Week #28 – The postcard

Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.
The theme is the postcard.
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Vienna postcard|Coffee mug coaster by Cecelia Ronald
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The thumbnails of postcards you see with the flashes this week were provided by Robert Vaughan, and have a great story behind them. We asked Robert to fill us in:

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. Two/Tree . by Robert Vaughan
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Two/Tree originated in 1986, a collaboration between artists and best friends, Andrea Falkenstein and Robert Vaughan. Andrea had left her steady employment in Manhattan to go freelance, and I was leaving New York. We decided to co-create postcards, possibly inspired by shops in the East Village like Little Ricky’s that sold hand-made art. We passed daily the dozens of locations that had “posterings” about upcoming club events, art shows, spoken word. Temporary walls at that time in the East Village had layer upon layer of “art” atop other “art.” The collages seemed a natural replication of the street, like a Banksy tag might inspire a tattoo.

We had the time, we needed supplies: garbage bags filled with colorful flyers, oak tag, shears, and glue. And we were off! Hours were spent, crafting various themes of the 1980s, including but not limited to: Reaganomics, Star Wars, clubs like Roxy, Mudd Club, homelessness, wigs, poetry and poetics, music, artists, street life and language. Elements poured into the images: rain, snow, and sun had caused materials to wrinkle; time yellowed certain colors, edges frayed, giving them that perfect street appearance. We’d finish one and excitedly start crafting another, never knowing how much meaning they would have.

In all, there were 66 Two/Tree cards. Half had their first showing, exhibited at Bibliotect Bookstore in Salt Lake City for the Fall 2000 Gallery Walk. They were hung against a brick wall, and aroused great interest, conversations and acclaim.

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You are Here . by Marty Brick
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Kyle Morton, D.D.S., sorts through his postcards, the ones sent as reminders of upcoming appointments. There are cartoon smiles, kittens, and beach scenes. Usually his receptionist takes care of this, but he wants to be sure that Karen Blau, wife, mother of two, part-time florist, gets the proper card. She’s always been nervous. When she first came to him it’d been seven years without dental work. Her mouth was a mess. Dr. Morton spoke just above a whisper: “we can fix this.”

When she receives the card, a New England autumn, she interprets it as their destination, and wears a tight but tasteful wool sweater. She’s fidgeting with her wedding band when he enters the room, but his voice defuses the nerves. He places his hand on her shoulder (never does for other patients). Asks about the kids.

She hates the novocaine the most. It takes an unreasonable amount of time. The needle’s in for a full minute. Why? Her eyes are closed and Dr. Morton notices the tensed muscles. He places his hand on her knee, maybe a little higher, but nothing blatant. He asks, “I love apple picking in the fall, don’t you?”

She can’t answer of course, the needle in her jaw, but she thinks of the postcard, a B&B, the smell of woodsmoke, all those clichés. The muscles on the working-side of her face produce a lopsided smile. Reaching for the drill, he pauses to examine his hands. People dread those hands, but not Karen.

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. Liebe Grüße . by Matt Potter
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They sit inside my bag, hanging from my shoulder, swaying with each turn the bus takes.

(How are you? both postcards say. Hope you’re good.)

The bus turns right. The Siegessäule, gilt and angel-topped, rises tall and imposing on the left.

(One postcard features the Siegessäule with die Siegessäule embossed on the front. Victory Column, it says on the back. The other shows the view from the column crown, east past summer trees to Brandenburger Tor.)

Veering right, the bus cruises through Tiergarten. Left, I see parkland and cyclists and sun. Right: picnic blankets, naked men and lunchtime assignations.

(It’s sunny and humid here in Berlin, I wrote on both postcards. And I miss you.)

I get off near Kleiststraße and walk towards Kurfürstendamm. My bag’s leather strap rubs sweat into my chest, and I stop at a yellow postbox.

(I wish you were here with me. Berlin is meant to be shared.)

The postcards stick together with my stamp spit. I prise them apart.

(And fucking you in this sticky heat would be fun …)

Right names? Check. Right addresses? Check. Right greetings? Yes, all correct.

(… gripping your ankles …)

I kiss them both on their names and closing my eyes so I don’t know which is first, slip them through the slot marked Andere Postleitzahlen. Other Postal Codes, not Berlin.

(Ich liebe dich, Me xxx)

They drop silently inside.

I picture kissing their mouths. And wonder who will get his postcard first.

