Linnette Talks with Her Postal Carrier

by | Apr 24, 2021 | Wendy Day 1 - Group B | 11 comments

The neighbor’s jasmine is descending my side of the fence in full bloom. It softens the otherwise barren corner of the year. The neighbor only shows up to power wash and mow, like so many around here now. The fragrance is lovely and when it puts its face in mine I feel invaded. It happens mostly

at nighttime. I wonder when I will be pushed out. So heady, I open the windows and it makes me dream wondrous.

In the old world religions, and probably in the new one, too, when it was somebody else’s old world and it still belonged to them, they observed the onset of things – the beginning of the harvest, the cold times when one must store up reserves, the planting season. The imperialism of Christianity is the putting of pins into a calendar like you could make time stand still. Here is Easter! It’s a type of violence, and an extension of the metaphor of nails going into a fleshly hand. It’s not politically correct to say, but you asked how I was doing.

I mix up etymologies. Sometimes I’ll put scapula with scalpel, but the fine edge of a young woman’s shoulder blade can always slice me across the eyeball.

My head doesn’t have room for all these thoughts. They’re unruly students, all speaking at once, and then they’re gone and I find brittle seeds sticking to stray threads in my pocket, and I can only guess what they’re for. I’m lucky if they didn’t go through the wash. Now I have a chance to plant them
and see what they become. If I remember.

I don’t fear being alone, just wish I could be more alone when I am. Like, time has something to do with physical presence? There’s an amount of decay that occurs after a few hours or weeks, depending
on the relationship. If I can swing my arms around when I dance I’ll know you’re gone, and I only dance alone.

In the morning, there’s the smell of wildfire. Will I be next?

11 Comments

  1. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Whoa. That ending is really strong. I love the structure of opening with this beautiful smell of jasmine and ending with this fire/burning/rot. The piece really turns from calming/ambient/nature-driven meditation into one of concern (worldly and personal) with anxieties and endless thoughts.

    “My head doesn’t have room for all these thoughts. They’re unruly students, all speaking at once, and then they’re gone and I find brittle seeds sticking to stray threads in my pocket, and I can only guess what they’re for.” — STUNNER

    This piece almost feels like a short sequence. Maybe try numbering each paragraph and seeing how that feels? Sometimes I find that if I do that (even removing the numbers before submission) I can really look at each paragraph as its own numbered breath, whether that means continuing the narrative or the character or derailing entirely. Nicely done!

  2. Nancy Stohlman

    Love the way you switch into this reverie of thought: they observed the onset of things – the beginning of the harvest, the cold times when one must store up reserves, the planting season. The imperialism of Christianity is the putting of pins into a calendar like you could make time stand still. Here is Easter! It’s a type of violence, and an extension of the metaphor of nails going into a fleshly hand. It’s not politically correct to say, but you asked how I was doing.
    It works. It doesn’t feel tangential, and the shift from one to the next is very musical.
    I was thinking that if you return to the jasmine, or the neighbor, or both at the end in a more concrete way (to match the opening) it might create an interesting symmetry with that music/song? Keep going!

  3. Randal Houle

    This story really landed in a couple ways. “somebody’s old world when it still belonged to them” I wanted to shout at the story that we’re still here, but that is not meant to be criticism. The ways in which the narrator is then colonized and then admits to mixing up etymologies like scapula and scalpel is where I really sat up straight and paid attention. The ideas and demonstrations of being alone, a short of radioactive decay of time and relationship and then the wonderful last line. Living in an area that is plagued with fire, this last line really resonated for me. Lots to appreciate about this beginning. Wonderful work, as usual, Sara.

  4. Meg Tuite

    Hi Sara,
    The pace of this is eerie. I felt like I was moving inside her head. It starts out with this beauty of solitude and nature and then builds up to a fire blasting and will she be next. Are you inside my head? That’s how it’s been feeling. DAMN! “The imperialism of Christianity is the putting of pins into a calendar like you could make time stand still. Here is Easter! It’s a type of violence, and an extension of the metaphor of nails going into a fleshly hand. It’s not politically correct to say, but you asked how I was doing.” LOVE THIS SO MUCH and ‘scapula and scapel’. How close these words are spelled and then in the world of violence. holy shit! “My head doesn’t have room for all these thoughts. They’re unruly students, all speaking at once, and then they’re gone and I find brittle seeds sticking to stray threads in my pocket,”
    This is powerful and haunting and familiar! WOW! LOVE!

  5. Federico Escobar

    Hi, Sara.

    What a conversation! I was carried away so fully by the description from the first paragraph that, when I reached the second paragraph, with its discussion of old religions and new, I wound back to the title and then everything clicked. I saw the conversation at once—the postal carrier passively listening to Linnette, nodding, probably regretting that he asked a simple question out of politeness (“How are you doing?” is the question, the end of the second paragraph tells us).

