This is a short story that I wrote a few months back. More details on it tommorrow. Meanwhile, read on:
A letter from Elaine
Copyright (c) Pushpak Karnick, 2004
The postman was late. Rossen Edger Jones III, waited all day on Monday for the now so familiar sight of the USPS van bearing the now so punctual letter. It was a weekly ritual for him now, receiving the letter on Monday, and replying almost immediately by Wednesday, so that his reply reached the destination the next day, and he got back a new letter on Monday of the following week.
But this week, it was already past Monday, and there was still no sign of Harry, the neighborhood postman who had been here from eternity, or so it seemed. Harry was usually very punctual, and this is what worried Rossen Edger Jones III, the most.
“Not like Harry to miss a day’s mail”, the folks would say. “The Spring may come in late on Edgecastle, but not Harry, the herald”. The folks in this plain town of
fondly addressed their postman by this ancient title. Queer style, someone would say, and the people of Edgecastle would probably drink a hearty beer to that too. Edgecastle
Edgecastle was not what you would exactly call a town, nor did it have the rustic ambience of the long forgotten villages. It was somewhere in between, and the folks here liked that. “Ours is not a dinky town, or a plain horse-driven country. Its just Edgecastle”, was their response to the snobbish looks of the townspeople, who happened to stop by in the town. The people of Edgecastle were simple-minded folks with simple lives, and Rossen Edger Jones III, was perhaps the oldest living human there.
Rossen Edger Jones III, whole of eighty six years, lived in his dainty little cottage by an equally neatly groomed farm, where he grew a handful of vegetables, which were all that one needed to survive in these times. He never owned a television, that black box of intricate monstrosity, which those peoples from big cities were proud of. It was probably the tradition in Edgecastle of not to own one, for no house had a TV set. Nor a microwave, or a dishwasher. It was as if Time had passed by the place, and never left its footprints behind. Rossen Edger Jones III, as such had nothing to do once he had tended the farm in the mornings, and it was the letter that kept him busy at least some days of the weeks. But now without one on a Monday, he had wasted his day, not knowing what to do, deliberating on the fate of that precious cargo. Old men were seldom busy, and Rossen Edger Jones III, welcomed the letter as a welcome diversion from the usual ennui of his life.
It was late Tuesday afternoon then that Harry rolled into the driveway of Rossen Edger Jones III’s cottage.
“Your letter, as usual, Mr. Jones. Sorry the mail came in late from the town, seems like the new computers they got in the city broke down. If you ask me, they never should have got them in first place. Nothing like good ol’folks handling the deliveries. Never trust the machine to fill in our place”. He shrugged, receiving no response other than a half grunt “H-uh”, from the older man. Harry walked back to his van, his thoughts already on his next delivery. No one paid much attention to Rossen Edger Jones III, these days.
Rossen Edger Jones III ambled across the hall, which led to his study; he always read the first letter in the study, the second in the kitchen. The peace, the tranquility surrounding the place gave him the much needed concentration to read. He held the letter gently as if it were made of the wings of the August butterflies, brittle and delicate, but immensely beautiful. It smelled like the old time, yes it did!! He opened the envelope and smiled. Oak wood stationary, always the same. Some things just never changed.
* * * * *
“Dear Rossen”, it began, and Rossen Edger Jones III, squinted behind his glasses to bring the words into focus.
-- I cannot describe my joy on learning that our patch had finally yielded the biggest pumpkin in Edgecastle (she always did take pride in the farm). I would have loved to be there, but Mrs. Simons (ah! That shriveled she-rat) fell ill and Mrs. Simmons (bless her soul) would not want me to leave so soon. I do eagerly wait for a word from you, dearest, for your words are all that what means to me. Forgive my ambling dear, I must be getting old too..
Its Fall here too, and the trees have starting shedding their old wares, waiting for the Spring to arrive. Poor souls, baring themselves to the harsh Winter, in the patient longing of the Spring. The ranch and the Hunter’s Burrow sparkle with golden brown hues in the wee hours, and I am reminded of your warmth, so much like that golden sunshine (Ah, my girl, I know). But it’s not just the trees that are changing. Last week, that Johnny boy across the street got a new bicycle for his birthday (God, how fast these children grow? Was he ten already?), and he spent all day driving the bicycle and in turn, driving me mad by his hooting and honking (Rossen Edger Jones III permitted himself a little smile here – that rascal, I bet he did that on purpose, he chuckled). Little Edna was terrified of all the noise her brother was creating, and my, did Sally have a hard time pacifying her.
Last night, the doctor stopped by to look at me. ‘Ah’, I said, ‘what do you see in this old frail lady , doctor? Why waste your time on me, there’s a lot of folks who need you’. And that young man, he just smiled and said ‘I have to take care of everybody, Mrs. Jones. And after all, you do bake the best cakes in a hundred miles’. God bless that young man. It’s not often that we see such men today. He is indeed the brightest of the new lot. Remember the time when he used to climb over our backyard with his friend, what’s-his-name (Arbor, Donald Arbor. Yes I remember) – to steal the carrots. I told you then that this young man was going high. And look where he is today, the best doctor (the ONLY doctor, my dear, Rossen Edger Jones III sighed) that Edgecastle has.
