Monday, March 8, 2010

Returned to sender

Jessie worried off and on that she hadn't done quite enough to end the estrangement with Edgar, so every few years she sent a letter of towards Texas and hoped for the best. She liked the romance of addressing an envelope with only "Edgar Markey, Texas," sending it out into the universe, but instead always looked him up on the internet. If that old SOB wants to stay lost, he's met his match with, she thought, but he won this round and the letter came back with the rubber-stamped pointing finger of failure. It didn't matter as much as she thought it might, since Aunt Mary Ann had sent the information she needed. Rena, the cousin of a cousin, had gathered more family facts than Edgar ever could have remembered. Plus, Edgar had a way of being coy with facts and memories, stretching them out like he'd be around forever to give you the next installment. Jessie didn't have the patience. Facts would die with his generation and eighty-seven is no age to be an information coquette.

Aunt Mary Ann disapproved of the way Edgar slipped through people's fingers. She felt uneasy never knowing if she could pick up the phone and expect him to answer. She knew why he avoided Jessie, and she didn't like that, either. Hadn't she had a son, that child of her heart? Hadn't she loved him no matter what, right through his last breath, and still? She loved Edgar fiercely, but didn't see how he could feel so righteous. Jessie suspected he didn't feel righteous at all, that there was something else keeping him gone.

Jessie had pieced together a lot, and the more she worked, the more it felt like a picture. It was a puzzle, with sections living and dead, and she was finally a piece that fit somewhere. Edgar was there, too, like Hank, but it didn't matter so much anymore whether either of them cared or not.

By the time the letter had come back she couldn't remember what she had written. Probably a quick question about his well-being first. It would have been sincere. Jessie wanted to know about hereditary problems like the high cholesterol and blood pressure. Next, probably a question about his grandfather - his name or profession - that Mary Ann or Violet answered weeks ago. Not even relevant. Probably a line or two about Edgar's grandson, but without details about too much weed or a lost driver's license. Jessie could say enough true things without all that. Then a simple "Love, Jessica." She almost tossed it into the recycling bin before she remembered she had enclosed a stamped envelope. No point in wasting that.

Her computer beeped and it was a new email from Hank. His oldest daughter, Ella, was in some sort of a thing at school, a play or a concert, and Jessie was glad they lived a thousand miles apart. She couldn't imagine the kind of family time Hank would require. He didn't care about the tree, about their lineage. He wanted the real family, and he wanted his father. He was relentless. She wanted to stun it out of him. You don't always get to have your daddy. Man up, for chrissake! but she kept it to herself. Susan got exasperated sometimes, too, but she knew where her own father was, and knew where he had been all his life, too. She wouldn't get it, so Jessie had to.

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