Flash Fiction: An Untimely Letter

Today’s flash fiction was again inspired by a writing prompt.

I don’t often write in first-person, so it was a fun challenge for me. I hope you’ll enjoy the result!

***

It started as an excuse to test my fancy fountain pens — you know, the ones I bought four years ago, swearing I’d use them all the time, because letter-writing is a lost art. But if I sent a letter to one of my friends now, it would be an embarrassing reminder of my whole Luddite period. The less said about that antique typewriter gathering dust in my attic, the better.

“Dear future me,” I wrote with extravagant cursive loops, immediately exhausting all my good ideas. Minutes passed as I tapped the gold-embossed point against my lips. This was exactly why nobody had pen pals, anymore. “I hope this letter finds you well. I am good.” I winced at my own banality. “Today, I took a walk through the park, and fed the ducks even though the sign said not to. I bow to no man’s rules. I trust you haven’t forgotten that. Sincerely, you.”

The next day, I found a letter addressed to myself waiting in the mailbox. That was disappointingly quick. I was expecting to feel like a new person by the time it arrived.

Upon opening the envelope, a round object clattered out. A cheap coaster, with a message hastily scrawled on its back. “Dear past me, don’t send that letter, you idiot!”

I blinked in confusion, before it dawned on me. This was obviously a prank by the mailman. Well, two could play at that game, and he was kind of a hunk. Maybe this was his weird way of flirting.

“Dear future me,” I wrote. “It’s too late to stop me, and your grasp of causality is tenuous as ever. That would have created an impossible paradox. Furthermore, I don’t care for your tone. We may be wild rule-breakers, but manners maketh etc. etc.. Please be a better version of ourselves.”

The following afternoon, I waited for the mailman by the window and peeked out the curtains. But he just collected the letter and walked on by. So he was playing it cool.

Maybe too cool. Days passed without further reply until at last a new letter arrived. Or, I should say, an old letter. The original. I read it over quickly, confident that I hadn’t been bowing to any lame rules in the interim. It reminded me, though, that I hadn’t been to feed the ducks in a while.

I returned to the park carrying a ziplock bag of oats, sat on a bench, and absentmindedly tossed them to the local fowls. The air was so still, there was barely a ripple in the mirror-like surface of the pond.

After a while, an old woman sat beside me and remarked, with an inscrutable accent, “I’ve often seen you here feeding the ducks. No one else does.”

I grinned. “You’re not going to rat me out, are you?”

“Not at all. I also like breaking certain laws.” She produced a baggie of her own, and threw out a few worms. “There are laws of man, and laws of nature.”

I didn’t really know what she meant, but I supposed that not feeding ducks was more of a “nature law”.

She was full of old stories about fowls, and her past, and research on something or other. Even had a few surprisingly useful pieces of advice about the mailman. At her insistence, we eventually migrated our conversation to a quiet, nearby pub.

Easing onto a barstool, she said, “Since feeding worms to ducks is one of my oldest hobbies, it was only natural that I branched off into the study of wormholes.” She cackled at her own joke — at least I assumed it was some sort of joke that went over my head. “Ah, how about a couple of beers? My treat.”

How could I say no? I joined her at the bar, deciding that a mutual interest in rule-breaking was the best foundation for friendship, no matter the vast differences between people. After she ordered, the bartender slid me a tall, frosty pint on a coaster, which, in hindsight, I should have recognized.

***

Thanks for reading! Coming soon: another new collection of Very Short Stories.

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