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THE LETTER

April 25, 2020

Another entry in my 2020 short story run. Also just before I was made redundant during the pandemic. This was part of the Booksie 2020 Flash Fiction Writing Contest. Another story I felt good about that didn't go anywhere.


Criteria:

Take a look at the picture above. 
In 500 words or less, write a story about the image. The challenge of flash fiction is to create a thought-provoking story within the tight word constraints of the writing form. 

The Letter: Work

William Elliot was still in his dressing gown when the letter fell through his mail slot. Various joints popped and clicked as he bent down to pick it up. His name was written in looping, cursive scrawl. That in itself wasn’t strange, but the letter was unaddressed, and there was no stamp affixed, which meant it had been hand-delivered. Its message brief and unattributed.


Colonel Elliot,


Meet me at the clock at midday.

It’s a life and death situation. 


He shrugged off the message at first, but as he sat in his kitchen, reading the New York Times, his curiosity got the better of him. Before the grandfather clock rang out the morning, he dressed, took the bus to Grand Central, and arrived with minutes to spare.


Briefcase in hand, he stood in the centre of the Main Concourse under the four-faced opal clock, admiring the cream-coloured marble interior, scanning the commuters, rushing about like ants. The cacophony of hundreds of shoe heels reverberated against the walls. His eyes caught a little old lady, moving at turtle speed amongst the hustle and flow.


As she rummaged through her handbag, an object fell from her coat. She continued on her way, and he moved quickly to pick it up and catch up to her.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, tapping her softly on the shoulder, and handing her the yellowing envelope with a familiar seal stamped onto it.

“Oh my!” she exclaimed as she spun around and craned her neck up, “You’re a long one.”

He smiled and handed her the envelope.

“You dropped this.”

“Thank you, young man,” she said, opening her purse and plucking out a nickel.

“That won’t be necessary,” he replied before indicating to the letter.

“I noticed there’s a United States Army postal seal on there. Your son fought in the war?”

“12th Armoured Division,” she said sadly, “They called it ‘Suicide Division,’ due to the madman running it.

The comment raised hairs.

“I commanded the 12th.”

“In that case, I’m glad I found you. I’ve had this letter on me for five years now. My son, Johnny,” she trailed off.

“Johnny Dorsey?”

She nodded, pulling a metal object from her handbag.

“I’ve even carried this letter opener with me, just in case, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to open it. Will you?” she asked, offering the envelope.

“Mrs Dorsey, I’m…”

He accepted the letter, slit the seal and returned the opener.

“Your son has been awarded the Medal of Honour,” he said, but she was looking straight through him.

He noticed her trembling hand, tightly clutching the letter opener.

Colonel William Elliot would have considered it possible for the little old lady to possess such strength. In a blink, the letter opener was buried deep in his neck, and he was lying on the ground, stunned, watching fingers of light illuminate the blood spurting onto the pink marble floor.

“See? A life and death situation,” she said, staring into his wide eyes.

The Letter: Text
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