I poured another glass of my favourite merlot and picked up the postcard again. It wasn’t really anything special; just a few seagulls flying across a mostly blue sky overtop sparkling blue water. Tampa, Florida scrawled across the top left corner.
Of course, I knew who it was from before I even turned it over. Wanda. The woman for whom my father had abandoned my mother and me almost 15 years ago. Wanda, the woman who’d made more of an effort over the years to reconnect the two of us than he’d ever made in his entire life. Wanda, the woman whose very name made my skin crawl.
I’d received dozens of such postcards over the years. They always seemed to have some kind of animal on them. Dolphins. Whales. Alligators. Puppies. Sickening really.
So when I picked up this one, I expected the typical message on the back: Hi Sweetest Girl! Your Dad and I are having such a fantabulous time here. You should come and visit! He misses you soooooo much!!! We know you’re busy, but please try to write us back sometime! Bundles of love with bows on top, Wanda and Dad.
Something along those lines.
I never thought I’d wish for another postcard like that. And, well, I guess I still wouldn’t. I just wasn’t expecting this. I suppose no one ever really does.
With another sip of wine, I turned the card over and re-read the message.
“Dearest Sammie, I’m sorry to have to tell you this...but your father no longer flies high in the sky of life with us. He passed peacefully on Aug 7th, with me and your step-brother at his side. I’m sure he would have wanted you to be there...there just wasn’t any time. He loved you sooooo much!!!! Please write back, come visit, the funeral is Monday. Bundles of love as always, Wanda."
Who tells someone their father’s dead on a bloody postcard? And who makes a stupid pun on said postcard? Seriously.
I drained the last of the wine in one giant swallow. Wishing the bottle wasn't already empty, I pushed the glass out of the way.
The Great Puzzle. Dad's little pet term for life. And, of course, he was obsessed with actual puzzles. It was the unrequested unwanted gift he'd always give me, year after year, without fail. Come to think of it, he and Wanda really did deserve each other.
The funny thing is I couldn't not complete the puzzles he gave me. I don't know why. Like I was compelled to do it by some higher, father-loving-despite-everything power. Until this year. The FLDE Powers That Be had finally given up too and so this year's puzzle was still carelessly wrapped in silver paper, unevenly folded, with tape peeling off.
I'd told myself I'd open it if--and only if--he ever convinced me that there was more to him, and to us, than this pointless gift. Enough's enough, you know? But I guess that’s one day that’ll never see light.And maybe this last puzzle could my good-bye to what was and what could never be.
I tore it open, and tossed the wrapping to the side. The puzzle was a shot of earth as seen from space and had a thousand pieces. Literally.I sat there for three and a half hours putting it together. I'm really good at puzzles. Lots of practice, I suppose.
The phone rang a few times, like an alarm clock valiantly trying to wake me from this strange dream. I ignored it.
I fingered the last puzzle piece. It was mostly white, with some red,and it fit exactly no where. Certainly not in the empty spot somewhere in Australia.
"Damn him," I muttered, "That's just like him, give me a puzzle that can't be solved. Way to give me closure, Dad. Very freaking thoughtful."
I tried to force it in anyway, even though it couldn't possibly fit. In frustration, I flung the piece onto the table. It bounced once and landed face down. That's when I saw it, printed in ridiculously tiny letters. I had to get out a magnifying glass just to read it. I have no clue how he managed to write so bloody small.
"I'm sorry I never quite fit in your life. I have the puzzle for this piece, and you have the piece to my puzzle. Try again? Love, Dad."
Tears flooded my vision as I dialled a number I had memorized long ago but never called. It rang only once. I wasn't ready. But I guess you never really can be.
"Hello, Wanda?" I said, "It's Sammie."
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