Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

September 3, 2008 at 8:13 pm (Mary McQueary, Short Story)


He sat staring blankly at the wall, the bulging manila envelope lying in his lap unopened. Seeming on their own accord his fingers suddenly began to move back and forth over the handwriting on the envelope’s front. He looked like a psychic blind man trying to divine from the stain of ink.

His gaze dropped to the words. How beautiful her handwriting was he thought. She had perfected Zaner-Bloser cursive writing by the end of 2nd grade. She had been proud of the achievement.


The words were written in black gel, she had favored those pens due to their smooth flow, the ink responding like a well-trained puppy, never puddling when startled or pressed, not scratching when asked to jot a quick thought.

He looked down at the writing, reading again for the hundredth time the words, his mind still unable to understand the full import of what they meant. “Open Only In The Case of My Death”. The sigh that escaped from his mouth was one of disbelief tainted with curiosity.


In one fell swoop he ripped open the envelope across its right edge, his grasp letting go of the fragment as he quickly caught the contents within. When his brain registered what he was looking at he began to sob uncontrollably.


Before him lay a cluster of envelopes. He picked up one at a time. Each envelope was addressed “To My Friend” followed underneath by a person’s name. He leafed through the names, looking for his own. A panic rose in his throat, wasn’t there one here with his name on it? He was almost through the entire pile before he found his name lovingly written under the “To My Friend” preface.

He shoved the other envelopes off of the table violently then gently laid his envelope on the table and sat and stared at it as if it was a bomb that needed defusing and careful thought needed to be taken before disarming. At the beginning of the word “Friend” the ink spread, as if she had hesitated leaving the pen touching the paper for a thought as to what to write. What other label would she have given him other than Friend? Lover? Husband? 


Sweat began to bead on his brow. He began to open the letter but sobs once again tore out of his throat and he clenched tight the envelope, tears spilling down like heavy rain of tropical summers, landing on the ink blurring his name when he tried to brush it off with his thumb. His vision blurred and his stomach in knots, he ripped the end of the envelope and shook out the paper inside. His heart raced as he unfolded the beautiful piece of stationary and searched for the top left corner, for the first word, eager to hear what she had to say.


– Mary McQueary


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