I went to the
with the Dumses yesterday, and it was a jolly good time together with Barton and Leia (Barton, my best buddy. It just seems like yesterday, doesn’t it dear?). The men went fishing and we womenfolk spread the lunch. It seemed so much like the old times. I wished you were here (I wish that always, dear, I wish that always). You do take in your daily pills, don’t you? I know you don’t really believe in the new medicines, but trust that doctor, he is a good man. Take good care of yourself dear. Still Lake
Rossen Edger Jones III dabbed his sleeves to his moist eyes. He missed Elaine too. Elaine, his wife of forty years, the only person he ever felt connected with. He missed being without her, and how he wished that Elaine would come back, just for a day. But these were idle thoughts, she had made up her mind, and she was not coming back. He thought of all the loneliness without her, and then came the first letter. He promptly replied to it and now it became a regular feature of their lives. Monday was the day that Rossen Edger Jones III, would receive his wife’s letter, write back to her on Wednesday, and await her reply the next Monday. It was a game they both loved to play. Rossen Edger Jones III, knew that she loved him, loved him more than he could love her, but she would never come back. That was just impossible. His friends, neighbors all helped him get over that initial shock, and then slowly drifted out of his life, each with his own to look after.
He did not blame anybody. Rossen Edger Jones III was a war veteran, and a hardened soul at that. He went on with his life, though he cherished the letters as much as his own life. Some things just never changed.
* * * * *
Rossen Edger Jones III, pulled out his writing pad and pen. He was already a day late in replying to Elaine. “I just hope she understands”, he mumbled as his pen made strokes with a flourish, on the smooth paper.
I watched the sunset all by myself yesterday. Sitting there by the patio, I looked out and embraced the thousand golden wings of the sun. Watched till the Dusk crawled over the valley and took all the birds under her fold. How I wished you were here by my side, holding my hand. Remember that time when we visited the Welshes? I can never forget that evening? You were the most beautiful that you ever were, on that one evening. Remember how we slept on the bare grass, gazed for hours at the stars above and around us. Named each star for a dream, each dream for a wish, each wish for a moment, and asked for never ending moments of togetherness (Rossen Edger Jones III brushed a light tear from his eyes as he wrote, I remember. God, how I wish I could forget. Just this once!!!). It seemed as if the Daylight, a Gypsy with braids of golden rays, had finally stopped her dance and settled for a night full of rest. The Night came on, like a wizened old lady, caressing the younger one to sleep, and singing her songs. The moon shone like the silver streaks of wisdom in the older woman’s hair, who went about her duties of setting the world right once the dancing Gypsy had rested. I felt so much together, so much with you.
Every day I tell myself that it will still be. That it cannot be true that we are not together. But every passing day reminds me of the distance between us, and every passing night renews the hope that Dawn will break. I will be waiting for you in the Dawn, Elaine. I will always be waiting for you.
He folded the paper neatly into the envelope, and licked a stamp to it. He would walk to the post office after his supper, which was shortly. He looked outside, from his study window and sighed, “O Daylight, elusive Gypsy, how you mock me with your colors? Do feel pity for this old soul, who has lost all that he ever had, to the deep recesses of the Night. Do be by my bedside when I go, O fair maiden. Do be so…”
* * * * *
It was Thursday, and the postman was late, yet again. Rossen Edger Jones IIII paced around his room, waiting for Harry to show up. God ! damn those incompetent fools who could not deliver a letter on time. Didn’t they know that each letter was not just a bunch of ink scrawled across paper; it was something much more than that.
Harry rolled his van into the driveway lazily. He had done it so many times, he could do it blindfolded. Rossen Edger Jones III was perhaps the only person in the entire area that he knew, who received not one but two letters every week. One on Monday, and one on Thursday. He never knew anybody who had that busy a life, and ol’man Jones was hardly one whom you could call a ‘busy’ person. He hardly ever spoke, and rarely made an attempt to socialize with his neighbors. But he was a quaint little man, never troubled anybody, and in a way, Harry was actually fond of him. Especially after his wife Elaine died a few years ago, ol’Jones had turned into a recluse, shutting himself from all outsiders.
“Your letter, Mr. Jones”. Harry saluted the war hero as he handed the letter. Rossen Edger Jones III gave one of his rare smiles, and then turned back into the house, without saying a word.
He went straight to the kitchen, to the table facing the backyard, and sat down to read. The envelope was apple-white, with a roughly licked stamp clinging to it. He smiled as he removed the letter and began to read, though he already knew what the words were.
I watched the sunset all by myself yesterday. Sitting there by the patio, I looked out and…..
……………I will always be waiting for you.
Rossen Edger Jones III sighed as he removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. Then, with renewed vigor, he took out a pad of oakwood stationery and began to write –
“Dear Rossen …”
It was time for another letter from Elaine.
* * * * *