Friday, July 27, 2012

Eternal Optimist


The letter.  Discovered on the dusty floor behind the dark mahogany bureau, as the team of movers was preparing to haul it out of the tiny bedroom.  It was early morning in the fall of 1967.  The owner of the home, and the bureau, Howard Douglas, had been gone two months now.  The squat little cottage was going to be sold.  His heirs needed the money.

The natural assumption, of course, was that somewhere in the passage of time, the letter had slipped unseen from the top of the bureau and settled in the dark inch of space between the back of the heavy piece of furniture and the wall.

A casual glance, however, would easily spot the brittle strips of cellophane tape barely clinging to the rough unfinished board on the back of the bureau.  Pieces of tape that had already released their grip on the yellowed paper of the envelope.  So the letter was not lost after all, but had been intentionally concealed.  How many years had the letter waited in silence, refusing to give itself away?

With calloused hands, and curious eyes, one of the movers, a balding man with a broken front tooth, removed the letter from the envelope, and began to read.


July 23, 1944


Because you are reading this letter, I know that my brother Howard has done what I begged him to do-retrieve it and deliver it safely to you.  And you, safe as well, are home from the war!

Now that you know where to find me, we can finally be together.  No more secrets.

Always and forever, my love.



“Well ain’t that a shame.  Looks like lover boy never got the message.”  And with that, the calloused hands crumpled the sheet of paper and the envelope, and tossed them on the trash pile in the center of the room.  It was close to noon.  Abandoning, for the time being, the task of moving the bureau, the movers broke for lunch. 

Unseen by anyone, except perhaps, for a small gray spider perched near the ceiling, one of the movers re-entered the room.  A boy, slight in build and in his early teens, with a full head of blond hair, braces on his teeth, and a brother off fighting, and now missing, in Vietnam.   Hastily this boy retrieved the letter and the envelope, and hid them under his cap.

Later that afternoon, when evening was only a few remaining patches of sun light away, and the little house stood empty, the sentimental teenager climbed into the back of the moving truck and squeezed his way over to the bureau.  Taking a roll of packing tape from the pocket of his jacket and setting  it on top of the bureau, he removed the letter and envelope from beneath his cap, and with reverent hands smoothed them out before placing the one back inside the other. Reaching for the tape, he pulled off a suitable length, and carefully reattached the envelope to the rough unfinished board, exactly where it had first been attached years earlier.

Pausing, before he left the truck, he spoke in a voice so soft that he almost didn’t hear himself.

“Don’t give up hope Anna.  Never give up hope.”


Amy and I have been up to our elbows in paint this week, and so for the prompt today-to write a piece featuring a letter, I have chosen to repost this story.


  1. I loved this the first time. Great repost, Valerie.

  2. Cam-thank you so much! I'm glad this piece fit the prompt, because I love the prompt!

    I'll be swinging by your blog very soon:)

  3. Loved reading this again today - it's such a great piece!

    I'm exciting to see the finished paint job!

  4. Thank you Lisa!

    I'll post photos next week-but I have a surprise. We aren't working on Amy's room right now as it's been too hot to paint upstairs, but we've done a dining room makeover instead! I just need to get the new curtain fabric and and then sew the curtains:)

  5. You have such a talent for writing, Valerie.
    I can always vividly picture the story as I read. :)

    Hope the painting project went well!


  6. Kimberly-thank you for saying that-it means a lot!!

    I'm hoping to post photos of our project this coming week. The barkcloth I ordered for the curtains is due any day-chocolate brown! It won't take long to whip them together and then I'll take pictures! I'm so excited:)

  7. I am sniffling and wiping a tear ... very touching .. my husband lost a brother a 3 years ago.. he is a month older than me, a Special Opps Marine from the Gulf War .. he left AK to visit family back east .. rented a car in Cleveland and was last seen in
    PA at a hotel. 2 years of agonizing hope to find him
    .. last fall hunters found his remains in the woods a mile from the hotel.
    Never give up hope .. ♥
    You are a great writer .. wonderful story. Thomas was a writer also.

  8. Lisa-I'm so, so sorry. What a sad and awful story, and my heart goes out to you and your husband's family. War is terrible enough, but some of the lingering consequences are just as devastating. I'm thankful that there is at least closure now, though I'm sure it does not lessen the pain of losing Thomas.

    Thank you so much for your comment. I love writing for this very reason-that I might touch someone's own life with my words. And the fact that this struck a chord with you makes me feel very honored:)

  9. Oh--so full of mystery and bittersweetness. I love it!

  10. Are you painting? I can't wait to see the finished product.

  11. I agree, your talent shines through in the details of this piece. Such good writing.