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. The Postcard . by Catherine Russell
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Betty held the small piece of cardboard with shaking hands, the accumulated grief of thirty years alone spilling onto the words with large wet tears. She reread the message, sent from her long dead love during the business trip from which he never returned.

Darling,
I miss you. Sales here are great but wish I were home. Hope you and the kids are okay. I can’t wait to see you again.
Love,
Phil

The old woman let the square of paper slip from her fingers as she laid back in her husband’s old recliner. She closed her eyes and took her final breath. Her last words echoed through the empty rooms.

“I can’t wait to see you again, too.”

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. Postage . by Len Kuntz
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The man on the bus looked familiar, like the monster she tried to outrun in nightmares.

At each stop, he took a new seat, edging closer. Within ten minutes, he was sitting right behind her, his garlic breath bouncing off the window.

Her hands shook so hard it was difficult to write. Andre’s name looked like the jagged line on a polygraph. She’d intended to invite Andre to the states. A postcard would limit how much she could say. The girl had the habit of scaring men off by being clingy or paranoid. Her last boyfriend had even called her psychotic. Not Andre–although distance and him being French might have accounted for his tolerance.

She gasped.

The man was pawing her hair.

When she jumped to her feet, he said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

A kid on a bike dodged across their lane, and to miss him, the bus swerved sharply, sending the girl airborne.

***

When she came to, she was strapped to a stretcher in the back of an ambulance. “What’s going on?”

A uniformed man got in and locked the door.

Her throat caught. It was the man from the bus.

“You slammed your head pretty hard. Concussion.”

“But, but, you’re—“

“Sometimes people go into shock.”

“No, you’re him.”

He grinned.

Then she saw the postcard sticking out of his shirt pocket.

She pointed.

“Oh, that? Don’t worry,” he said. “I filled it out for you. Just needs a stamp.”

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. Devon and Devon . by Murray Dunlap
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The real story begins when I realize that there is more than one Devon.

Devon A is strikingly beautiful and knows it. She lights a cigarette and lightly swishes the air in her area, creating a swirl of smoke around her.

Devon B does not smoke. Rather, she hides the fact that she is constantly doing cocaine. We all wish she would not, especially her son, but she keeps right on after it. White dust on bathroom counters and odd make-up clip-down bags in her purse. An odd thing to be so well hidden, and yet, so visible. Her son knows it, but does not know what to say or do.

Devon A is a girl I have known for 20 years. We met in college and then, of course, Devon A went off and got married as they all do.

Devon B and coke, however, turned into a different affair altogether. We became entwined with utmost vigor when she left her husband – the father of her son. And so our tryst was heated electricity and sparks galore. But, Devon B decided she should return to the father of her son.

Devon A did not approve of the entire arrangement. In the end, none of us did.

It was with a postcard that I was alerted to the end of everything, and while I was filled with anger, relief is my only reaction to the end of both girls named Devon.

I have not seen either Devon since the postcard.

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. Postcard from Paradise . by Garrett Socol
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“Did you hear what happened in Fiji?” Harriet’s best friend Phyllis asked via cellphone.

“No, what happened?” Harriet nervously inquired, knowing it had to be bad news from the sound of Phyllis’s quivering voice.

“There was an earthquake,” she managed to say.

“How bad?” Harriet asked.

“From what I hear, very bad.”

“Let me try calling Seth,” Harriet said, immediately releasing the call. With shaking fingers, she speed-dialed her grown son. Couldn’t get through.

The news on television was sketchy. The only solid information was that a major earthquake hit the Fiji islands, and fatalities numbered in the hundreds. An hour later, CNN had more to offer: Buildings had collapsed, schools were decimated, one small hospital had disintegrated. Cameras caught shell-shocked survivors ambling aimlessly.

Harriet sipped chamomile tea and tried calling her son every ten minutes. Not only was the line dead, she couldn’t get any concrete information. “Oh Lenny,” she cried out to her late husband, “I wish you were here. Please come back for one lousy day!”

During her sleepless night, Harriet baked: banana bread, bundt cakes, chocolate cookies. This calmed her considerably and supplied her with a deliciously sweet breakfast.

By morning, the death toll had risen to over two thousand. Later that afternoon, a postcard featuring a colorful, breathtaking sunset arrived in Harriet’s mailbox. It read:

Mom,
Dawn and I got here yesterday. Fiji is most beautiful spot on earth. Might stay forever.
Love, Seth

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. The Postcard . by Barbara-Lucy Hosken
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It’s amazing where he bought them. He’s sent them to me for years. I often saw them when I lived in England. You could always find picture-postcards in the sea-side shops. Some of them were very rude too … mostly of ladies with excessively buxom breasts and bottoms, captioned appropriately. A New Zealander collected dozens to take back home. He’d never seen anything like them before.

