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.

Envelope 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 silence.

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!

Envelope 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 with him: 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

Jamie Joy Gatto
Jamie Joy Gatto is a writer, editor, columnist and bisexual activist from New Orleans. She is editor-in-chief of Mind Caviar. Her work has and will appear in numerous projects including The Unmade Bed, Best Bisexual Erotica 2000 and 2001, Best SM Erotica, Unlimited Desires, and Black Sheets. Her first collection of short fiction, Sex Noir: Stories of Sex, Death and Loss, will be published in 2002 by Circlet Press.

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