The Proof is in the Post
923 words long
No one believes actual tiny sentient demons are infiltrating the post and editing letters for brutal honesty. It's just natural processes at work.
Notes from the author:
The random words were "elucidate" and "incogitant." The resulting seed idea was, "A non-sentient process by which thoughts are clarified." Thus, post office imps. Obviously.
I never know what I'm writing until I've read it. That's a truth I've been forced to acknowledge lately. When I don't know what to write, when the blank page stretches like a desert and seems just as daunting to cross, I have to remind myself of that truth and its implication that not knowing what to write is no excuse not to start writing. So my first drafts often begin with those very words, "I don't know what to write, but I'm going to start writing anyway. Here's what I'm trying to write." And then the story starts to trickle out in the form of tangible words. Awkward words. Stupid words. The worst words anyone wrote ever. But they're words I have to read before I can know what it is I'm trying to say.
And so it is with the people in this fictionette. In their country, the post office will not deliver a lie. So they insist that contracts, paychecks, and promises go by post, that only the truth arrive. Anyone insisting on (for example) phone texts or online commerce might as well admit they want to deceive or short-change you. Heck, you might be trying to deceive yourself, and you might not even know it. Sometimes the only way to be sure of what it is you really believe is to put your best guess in a letter and mail it to yourself.
Shit. Shit! Even that’s not safe. I mean, obviously what I really mean is “Dearest Whitney, the light of my life and the stars in my sky, who makes my life worth living.” And the post office imps will make sure it says that when she opens it up and reads it. And then she’ll never speak to me again. Argh.
OK, but no, I’m being paranoid. Calm down, Karen. Keep writing.
I hope you will accept this invitation to attend an all-night movie marathon at my home on Saturday, February 4th, starting at 5:00 PM and continuing until we run out of movies. Bring a sleeping bag and your favorite pajamas. My parents have left us pizza money and a Costco-sized case of frozen breakfast burritos.
Hold on. Reality check. Do normal teenagers invite each other over for sleepovers, or did they outgrow this shit by the time they hit double digits? After that, doesn’t “sleepover” become a euphemism, for, you know, sleeping together? Especially considering the line about my parents. She’s going to open this up and read “the coast is clear, we can make out all night long and nobody will catch us.” Because the post office imps know that’s what I’m hoping for. I mean, aren’t I? I don’t know. This whole thing is terrifying. Thinking is terrifying. La la la la la I’m not thinking about anything especially not making out with anyone in particular.
Fourteen is a terrible age to develop a crush on your best friend.
Please advise as to preferences regarding pizza toppings and favorite movies. Anything you love, I bet I’ll love too. It is a truth universally acknowledged that you have scintillating taste.
Seriously, why am I contemplating mailing her anything at all? Even actual couples don’t mail each other letters until they’ve been dating for a while. It’s too risky. New relationship energy does not mix well with truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The most casual letter in the world might wind up revealing that the sender is already designing wedding invitations and naming their future grandchildren. Talk about awkward.
But I like her. I want to do nice things for her. And she would get a kick out of a formal invitation for something as silly as a movies and pizza sleepover. She does shit like that all the time. Like, coming up to me at the end of our eleven o’clock period and saying, all high-society accent and snoot, “Darling Karen, won’t you accompany me to luncheon? I hear the chef does a marvelous Steak à la Salisbury.” And then I get to walk to lunch hanging off her arm and feeling like the luckiest girl alive, even though I know it’s just a joke. Maybe if she knew how I felt about her, she’d stop making those kinds of jokes. Wouldn’t want to lead me on. Or give me ideas.
Or maybe she would keep offering me her arm, and it wouldn’t be a joke anymore. Hey, I can dream.
I devoutly hope you will chuse to attend, or, should other duties make this impossible, be pleased to offer me a, how you say, rain check.
Besides, what else am I going to use all this wildflower paper and teal-sparkle ink for? It’s been kicking around in my desk since that segment of last year’s state history class, waiting for something special enough to use it up on. It’s not like in our great-grandparents’ time, when there was a real vogue on for making your own paper and ink, not to mention perfecting the idiosyncrasies of your handwriting. Back then, when the post office imps first showed up, everyone panicked about Criminal Elements Tampering With the Mail. They wanted to make it as difficult as possible for rogue post officers to forge alterations to their letters.
But now we know no one’s at fault, not even those nominal “post office imps”—it’s just a cute term, lots easier to say than “automatic process at work inside the post office that points to aspects of our world we don’t understand yet.” No one believes actual tiny sentient demons are infiltrating the post and editing letters for brutal honesty, except maybe small children whose parents have just begun teaching them not to lie. So there’s no fashionable cottage industry in paper-making or ink-brewing anymore. That makes what I’m doing with this invitation special.
I guess I could always just bike over to her house and drop the invite in her mailbox, or even hand it to her at school. Make a big production out of it, bow and present it to her and say “Message for you, my lady.” She’d probably be delighted. But wouldn’t she wonder why I wasn’t mailing it? Wouldn’t she suspect I was hiding something that the post office imps would reveal? Because I totally would be.
In anticipation of a highly enjoyable weekend,
Only, I’m not one hundred percent sure what exactly I am hiding. Not exactly. I mean, how much of what I’m feeling is true and how much is me just being stupid and fourteen? How much do I really want, and how much do I only think I want? Shit, I don’t know. I don’t even know what I don’t know.
Maybe the only way I’ll ever know is if I mail this letter and Whitney tells me what it says.
Your friend and not-so-secret admirer,
P.S. I’m so glad to have you in my life.
This has been the Friday Fictionette for January 26, 2017. It's also the Fictionette Freebie for the month, making the full-length fictionette (933 words) available for anyone to download from Patreon (as an ebook or audiobook) regardless of whether they're subscribers.
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