When I got married he sent a postcard of a young couple going upstairs in a hotel, beneath which was the caption We’re just going to get our things together! The Best Man read it out at the reception and passed the card round all the guests. He didn’t seem to object to being named as the sender.

Then when I was in hospital, instead of grapes I got a postcard showing a nurse at the bedside of a very sick man, with a rather large lump somewhere in the middle of the blankets, captioned You’re still holding your own then?

At Christmas, too, he managed to find the most inappropriate messages. There was one with a couple in bed – the caption said Oh Joseph! That was immaculate. Another was four Kings bearing gifts, with the caption Have a four king good Christmas. I always secrete them in a drawer. I was used to his humour but wouldn’t want them on display.

I’ll miss it this year. I just had a card from his daughter proclaiming his death. There’s nothing funny about that.

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. We Put a Smile Back on Your Face . by Fred Osuna
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Her voice mail announced: “I’m coming for three days and I’ll need you to pick me up Tuesday at 11:15. I have two large bags, so empty the car. Make sure the dog hair’s cleaned up, I have allergies.”

His sister could be pleasant under her terms. But his life was never enough of an open book for her; after he’d rearrange his apartment to her satisfaction, she’d excavate the place while he was at work. The visit would invariably end in a melodrama punctuated by revelations she’d acquired in her scavenger hunt. He was old enough now, jaded enough, to anticipate this routine.

He dug deep in his writing desk and found a complimentary postcard from an Indiana Holiday Inn. He addressed it to himself and invented a message from a fictitious woman that mentioned drunkenness, a car accident, a gay dalliance, wanton credit card use and cocaine. When it arrived in the mail, he ripped it in two, dividing the litany of secrets proportionately. He slipped one half under his mattress, the other beneath a Tupperware tower in the pantry. And he waited.

On the day of her departure, she was uncharacteristically quiet. He didn’t push her.

When he got home, he flipped the mattress and found a brochure from a rehab center. In the kitchen was a pamphlet for Journey into Manhood, tucked inside a paperback copy of Financial Peace. Within each was a hundred dollar bill. It was an even swap.

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. Traveling . by Susan Gibb
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It came when she most needed it, the message that would have turned it all around. When things left her scabbed and black as charcoal, when even food was gravel on her tongue. Yet she never read it. Never saw it.

It was a simple twist of fate, an inversion of numbers on the street address. The sender meant to write “138 Madison Street” but wrote “381” instead. A postcard that made its way dropped from his loving hand on a postal clerk’s desk in Rota, Spain, sat among its brothers with their cheery greetings in a cramped sack in the dimness of a mailtruck, packed tightly into bins in the black hold of an airplane, fluttered free in New York for an instant before it flew again cross-country to LA. All that, to be held in puzzled disinterest by the wrong hand for an instant and discarded.

It wept silently, its final journey made amid the stink of garbage one week old. It screamed in agony as the flames ate at its words.

I’m sorry. I was a complete idiot. I love you and I hope you’ll forgive me.

She wept and let out one long scream of agony as she spread her arms and flew off the roof of 138 Madison Street into the black container of the night even as he waited for her answer.

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. Turns . by Dorothee Lang
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The postcard had spent the first weeks of its square life waiting to get a peek of the world. It was part of a set of identical postcards in one of the typical tourist shop postcards roundabouts. There had been 4 more cards in front of it. Then 3. Then 2. That’s when the postcard started to get itchy: Soon now, its time would come.

“I will travel the world,” it proclaimed.

“Be warned. That part of your existence is heavily overrated,” the elder postcard next to it pointed out. “You will travel in a mail bag that gets tossed around. That’s all. Only the most fortunate of us make it to a pinboard.”

The postcard felt a slight letdown. “But maybe I am one of those,” it said.

Then finally it happened: the cards in front of it were bought, and for the first time, the postcard could see the world. The world, it realized, consisted of many shelves full of multi-colored stuff. Again, the postcard felt a slight letdown.

“Patience, my friend,“ the elder postcard advised.

The postcard wasn’t good at patience, but it tried. And finally, everything changed: a customer appeared and turned the roundabout of cards.

The view opened to a long, beautiful beach.

“WOW,” the postcard said and almost toppled over. “That’s me! That’s the picture I carry! I don’t want to leave this place, ever!”

