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Day Five: Be Brief

Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path.You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

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letter on groundI hurried down to the boat dock to see what all the sirens were about, nearly missing it as I tripped along the dirt path, a zip lock bag with a letter inside. I started to stuff it in my pocket to look at later, then stopped.

Removing the letter I unfolded it, recognizing the scribbled handwriting right away. She hadn’t been able to write well for a long time. In few words Libby told her husband she couldn’t put him through THIS any longer. THIS being terminal cancer. There is no hope, she said, and she wouldn’t stand by and watch him lose their home at the lake because of a pile of damn medical bills.

Instead of being shocked, it occurred to me I’d never heard her swear before. As if that were important now. That’s where she left it. I guess when you’d been married almost 70 years she didn’t need to say anymore. My stomach knotted.

Letter in hand, I ran the rest of the way. There on the pier was her lawn chair, a bucket with a small trout, and her tackle box. Her pole was nowhere to be seen. And in that instant I knew what she had done. She had staged her own death… Then the horror hit me. And the responsibility for what I held in my hand.

Her husband stood on the end of the pier staring into the water anxiously as if expecting to see her alive and well any minute. Divers in black suits were just going in. I knew they’d find her sooner or later with her pole near by, but now I had a dilemma. The letter had likely slipped from her pocket in that filmy bag as she’d made her way to the lake early that morning as she was wont to do. Howard loved fish for breakfast.

What was I to do about the letter? What if their insurance had a suicide clause in it? Had she even thought about that? But more importantly, what would it do to Howard if he knew what she had done. Or did he know? I hardly thought so, or why bother to write a note.

Howard finally sat in Libby’s chair, head in hands, sobbing uncontrollably. Libby’s loss would be bad enough, but to know she’d chosen to leave him? He’d never understand, wouldn’t have cared about the house. He would have wanted her with him as long as possible. And Libby knew that. She’d made a hard choice.

But the choice wasn’t that hard for me. I stuffed the note and the bag back in my pocket — I’d burn them when I got back to my cabin — and went down to the pier to comfort my my friend.