The letter crumpled easily in John Turner’s fist. His grip choked the paper, killing its integrity forever, and he didn’t care. He swallowed, but this time his mouth was dry. His heart sank by degrees as the message in the letter made its way through his mind, reshaping reality.
Normally he walked briskly. Now he shuffled. Each step he took from the mailbox to the door of his house, about a twenty yard walk, became heavier and more difficult. But he made it. He slipped the key in the keyhole, turned it, and stepped inside. It was gloomy. That morning’s sunshine had been swallowed by hungry clouds, and the dim daylight did little to illuminate his dining room.
He released the choked paper and tossed it in a pile of unsorted mail. The dining room table was a repository of everything he didn’t want to face: bills, newspapers, unchecked to-do lists, scraps of food, crumbs, and dirty dishes. Normally at this hour he would go into the kitchen, make a salad or sandwich, eat it, and try to get back to work a minute or two late. No one would ever say anything about being late by a minute. But this time, he slumped, slowly. Stupefied, stunned, and sorry. His sofa surrounded him as he sank into it, but unlike most times; it was no comfort to him.
He glanced at the letter as it sat on the pile of neglect. Drew a breath. Sighed. Smiled a melancholy smile of defeat and closed his eyes.