“See,” the elder said. “That’s what I was trying to tell you all along.”

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. Rug . by Susan Tepper
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You ask him to mail a simple postcard and he drops it in a puddle. When he brings it back to you it’s soggy like an old cracker dipped in salt water. Always this way with him. He doesn’t want to act responsibly. He doesn’t want to be your man. If you had one ounce of guts you’d pull up stakes and leave. You’d empty the kitchen of your Mom’s bone china she collected with A&P coupons over the years, the stainless steel silverware passed down by your aunt Rose, the linen tablecloth from a yard sale.

The rest, technically, belongs to him. The couch and the two brown chairs, the coffee table, the lamps, the bed and dresser. The rug was left at the curb by someone who had no need of a rug anymore. You both carried it into the truck so technically it should be cut down the middle with a box cutter.

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. Postcards . by Stephen Hastings-King
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After my father died, I went to his house for the first and only time. It was a network of trails through sprung organizations. Illness had pulverized his collections. Everything was covered in dust.

When I knew him, he collected and cataloged. He kept their organizations in his memory. He knew where everything was. Later, he filled notebooks with networks of colors and numbers and lists. Then time and age turned his maps into fragments.

I thought that his books would lead me to the boxes that contained the remaining fragments of my childhood. I wanted to find them.

When I arrived, my siblings lined up along the porch and stared at me. There seemed more of them than I remembered.

I thought someone would know the system. But they were just overwhelmed.

The notebooks had disappeared.

By myself, I wandered through room after room past shelves of cardboard boxes. Each was marked with a color and number, each a wayward postcard not addressed to me. Arbitrarily, I opened a box. It was full of taxidermy animals and moths. Another contained bottles of evaporated perfume; a third dozens of identical wooden rectangles.

I gave up.

When I was leaving I asked if there would be an auction. One of my siblings said there would be. I said: If you find my childhood, call me. She said she would. She never called.

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. Score . by Michael Webb
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“I was supposed to bring in this postcard–?, ” she said weakly. I looked at her from behind the counter. She was cute- long black hair in a loose pony tail, with khaki pants and a blue top that accentuated the lines of her figure.

“You won a T shirt?” I said with false authority. Everyone assumed you worked here, and shook hands with Jon Bon Jovi once a week. The truth was, I once saw the back of Todd Rundgren’s head as he left the building.

“Yes, I think so. I was the seventh caller. I knew all the songs in order.”

“One of the ‘Pete’s Puzzler’s?’ “

“Yeah. I listen to this station all the time.”

The radio station where I was interning usually put me down here in the storefront to sell the occasional bumper sticker and redeem prize giveaways. It wasn’t hard- they let me bring in my laptop and soak up the station’s WiFi, and while I wasn’t learning much, it wasn’t hard.

“Do you see one you like?,” I said, trying to sound important.

“How about the pink one there?” She pointed above my head at the display.

“Sure. What size?”

“Medium.”

“Are you sure that won’t be too big? You look like a small to me!” Easy peasy lemon squeezy, as my English professor used to say.

She giggled. “You’re sweet. No, that’s my size.”

Score, I thought.

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. Wish You Were Here! . by Christian Bell
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Enjoy Indiana!

Flat lands, flowing wheat, blue sky. The only souvenir we got were these postcards, free rest stop goods. We went to Indianapolis. They stole our team, Dad kept saying. He would’ve cried seeing the Colts logos if he weren’t seething with anger.

Wish You Were Here!

Clear sky, foamy surf, untouched beach. An obnoxious relative, likely drunk, is bragging about how the sand burns your soles, how laidback each day is, how margaritas magically appear before you wherever you are. Meanwhile, here, it’s -34 degrees and snowing eighteen inches per hour. Mom says, nope, don’t wish we there, striking this relative’s name from the Christmas list.

Crow Native American

Faded black-and-white photo of somber Native American male. His hair braided, his eyes penetrating time. Doesn’t this guy look mean, the sender wrote in blue cursive. What do you think, dipshit? He probably blamed the photographer for the slaughter of his people, the end of their lifestyle, his relatives succumbing to drink. Man, now I’m talking like my father.

The Last Postcard

Solid black. The last postcard, kept in a secret place in the postal system, ready to be sent to the person who breaks the system. It’s your fault, the postmaster general will write, it’s you that’s ruined everything. Because of Seinfeld, the postmaster general must be Wilford Brimley. I’m comfortable with that. Postal apocalypse—it’s the right thing to do, and the tasty way to do it. Dad, though, would want Clint Eastwood.

