Read My Mind
by Jamie Joy Gatto
Walter hurried across the street, stopping in front of the bright blue
mailbox. He took a great, gulping breath. He opened the bin, yanked it
down, and then he slipped the envelope into the silver tray. Quickly, he
snatched the envelope back, almost accidentally dropping it into the mouth
of the receptacle. It snapped shut after him, the jaws of the tray angry.
He clutched it to his chest and rushed crossed the street again.
Wrong mailbox, you fool.
On Tuesday he tried again. Walter swallowed down scalding latte in great
swigs before crossing the street this time.
Three steps off the curb and into the street he spotted another man
carrying the same type of manila envelope tucked under his arm. Walter
jumped back, as he barely missed being hit by a swerving car. He watched from
across the street as the man deposited his envelope into the blue mailbox.
Right mailbox, wrong time. Too late, you imbecile!
Walter paced around his apartment for hours. In between, he tried to watch
TV and he tried to eat some cereal, but the bits of crunchy oats turned to
flotsam mush in his milk. He continued to stare at the envelope as it lie
dormant on the kitchen table.
Talk to me. Tell me what to do.
The envelope grew larger, its contents bulging, papers spilling from its
guts. Apparently it had decided it would no longer talk to Walter, though
it began to laugh at him, mocking his weakness. The laughter grew to a form
of hysteria, then, to a derisive snicker, a whisper, a snort, and then
Walter hated this part. At first he wanted to shred the envelope, maybe
burn it. Murderous thoughts lunged up from the depths of his soul. Acid?
Fire? Water? Rain? All of the above? Perhaps he'd delete the document from
Word Perfect. Permanent erasure! Not even a copy left to haunt him. Perhaps
he'd end it all today.
Screw the envelope. Just screw it!
And then, as if it knew Walter's intentions, as if it could read his mind,
the envelope crumpled up into a pitiful, sagging bundle and began to plead
I am your life, I'm your work, your art. I am a part of your hopes, your
dreams. If you abandon me now, where will you be? The world needs your
submission. The world needs me.
Walter finally gathered the envelope up in his arms carefully. He walked
downstairs, attaching it to the little metal box on his porch, pinching it
securely with a weathered, gray clothes pin to await the morning letter
carrier's advances. With that one gesture, Walter knew he had again
surrendered to the whim of the next editor's deadline, the next dreary
wait, that nervewracking stretch of lack of correspondence, of not
knowing where his envelope filled with his life's work might be. Then would
come the familiar rejections, the biased edits, the unadvised replies, more
papers, more envelopes, SASEs, a possible contract meaning more editors,
more papers, more envelopes, more grief.
Having done the final deed, Walter sighed, resigned to the woes of
the now familiar terra incognita. He finally ate some supper, and somehow
got himself to bed. As the coolness of the sheets rushed his warm skin, he
fell into his pillow, slipping into the twilight place of sleep.
Just before he hit the blackness, the snickering began again.
©2001 by Jamie Joy Gatto