THINGS DON’T ADD UP–from Margie Krause

Prompt Me! sent from Margie Krause :  Letter on adding machine tape

It was 1968, I was huddled in my bunker, the ground around me soaking, the jungle heavy and humid. A jeep transport got to us with some medical supplies, cigarettes, and mail. I had two letters—twice as lucky as most of the guys. One from my mom, one from my girl back home.

I opened the letter from Mom first. I wanted to save the letter from my girlfriend and savor her words the first time knowing I would re-read the letter a hundred times until the words would speak for themselves at night when my eyes were closed.

Mom’s letter was newsy, about the high school football team, winning, then losing then winning again. About my little brother playing on the B squad, my older sister’s new baby girl, my dad’s job at Caterpillar. She wrote about how the trees were losing their leaves, how she was getting the winter coats out. She always signed off as Your Momma.

Adding machine tape

I finally opened my girlfriend’s letter. She usually wrote on flowery stationery with matching envelopes with hearts and stars drawn on the outside. This one was different. It was in a plain white envelope and it was thin. I carefully slit the top of the flap, and saw one long, skinny piece of paper folded over twice. I pulled it out and recognized it as adding machine paper, it actually had a little curl left to it.

She was younger than me—I had graduated from high school and the draft swept me away. She was a year younger but two grades behind me. This year she was graduating.

She had written with an ink pen, but not with her normally neat Palmer Method script that flowed from line to line. This one was not so neat, but scrawled and messy.

“Dear John,” it began.

“I hate to have to tell you this, you have enough to bear fighting so far from home. But I want you to hear it from me, and not through the rumor mill, or from somebody else.”

My heart started racing, a sheen of sweat popped on my brow. I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t! I didn’t want to continue reading—so many of my buddies had gotten these letters already. Didn’t matter that my name really was “John.” I forced myself to go on.

“Your dear, dear momma has been gone for these past several days, and we finally found out that she left town with Mr. Lawrence, the clerk at Federated Department store. I am so sorry, and I’ll let you know more as I find out. Your daddy seems at a loss, but is holding up.
“Lovingly yours.”

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