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. Postcards from Dad . by Al McDermid
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The first postcard was from the Grand Canyon, posted marked the week before. The message read, ‘Dear Penelope, This is where I met your mother. Love, Dad.’ A cruel hoax, being played by I didn’t know who, since my father had been dead for years, so many years that I’d never known him. To me, he was a young guy in a 25-year-old photograph.

The second postcard was from Las Vegas, where my parents had married, the card told me, though I knew the story already. My mom was on her way to LA, had stopped to see the Grand Canyon. My father had spent the summer hiking the canyon. Love at first sight, my mother had told me hundreds of times. When she was drinking, the tale was bitter, accusatory.

I had no idea who’d been sending the cards, but I couldn’t show them to mom since she still blamed herself for his death. They had left Vegas, heading for LA. Mom was driving and there had been an accident. Mom survived, Dad went through the windshield. She didn’t even know she was pregnant.

The third postcard was from Mojave, California. It pictured the desert, but the hoaxer had now gone too far; the card read, ‘Dear Penelope, This is where I died. Love, Dad.’ If I was to figure this out, I’d have to show Mom, but wish I had not. When she recovered, her voice still shaking, she said, “It’s your father’s handwriting.”

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. BLUEST SKY . by Linda Simoni-Wastila
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Min Zhan sat cross-legged on the floor, his grown daughter beside him, parsing through the detritus of his wife’s death. The trunk was like a Russian doll, boxes within boxes, each filled with Hui-Wen’s treasures: letters, sepia-stained photographs, silk scarves. The grainy ultrasound of Tien, their Winter Surprise. Diplomas, citizenship papers, birthday cards. Holding their formal wedding picture, Hui-Wen smiling in her red qipao, him nervous in his silks, wrung pain from his heart.

In his lap, the last box, silk-covered, the color of bamboo.

He did not know that box.

Tien leaned against him. Inside, a vellum folder embossed Acta Neurologica Science Prize. San Francisco. March 1982. Crisp tissue covered the program and the faded news clip of Hui-Wen accepting the gold cup. Her brightest moment without him; he’d traveled to Beijing tending to his dying mother.

A postcard slid out, gaudy with palm trees and bluest sky melting into sea. Even before picking it up, he knew the card came from Hawaii. A shared dream, never realized.

One week, my Princess, and we celebrate your prize. I shall drape you in leis and love. V

The smudged post-mark confirmed the hard knot growing in his stomach. He gazed at his daughter, her pale eyes foreign as the postcard, and understood why her mother named her Sky.

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. The Visit . by Robert Vaughan
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My husband’s parents are here.

Again.

They’re the kind of parents who bounce around from kid to kid, now that we’re adults, looking for something. The kind of parents who say they love being with their kids, yet when they’re here, only talk to us. Rarely to each other. And with each impending visit, they stay slightly longer. Months.

As if by being here they can avoid the ponderous silence at home. They tend to hover close. Love loading the dishwasher. Eager to vacuum. Make a different bread every day: pumpernickel raisin or whole wheat/ rye with sunflower seeds. Sounds great, I know. But my anxiety increases, as does pressure to constantly entertain them. His father, Elvin, says, “Honey, did you know your tile is cracked on this top step?” “Yes, Dad,” which I call him because mine is dead. “That happened the last time you were here.”

“You ought to get that fixed,” he says. Then adds, “There’s always something to do with a house, isn’t there? There’s no end.” I want to say, how the hell do you know? You’re never home?

Instead I call Rodney, make a perm appointment for Mom, her hair so short that he uses pink and blue rods. Her hair already looks pubic. Beverly surveys the broken step. She says, “Next time we go to Costco, we’ll get some super glue. I’ll fix it.”

I pop a Xanax, write a postcard, address it to myself: HELP!

Never send it.

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. The Postcard . by Stella Pierides
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Bringing his knees to his chest, he felt the rock with his hand. The
air stunk of campfire. A suffocating fog was rising from the rugged
hills below.

Alerted by a stir in the scrub, he made out a wounded bird beside him,
limping. A pigeon. The bird looked him in the eye as if trying to pass
on a message, then scampered away.

After years of war, first against the Italians, then the Germans, now
their fellow Greeks, even the fertile valleys in the Grammos mountain
range below had been exhausted. The fighters had eaten everything that
could be eaten, even the homing pigeons that they used as messengers
when they had to maintain radio silence. Hunger drives men mad.