    These sentences describe very well what we see happening onstage: “My head doesn’t have room for all these thoughts. They’re unruly students, all speaking at once […].” This is great. We can see her coping with these “students,” trying to discipline them somehow, trying to teach them a lesson somehow.

    This line also stood out for me: “I don’t fear being alone, just wish I could be more alone when I am.”

    Thanks for sharing! I had fun reading it.

    Best,
    Federico

  6. Jan Elman Stout

    The sensuous start to the story is wonderful, as well as how it quickly adopts an ominous tone. The narrator’s thoughts are so compelling–you make me feel the pain in living inside her head. Love how this spills out to the postal worker, who said something like, “How are you?” The perspective on Christianity, mixing up of scapula and scalpel–again, what an interesting brain. Love her thoughts as unruly students, all speaking at once, and then they’re gone and I find brittle seeds sticking to stray threads in my pocket, and I can only guess what they’re for. And oh, what a chilling ending. Nice

  7. Suzanne van de Velde

    Sara – this is very beautiful. When the story starts, you welcome in the sensuous night jasmine, hey, it’s someone else’s, but they’re not there to enforce their territory. And anyway, if the neighbor just came by to power wash, one wrong swing of the hose and it would be curtains for the jasmine. Maybe they don’t deserve what they don’t look after…Maybe an analogy to Christianity, the demarcation of borders, of belief and hierarchies?

    I love the subtle way you move us through different states of feeling: to me it feels like from a feeling of openness, with some defiance, to a melancholy reappraisal of the limitations of renewal itself:
    “I find brittle seeds sticking to stray threads in my pocket, and I can only guess what they’re for. I’m lucky if they didn’t go through the wash. Now I have a chance to plant them and see what they become. If I remember.”

    So piercing at the end:
    “There’s an amount of decay that occurs after a few hours or weeks, depending
    on the relationship. If I can swing my arms around when I dance I’ll know you’re gone, and I only dance alone.”

    Thank you for this!

  8. Wendy Oleson

    Sara, I love Linnette! She says such interesting things—so much better than the woman who walks around my neighborhood wailing about Jesus (each time she tells me my dog is a gift from the lord, and she asks me if I know him—the lord, not my dog). It’s funny because when I was reading this—as I often do, I’m ashamed to admit—I forgot what the title was, so it got really beautiful and meditative for me. And then when I went around to read it a second time, I peeked at the title and was floored. You have these two registers here—the comical and the serious/thoughtful—even lyrical at times—and it creates a lovely tension.

    “The fragrance is lovely and when it puts its face in mine I feel invaded. It happens mostly at nighttime. I wonder when I will be pushed out. So heady, I open the windows and it makes me dream wondrous.” There’s this mystical quality—between being invaded by the fragrance and the “makes me dream wondrous”—it’s really lovely. It’s just strange and beautiful enough that I’m willing to go where Linnette takes me, and I’m not laughing at her. I don’t feel like the story is making fun of her, which is important. She has something to say: “Here is Easter!” (I literally walked the dogs past a house yesterday that still had a big Easter banner up, which was basically just a rabbit with some eggs, and it seemed so absurd. I’m totally turning into Linnette—no wonder I love her so much.)

    This line kills me: “I don’t fear being alone, just wish I could be more alone when I am.” Yes. That sounds very reasonable to me. Quite profound, honestly. And I’m wondering then about the “you” when she’s talking about dancing. Is this the postal carrier? Or is this another “you?” I’m curious how much the postal carrier participates here if at all and whether this is the kind of monologue that happens all at once or over a series of days. The otherwise barren days. Waiting for fire. “It softens the otherwise barren corner of the year.” I wondered if that was supposed to be “yard,” but it does seem that the year is barren, and maybe the days are, too.

    This is one of those stories where I just want to know more and more the more I read it! Thank you so much for sharing.

    My best,
    Wendy

  9. David O'Connor

    Sara, love this line so much: “If I can swing my arms around when I dance I’ll know you’re gone.” I also liked this little tag, “but you asked how I was doing.” The beginning image of the plant blooming on your side of the fence is excellent, I’m still thinking about it. Great title too, the combination of grand ideas and daily titbits really works here, throughout. More!!

  10. Judy Bates

    Sara, I enjoyed your piece very much, even before I realized that it was a response to the simple automatic question, “How are you doing?” Whether you were actually talking to the post man or just recounting a stream of consciousness, doesn’t change the impact of what you are saying. Those thoughts you share, “I wish I could be more alone when I am”, and thoughts as unruly students, all speaking at once, have been my thoughts (maybe everyone’s thoughts) at some time:
    Well done. I was taken out of the story at the end a little, with the mention of wildfires.
    I

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