I had a pleasant conversation with one of my Calgary writing colleagues, Rona Altrows, earlier this week about the epistolary form in fiction. To my amazement, she reminded me of one of my “postcard” stories from several years ago. Rona even remembered the title, but why would that surprise me?
I went back to reread “Poste Restante”, published in FreeFall in fall 2011. The story takes me back to the light on the cobblestones in Salzburg, 1977. It also makes me yearn for Viennesse coffee and strudel. I’ll make do with the memory, but give the story its moment back in the sunlight.
Salzburg Oct. 19, 1977
At a sidewalk café, butterscotch light spilling across cobblestones, me with coffee and strudel, you with pretzels and a mug of dark beer, we open mail from home. A whiff of my mother’s hand lotion rises from the page.
Hope you kids are having a grand time. Remember to look up those names I gave you, I’m sure my cousin Ilsa is still alive even though nobody’s heard from her in years. And that little restaurant Daddy and I found in Frieberg in 1963. The man’s name was Otto. He’ll remember us because his wife had a sister over here and living in Red Deer no less.
Now my news. Henry and I are buying a house. We’ll get married eventually, but for now I think it’s best if we just live together. Your sister’s not talking to me. When did you say you were coming home?
My nieces have decorated my sister’s letter with rainbows and hearts.
I wish we could afford to take three months like you, but with the kids, a week in the tent trailer at Sylvan Lake is all I can count on. Mom doesn’t have time to babysit these days. She’s living with Henry. Not even two years since Dad died.
The pages of the letters crackle as I fold them into the envelope.
“Anything new at home?” you ask.
“Nope.” I fork up a bite of strudel. “Where’s out next poste restante?”
A month away.