His eyes searched for the bird, absurdly worrying that it might be shot.

His hand caressed his breast pocket, where he kept his postcards to
his wife. Poor Eirini, he thought. She didn’t even know he was still
alive; still fighting.

He had been “writing” to her without words since they retreated to the
top. The silence, the isolation and above all the awareness of
approaching defeat robbed him of words. He drew on the rough paper the
hills, the scrub, rocks that looked as if made by God, scree; the few
cypresses, plane trees, and pines he remembered from his village.
Recently, the faces of men who died in his arms.

One day, he thought, his postcards would be found – these drawings
would be his last words.

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. A Dutiful Daughter . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj
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The first indication I had of what I look like came when a man put me back on the rack, remarking that I was too pink. Over the weeks that followed, I gained a few more ideas about my appearance from the comments of people in the shop. My photographic side had been taken at sunset, or maybe sunrise, and depicted some church. There was disagreement as to which one; I’ve never seen any of them, so it doesn’t matter so much to me. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what a church is supposed to look like at all.

When I was finally purchased by a young woman, I had grand hopes of being sent to her lover, of feeling words of passion etched across my back. As it turned out, she sent me to her mother.

Having a wonderful time in Venice.
Wish you were here,
Lynn

She didn’t even mail me until she got to the airport. Not Marco Polo, the dingy Ryanair one.

I just hope her mother displays me somewhere interesting. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a postcard’s life is glamorous.

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. SEASHELLS OF THE BAHAMAS . by Shayla Hawkins
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Five days into their two-week Bahamas vacation, the Harper family of Dearborn, Michigan was still entrenched in stateside habits: Earl and Valerie, the parents, still argued; Kelly, the 12-year-old daughter, still complained about her short fingernails and hunted for the perfect shade of lip gloss; and Dylan, the 16-year-old son, still thought about Stephanie Parker, his high school biology lab partner and secret crush since freshman year. Dylan had already bought Stephanie a souvenir glass jar filled with sea stones and Harbour Island’s famous pink sand. But he wanted to give her something else, something simple but clever enough to hint at his feelings while concealing them at the same time.

So that morning, Dylan walked to Harbour Town for just such a thing. And at the sidewalk table of a vendor woman with cinnamon skin and bright brown eyes, he found it. A carousel rack was crammed with postcards, one of which, titled “Seashells of the Bahamas,” instantly caught his eye. The postcard featured 47 shell species, from the flat white Sand Dollar with its starlike perforations, to the striated whorls of the Queen Conch, to pink and purple bivalve shells that, when opened, looked like porcelain butterflies. Dylan bought the postcard and mailed it to Stephanie in less than an hour, hoping that one day he could explain how those seashells reminded him of her luminous beauty and grace, and how she, like a shell, encompassed his entire heart.

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. Für Elise . by Dawn Armstrong
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As Bud shoved the mail into the slots he noticed the postcard. Christ another one of these sappy, wish you were here-but not really postcards. Then he read it. “Hey Baby, like what you see? I’m all yours tonight…Love, Elise.” He studied the picture. It resembled the old pin up girl posters his grandfather kept in his garage, only this was a photograph of a real babe. “Jeezus look at those tits!” he murmured under his breath. The girl was wearing black lacy lingerie, straps slipping off her shoulders. She knelt on a bear rug, knees on either side of its head. A blonde in black straddling a polar bear rug. Bud moaned and closed his eyes. Oh to be that smiling bear. Fuck the bear. Bud wanted to be the guy.
Elise was on Bud’s mind all day. On his break he used the mail truck to jack off. With Elise in his head he didn’t need much else. Later that night as he climbed into bed her image was still with him. Dozing, he heard her speak.
“I thought you’d never get home baby.” she cooed. Bud sat up but couldn’t see in the darkness. “Who…?” he asked. “It’s Elise, baby…I told you I’m all yours tonight.” He could hear her walking closer. “Ride me like the bear, bitch!” growled Bud as he rolled over.
“I AM the bear!” Elise snarled as Bud felt his back shatter and his skin rip.

