Traveling by Susan Gibb

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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14 responses to “Traveling by Susan Gibb

  1. Sad and Ironic at the same time. I wonder how often this kind of thing actually happens. Thanks for the Gift of Prose.

  2. Powerful! And sad. It works well in the space between his spelling the address wrongly and her flying off the roof.

  3. Kim Hutchinson

    A sad and compelling story. Love the description of the postcard’s journey.

  4. Thanks, folks! It’s a bit trite but once the end came to me I couldn’t get rid of it.

  5. Al McDermid

    I have a strange affinity for number confusion stories (most likely thanks to my own mild dyslexia) but I never think to have the confusion result in tragedy, which you’ve done here to very good effect (and hardly trite). A tragic end, but perfectly suited to the story.

  6. Congratulations on ‘Wanderer’ winning the Glass Woman Prize. You definitely deserve it. :)

  7. One small mistake and wham – tragedy. Good stuff.

    A HUGE congrats on the Glass Woman Prize — beautiful story, so well-deserved. Peace…

  8. Al McDermid

    I don’t know this prize, but winning is always good (expect perhaps winning Shirley Jackson’s ‘Lottery’)–Congrats! Where can I read ‘Wanderer’?

  9. Thanks, Al! “Wanderer” is at: which is the main page, then click on “Wanderer” in the text.

    • Al McDermid

      Wow, what a story. Everything done so well, such wonderful descriptions. I could almost feel the haze she seemed to be in. And I knew something was going to happen, something drastic, and yet, still did not see it coming. Had I read it as a news item, I’d just feel angry, but with this, the anger gets mixed with sympathy for women, and pity over the stupidity of such men. The last 70oo years of gender relation has been a perversion.

      The Shirley Jackson reference was weird, no?

  10. Pingback: Week #28 – the postcard | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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