by Matt Potter
I don’t get a lot of letters any more. And not usually in pink envelopes, with scalloped edges on the back where you stick down the flap with spit and run your fingers along to stamp it down.
“You got a letter,” Bernice said, as I dropped my keys on my desk and sat down in my swivel chair. “You don’t see much of them any more.”
That’s Bernice for you, making friends with the obvious.
“You get a lot of emails,” she said, tilting back in her own chair, the backrest creaking and the spring straining under the seat. “But not a lot of mail mail.”
“I know,” I said, my hands warm on the vinyl armrests. “Plays havoc with the folk interested in philately.” I stared at the letter propped up on my keyboard.
The chair spring snapped under Bernice as she sat forward again. “There you go,” she said, turning her pale green eyes on me now, “always using those big words no one understands.” She scratched at that rash on her neck and glanced at the letter.
I looked at her pudgy face framed by that mess of gray curls and clamped my mouth shut.
Then I looked back at the envelope.
The writing was small but pressed deep into the pink paper. Was it perfumed? That could just be the sweet cloying stuff Bernice likes to wear. I picked up the envelope, held it to my nose, and sniffed.
“Any idea who sent it?”
Definitely perfumed. Though just a hint of scent, not strong, not like it was dipped in a tub of the stuff. So given the sloping, graceful hand of the writer, probably a woman, of some class.
“They used your full name,” Bernice said. “So they must know you.”
Mr. Harlequin Pontchartrain, I read on the envelope.
“Probably a local.”
Not Harley, like on my business card and my email signature and the nameplate on my desk.
“Probably known you a long time, maybe even your whole life.”
Most likely a local, willing to make a bold (given the way the envelope was addressed) but also delicate (given the pink paper) statement.
“Check the address on the back,” Bernice said, like she’d already checked it herself when she slotted the envelope into my keyboard. “I’m sure it must be local.”
I looked at the address on the front again.
Mr. Harlequin Pontchartrain,
The Quonsettville Quacker,
230 LaChute St,
Then I flipped it to the back.
Just an address.
105 W. Robespierre St,
So from the classy side of town.
“Aren’t you going to open it?” Bernice asked. “The suspense must be killing you.”
I opened the top drawer of my desk, dropped the envelope inside, and slid the drawer shut.
“There you go like always,” Bernice said, chair creaking as she staggered up, “clogging up the channels of communication.”
I watched as she waddled past my desk, off to the ladies’ room like she does every half hour. Stopping beside my nameplate, she glared at it, then snorted.
“And you call yourself a newspaperman.”
I didn’t tell Bernice then and I haven’t told her still. But later, after she looked at me sideways while side-stepping out the door twenty minutes late for her Thursday afternoon quilt-making class at the Homemakers’ Institute, I slid a letter-opener under the corner of the envelope. And let me tell you: that classy feeling brought on by that pink paper and those scalloped edges and the fancy perfume? That was blown clear out of the water, clear across Quonsett Pond, and came to a rattling halt somewhere way over the border.
Tuesday, June 11th 2019
I am through with this town and the entire state of Vermont, the letter began, so I thought you as editor-in-chief of the local newspaper should know why I have left.
The letter-opener clanged onto my keyboard but my eyes were glued to the curly script.
After 11 years as Municipal Chief Librarian, after 6 years at the helm of the Quonsettville Poetry Appreciation Society and after 8 years service as the Vice-President-of-Everything-Else-That-Nobody-Else-Wants-To-Do with the Quonsettville Historical Preservation League, I am quitting.
When you receive this letter, Lord knows where I will be, but I promise you and the 6,872 other inhabitants of this sorry town one thing: I will never return!!
On the back of this letter – and here is where I flipped the letter over, then flipped it back – is a list of every person in this town who has made my life a living hell and driven me away.
Euphoria Rivers, M.L.I.S. and former Quonsettville Municipal Chief Librarian
Turning the page over again, I saw it, a list – a long list in tiny, determined print – with many names and their occupations but no reason for their inclusion.
And at the top of the page, in thick letters pressed deep into the pink paper, underlined and in blue ink, were the words: The Shitlist.
Find out some interesting facts and figure about Euphoria Rivers by clicking here.
Find out some interesting facts and figure about Quonsettville by clicking here.
Find out about things currently concerning small towns in Vermont by clicking here.