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. Postcards, the Attic Cabinet . by Sam Rasnake
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To Duchamp

There are no tapestries here,
no weaving, no nights spent
undoing empires worth saving

We are glass & tubes & gears
that grind the wheels that turn
under a metal veil streaming

as if a single life – forgotten or
remembered – could be forged
in a blast of sand and steel

– New York, 1913

Amsterdam

Ssshhh – Don’t tell anyone. I’m outside the hotel room
where Chet Baker died. What made him think he could fly?
I bribed the bellboy to let me in to see the window.
My fingers against the cool glass – the city, a cluster
of lights waiting for dawn, and suddenly I feel wings –
I swear – opening from both my shoulders.
See you soon. Maybe –

– 1994

To Buson

One crow walks the roof of a blue Mustang, speaks
to the sky, to nothing, speaks to hear his own voice
when it falls against gravel – Surely this winter,
from its wild and lonely places, will cover the hard
world in a breath, a shadow, in a moving on the wind.
He must know something, then hops down, disappears –

– 2006

Berlin

– for Edmund Kohler

The dust is everything. All times between
living and the dead blur to nothing, to one
foot in front of the other, to a slice of raw
potato, and water that hints at tea.

You should see this place. Dark hallways
with wrecked doors, empty stairwells where
music is silence. A broken city – Piles of
rubble here and here and here. So many.

– 1947

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. The Friendly Confines . by Tom Allman Jr.
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I got a postcard from myself yesterday, postmarked from Twenty-Three years in the future. On the front was a picture of New Wrigley Field……

My weary eyes fluttered open, I could see Joe Jr. He’d hardly left my side in the last week. My kith and kin had all come and gone, saying goodbye to a skeleton that used to be me.

Joe Junior and I had butted heads after his mom had left. I surprised him one day at college and took him to a Cubs game. Two men, at the Friendly Confines, sharing a few beers and few laughs.

“Remember Old Wrigley in May,” I rasped. “Yeah Dad, I do,” his voice cracking. “I’m taking the boys on Tuesday wanna go?”
“Yeah I do Joe.”

The back of the postcard said, “Screw work, take Junior to a ball game.”

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. Argonaut . by Guy Yasko
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The closing door chokes off the roar of the party. Interesting. He tries
it again. Same effect. He can see his breath in the bedroom. He pulls
his sleeves down and considers crawling under the pile of coats on the
bed.

– Drunk, drunker than i thought. Boots where are my boots?

He sits on the bed and tries to remember. His eyes spin upward to the
bookshelf. A code: The gift triste-tropiques suicide distinction homo
academicus the postcard. His coat sleeve beckons from the pile and
triggers memories of his boots.

Out on the street, hands thrust deep into pocket and collar turned up
against the wind, he announces:

– Dilettantes. Derrida for dilettantes.

The judgment promises to echo off the brick, but dies in the cold. There
is only the crunch of cinders under boots.

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. Postcard from Garmisch, 1985 . by Doug Bond
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Can you believe it, that mountain on the front? I’m there! Hitched
down from Munich, totally crazy, 200+, but it’s the autobahn right?
and I’m like this is so NOT cool and can’t remember how to say slow or
even stop, so I just point to my crotch and scream, “Peeeeeeeee!” He
skids into a turnout, and I run down the road with my thumb out and
right away some really cool guys pick me up on their way to Garmisch.
I’m like “Hey I’m going to London to meet my sweetie,” and they’re
all, you know, “It’s raining there!” and “We have this boat in
Mykonos” and then I realize my coat, kinda got shredded, from the hike
up, when me and this guy are sideways on the mountain and dirt and
pine crap filling my sandals, sliding on my ass, hands getting all
sticky, but he pulls me up and then, like I said we had beers. So
Mykonos, sounds way cool! But I can’t wait to CU, but maybe, can you?
Like just a week or so? I love it that you were standing where that
Woodsworth guy wrote those poems. Oh, and that tape you sent, the
best! Kurt loves it too, says you have awesome taste. You really do.
CU 2 weeks, I’ll be tan, you’ll love it (no tan lines!) Hey look in
the mirror and say the words: Olive Juice…what’s it look like…that’s
what I’m saying, I’m saying it now….Olive Juice! — Betsy

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. Sins of the Father, Part 1 . by Kim Hutchinson
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She gets all the press, the young one, the second wife.

Perhaps the poor girl deserves it, in a way. He ruined her life.

Oh Adam, taste this.

She could just imagine.

Not that she missed him, or the garden. All she’d wanted was a partner, someone to share the pleasures, the creativity, the discoveries. All he’d wanted was a supplicant.

She’d even tried to teach him to fuck properly, to please a woman, to share.

It takes too long, he’d whined, with you on top.

Yet, his story was the very foundation of the world, at the root of everything people thought, said and did. Meanwhile, hers could fit on the back of a postcard.

History’s built on the tale of a poster child for immaturity and his adolescent bride.

