend wandered in around 4:30 using stage whispers.

I woke up early the next morning and crept down to the laundry room. It was warm down there and smelled like detergent and rat poison. I sat on a sturdy little stepladder, took your letter out of my pocket and read it again. And again.

I don’t like this throwback romanticism that you’ve adopted recently, this handwritten letter style of rejection. I would have preferred a text, I think. A simple: “I need 2 grow up & catch u later” would have sufficed. At least with a line like that, I could pretend you didn’t know any better.

pencilGretchen Tessmer lives and writes in New England. Her poetry and prose has appeared in literary journals in both the US and the UK, including North American Review, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Poetry Quarterly and Fantasy Short Stories. Email: vinnieandromeda[at]gmail.com

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