...To The Mailbox

Fiction By Madeline // 3/19/2015

Blue morning.

The sun broke the barrier of miles, refuting all laws of time and order. To turn your eyes up was to get lost in the infinite azure, a virtuous expanse unmarred by clouds or birds or even the exhale of a jet plane. It was just there, spread in front of her like butter on toast, dripping down the sides of the earth until it was pinned to reality through an influx of tree branches, roof peaks. It trickled on down the outlines of windowsills and rain gutters until it pooled into truck beds and against bicycle handles. That's where the trance ended, at least for Jude.

She walked, her hair loose and down against her shoulders. She missed the few inches that had come off only a week ago, right before break commenced. She was in her green jammies, worshipped to the point that they were pilled and faded and now mostly see-through. She had a carton of apple juice in one hand, in the other every last one of her hopes and dreams, aspirations; a catalogue of all her hard times and the triumphant.

The grass was dead and colorless beneath her feet, the only remnant of a harsh winter. The garden, her Ma's pride and joy from April to October, was nothing but a tangle of weeds and dried-out tomato stalks. A few shoots of something-or-other had cropped up in the absence of the unpleasant cold, but they were sad little plants, nothing to marvel at.

They lived on the side of the road that got the most traffic--the right side, as it was--and she had to stop at the end of the driveway to let a parade of cars pass: a sparkling-new Honda Civic, which her uncle helped manufacture in New Mexico, a Range-Rover with the passenger side mirror duct-taped to high Heaven, and an old rusty blue neon. Jude waved at whoever was in there; she had no idea, but it seemed a nice thing to do, and so she did it. The windows were tinted, so she couldn't see if they returned it.

She was just about to step into what her Ma had dubbed "The Danger Zone" so many years ago, when she was dumb and three and just learning about crossing the street, but somebody called her name.

Jude let out a sigh, turning to the noise. She placed the bare foot she'd raised back on the itchy-scratchy lawn. "Huh?"

It was Mike next door. He was close to her age, younger by a year and a half or something, she'd never gotten around to figuring it exactly. They'd never quite become friends, because a year's difference in girl-boy time equated to much more than just that in maturity, may as well have been eons.

He was always friendly, though, as evidenced by the fact that he was taking a detour on the way to his beat-up front door to say hello to her. He was wearing his McDonald's uniform, she saw. Coming from the night shift. He still had the ridiculous black visor on and had it pulled low and tight on his forehead, pressing his bangs flush against his skin. Jude nodded hello.

"You're up early," he noted, like a question.

"Mmm," she answered noncommittally, because it was definitely an anomaly for her to rise before ten a.m. on a Sunday, but not one she felt like explaining.

Four cars passed in that time before he spoke again, but they did speed like fools down this little road, so that didn't mean much.

Mike cleared his throat. "What for?"

"Oh, you know."

"What?" He leaned against the chain link fence his father'd put up a few years back, when he was two feet shorter and a lot chubbier and little-voiced. Jude smiled at that picture of him, at the image she'd probably always have of Mike, even when she was ninety and reminiscing about the good-old days.

"Something funny?" He asked.

She shook away her quirked lips. "No. Nothing."

"If you say so."

"Yep."

A car shot past especially quickly, sending her hair whirling around her face, making whips and lassos of the brown strands. Little pinpricks danced across her cheeks and nose.

"Well." Jude lifted the hand, the wrong hand, she saw, as the sun glinted off the little foil strip at the top of the juice box. "I have to...to mail this."

"And who's the recipient?"

"What?" She'd gotten a halfway decent start to the road again, was forced to step away once more to avoid being pummeled by a Toyota. Then his words caught up to her, and she glared. "I meant the envelope. Obviously."

His eyes darted to it, tight in her fingers. "It looks important."

"It is."

Mike leaned further forward, until half his torso was technically impeaching into her territory. "And you're going to leave the contents of it a mystery to me?"

"You bet."

"You're really something, Jude."

She quit moving entirely, not because his words stung, but because they made her buzz. Glow. She felt it in her arms and fingertips, her knees and ankles. That was all she really wanted to be, after all. Something.