Some say it’s a tale of warning. Others say it’s about growing up, leaving helplessness behind.

But there’s always more than one version. The truth is in the center, the points of view like points on a compass or map. Sanctifying just one, excluding all others, is a sin of omission passed from father to son. Decisions are made, societies organized, lives destroyed or lost.

What we worship is telling and often sad, yet it’s a choice. We can choose again, choose better.

We can change the world from flat to round.

It’s that easy, and that difficult.

It’s not too late.

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. My Turn . by Matthew A. Hamilton
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i pour a bowl of Rice Krispies
stand there and stare at your
picture on the refrigerator door
it’s been three days
three days and no sound

i flip on the bathroom light
the goldfish are dead
you were the one to
feed them

I flush them down
the toilet
i wait for the water
to stop swirling
i grab my gun
and put it to my mouth

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. Postcards to the Center . by Walter Bjorkman
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Nov 20th, Megans Bay

Children!! Having so much fun on this 30 day cruise to the Caribbean and South America you gave us for our 25th anniversary. Pops is still wearing his black socks with the sandals, he has become a laughingstock with all the sleek, tanned South Florida crew onboard. I told him to at least wear white ones. But I hardly ever see him, he always has somewhere to go, and I caught him sneaking into the room at 2am for money!! I think he is hitting the tables pretty hard.

Love,

Mom

Nov 25th, Cozumel

Dad got thrown out of Carlos & Charlie’s last night, I was so embarassed – no one gets thrown out of there. He was dancing on the tables with a local named Concertina or something, and got into a fight with the manager when asked to stop. He was drunk as a skunk and is sleeping it off. – Mom

Nov 30th, Aruba

Well, here we are – I had to stay behind, your rotten father missed the ship. I guess when we find him we will have to fly to the next port-of-call. Conchita, who turns out to be a masseuse from the ship, is missing also. At least I know the house is in safe hands with my wonderful children.

* * *

“Mrs. Norman? The purser’s office wants you.You have a call from Nebraska, something about a drug raid and weapons in your house. Oh, and we filed the missing persons report.”

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. Shim . by John Wentworth Chapin
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He lay on his side for a moment, catching his breath, assessing the damage to his body and the small sitting area next to his bed. He didn’t have a real living room anymore; he’d had to select one piece of furniture to bring with him to this facility four years earlier. He had sighed when he made the choice: better than being dead.

He’d been hobbling past the end table and had put his hand out for balance. The table tipped, and he went with it. He wasn’t hurt badly, but the pain was starting. He sighed: better than being dead.

He’d made this table — decades ago, couldn’t really remember if he’d been a young man or an old man. One of its legs had splintered in the fall. He saw the culprit: on the floor under the table was a folded-up piece of paper that had been keeping the table level. One of the legs had always been too short.

He reached with bruised arm to grab the paper, unfolded it, saw that is was a postcard: a tropical beach. He didn’t recognize it. He flipped it over. Nothing was written on the other side, and he didn’t have his reading glasses to decipher the tiny print. He didn’t know where it was from, who’d bought it, why, anything.

He sighed.

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. This Week’s To Do List . by Michelle Elvy
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(or: Twelve things I’m gonna do before I’m thirty, not necessarily in this order, but probably all in one week, since I turn thirty next Thursday)

1. Go to Stef’s Subshop and order a foot-long kielbasa with kraut and mustard and extra peperoncinis.

2. Buy a decent amp and a guitar — preferably a Stratocaster like I used to have, but let’s face it, any ol’ guitar will do.

3. Swim far out into the Atlantic, then float there til dark – like we did when we were kids.

4. Start new job.

5. Dig my LP’s out of Cyril’s basement; dust off Hank Williams and Dave Alvin, Tom Waits and Lou Reed.

6. Rent all of The Godfather movies and watch them in one go.

7. Get a library card.

8. Visit my mother.

9. Kick my kid brother Frank’s ass.

10. Get out of jail.

11. Send this postcard to Penny that says: Meet me at Harris Point for my birthday.

12. Drive to Harris Point and wait.

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The Editors of 52|250 wish to thank Cecelia Ronald for her picture “Vienna postcard|Coffee mug coaster”. Here’s what she had to say:

I received this postcard while in London in 1948 from a friend in Vienna, along with a pound of Viennese coffee, and had nothing else to use as a coaster while I enjoyed the wonderful brew, not thinking of it as more than a note. Lost in the post-war haze and shifting populations, we never met again. I have used it ever since.

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