This particular Friday afternoon offered no obstacles to securing the few minutes needed to follow the cobblestone path to the mailbox. Years ago, Lyle had painted the body to resemble a chicken coop. Whenever the Hatchers sent mail, a plastic rooster perched on the flag. They replaced the novelty bird several times a year. Teenage boys loved destroying whatever reminded them the world wasn’t ugly like their shriveled hearts. Minnie Hatcher feared Friday afternoons. She faced this terror alone, a solitude she chose. The choice never had been hers, though, not since the arrival of the first note three months ago.
The Hatcher farmhouse sprawled a mile back from the unpaved road. She and Lyle would soon have to sell the land, their home. The kids were right: it had become too much. Lyle’s stroke last winter hastened the property’s decline.
Minnie had left her bifocals in the kitchen. She didn’t notice the lowered flag until moments before reaching the curb. She saw the rooster reclined. It simply meant the postman had picked up the paid bills. Perhaps the mailbox was empty. The summer sunlight and cruel humidity encased her like a dissected rodent inside glass. She recognized the lavender envelope right away. Ignoring the store circulars, she tore it open and unfolded the stationery of the same color. The sensible thing would be to discard it unread: always lavender, always the sparse and thread-like handwriting. But it mortified her that a young man she met only once harbored intimate information about Hank, her only son. Who else might he tell? Minnie Hatcher unfolded the note. Less than five minutes after meeting me, your son sucked me off in the men’s room . . .