"Is that a good thing?" She thought to throw out over her shoulder, but Mike was already walking away, and her words were too softened with surprise to be heard. He went inside and shut the door quietly behind him.

She waited a few seconds so she could play that phrase--really something--back in her head, and also so she could make sure there weren't any cars coming. Then she walked across the pavement, cool on this early morning, and came up to the row of mailboxes on the other side.

There was 133, and 135, and then hers, 137. She opened it and stuck the application in there, leaving a couple inches poking out, so the mailman would know. She knew she'd be glued to the window today either way, anticipating his arrival, watching reverently as she slid it into his mail bag to be taken to the postal office, sorted and stuck in a truck that would drive it to the next town, and repeat this process until all the sudden it landed in the lap of Coastal Carolina University.

She kissed her fingertips and touched the letter. Then she turned back around and stared at the sky for a little while more, willing her eyes to seek out something, anything, to make it seem real. A flaw, she realized she was searching for.

But there were none to be found. In this morning, in this place, in her.

There were none.

Comments

:)

I gasped in delight when I saw you posted fiction. I thought you were writing your long story early. But this short story was very good too. I could really see the sun! You really observed the sun well. It was a beautiful description.

"It was just there, spread in front of her like butter on toast, dripping down the sides of the earth until it was pinned to reality through an influx of tree branches, roof peaks. " - loved that part.

When I finished reading it, I thought you were actually writing a bit about yourself (because you're probably in the college application stage). Everything was so detailed that I could almost feel and see the walk down to the mailbox in the crisp morning air. i even liked how you added a neighbor to the description; it made it seem even more like a fresh morning walk. It reminded me of my times in the country. :)

I wasn't sure if the ending quite fit though. It felt abrupt to me when you started talking about flaws. I think if you wanted to end it like that, you should weave it more into the story. So since I didn't feel like it related to everything before, the last sentence, "There were none." seemed over-the-top. That's my only criticism!

Lucy Anne | Fri, 03/20/2015

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Firstly, I am so happy that

Firstly, I am so happy that you posted fiction! Secondly, I give you lots of credit for being able to pull off this style. I love the colorful, almost hyperbolic descriptions you used. It's something I struggle with.

"Blue morning.

The sun broke the barrier of miles, refuting all laws of time and order. To turn your eyes up was to get lost in the infinite azure, a virtuous expanse unmarred by clouds or birds or even the exhale of a jet plane. It was just there, spread in front of her like butter on toast, dripping down the sides of the earth until it was pinned to reality through an influx of tree branches, roof peaks. It trickled on down the outlines of windowsills and rain gutters until it pooled into truck beds and against bicycle handles. That's where the trance ended, at least for Jude." That was so vivid and wonderful.
I will agree with Megan about the ending. Aside from that, I thought this was great!

Erin | Fri, 03/20/2015

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

:)

I love it when you post fiction!
I could feel every bit of this; the style and descriptions were great.
Only critique: "annoyed sigh" - I could tell she was annoyed without you saying so; I felt it was redundant.

Kyleigh | Fri, 03/20/2015

Awww, all you girls are way

Awww, all you girls are way too nice to me! Thank you so much! It makes me so happy that you guys were glad I'd posted fiction. :) That means a lot!

Megan--I was thrilled to get a comment notification from you! It's been awhile, my friend! :) Thank you for reading this and for your critique. I really appreciate it! I do understand what you mean. I felt I was rushing a little bit near the end, as I tend to do, when the 'finish line' (so-to-speak) comes within sight. I may have an idea for an alternative that wouldn't change it much!

Erin--Oh, thanks! Like I said: it's all the book! Well, not really--that makes it sound like I plagiarized or something. :P But it's heavily influenced by that type of narrative. Have you read Jewel? It's definitely different, kind of slow-going, but I've liked it so far!

Kyleigh--Aw, thanks so much! Also for pointing out the 'annoyed' as well. I took that out! You were completely right. :) I so often preach the whole "show-don't-tell" thing and I dropped the ball there. haha!

Madeline | Fri, 03/20/2015

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

:)

I think "show don't tell" can be over-suggested and lots of times it doesn't bug me. But this piece was so show-y that the telling just jumped out - which shows your skill in practicing what you preach in this regard! ;)

Kyleigh | Fri, 03/20/2015

I absolutely and completely

I absolutely and completely adore this! Everyline felt so thought out and stategic but flowed so effortlessly! The descriptions, the emotions, the back story and pattern was just so... Masterful! Everything was so clear! I felt like I had known Jude for years by the end and that's incredible! I love! Love! Loved it!!!! I didn't really notice anything with the end, I liked it it.
Well done Homey! Well done!

Kassady | Sun, 03/22/2015

"Here's looking at you, Kid"
---
Write On!

Thanks, Kass!! I don't know

Thanks, Kass!! I don't know why, but I never got notified of your comment, so I just now got it--so thank you for that!

Madeline | Mon, 03/23/2015

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

Oooh!!

This was so enjoyable! You did an amazing job of descriptions, well done.
I really like how fleshed-out Jude is, and how much you showed of her character in such a short story. I love the conversation; very real.
I do have to agree with Megan...the ending was not what I expected and bit abrupt! But that's okay--everything else was great!

Maddi | Tue, 03/24/2015

Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we just go back to page one and start all over again?” – Winnie The Pooh

...been meaning to comment

This has been niggling my mind whenever I come on apricotpie and I keep meaning to comment and let you know what an impact it made on me and how perfect I think it is. This is the type of writing I want to be able to do...what I strive for...and the kind that stays in my mind because you took both my heart and body on an experience.

One of my first comments was going to be to rush and suggest you consider keeping the piece a short story, because it is so whole and complete, like a little pearl, and then I realized - what a derp; this IS a short story. Flash fiction. But of course your writing intuition is sophisticated enough to know it is "a little short something" and impacting just as-is.

Okay, the opening is so majestic. So real. SUCH good writing. SUCH, SUCH, SUCH good writing. Homey, I keep reading it over just to taste it. It is so perfect. "Broke the barrier of miles" and "refuting all laws of time and order", a "virtuous expanse unmarred by clouds" - you have an inner rhythm and use words in ways I wouldn't have thought. I read it aloud just to enjoy that beat and creativity. You also use impulsive grammar (like "tree branches, roof peaks") that is impressive because you're following a visceral, gut instinct with the sentences. And I loved things like "pinned to reality" but then throwing in a very concrete image of bicycle handles - which actually pinned your words to reality for me. Beautiful combination. (You did similar things as in the solid apple juice carton, but her dreams in the other hand - a gorgeous balance of the way we live, both physically and psychologically.) Can't say enough about this first paragraph, except that it hit me the first time I read it and still does. I'm standing in dripping sunshine while sitting inside on my computer.

And I loved this - "...but because they made her buzz. Glow. She felt it in her arms and fingertips, her knees and ankles. That was all she really wanted to be, after all. Something." I've felt the same.

I also loved the specifics in describing the boy, with the McDonald's uniform and hat and sweaty hair. Why this works as intricate flash fiction is because I get the sense that there are echoes you aren't telling us - that there are layers underneath, kind of like an artist builds up paint but you don't see the first layer of paint. It makes me imagine both her past and her future: being a child, and also romance and diplomas.

And this was perfect and so real, too - "Then she turned back around and stared at the sky for a little while more, willing her eyes to seek out something, anything, to make it seem real. A flaw, she realized she was searching for." I've also done the same. Love it!

You're very talented, Homey. And you'll be so easily publishable. ^.^

Sarah Bethany | Tue, 05/05/2015

Aw, Sarah Bethany, thank you

Aw, Sarah Bethany, thank you SO MUCH! I completely forgot to comment when I first read this, but it made my morning. I admire your writing capability and finesse so much, and every word you offered meant a lot. Thank you!

Maddi, thanks to you as well! I really appreciate it!

Madeline | Thu, 05/14/2015

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

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