The Envelope and Raspberry Iced Tea



The Envelope and Raspberry Iced Tea



The packet-giver smiled at me. I am not always a good judge of people; I want them to be virtuous and kind. When are we given what we want?

I take the unopened, rectangular, gum-sealed envelope and sit on my porch with a glass of iced tea. Raspberry iced tea with a teaspoon of sugar.  

Opening an envelope is different from opening an email. I am decisive with email. Open this, read and delete, open that, save to a file. This dispatch, this hand-delivered missive, is different. There is weight and substance as I balance it on my upturned hand. A slight tremor of nerves causes the envelope to flutter like a silver maple leaf in a breeze. I realize I have no virus protection against the unopened communiqué.  

Yes, the presenter smiled at me, but was there a bit of a sneer to the smile? Was one eyebrow raised as if to say, “We’ll see how smug you are after you read the hidden message inside the virginal whiteness of this envelope.”

But, surely someone handing you important documents, papers that might alter your life, would not just pass them off without a word. Would they not forewarn you? Isn’t there a rule?  Something in the way humans are programmed that says the giver must signal, through words or body language, when there is weighty sobriety to the situation? He knows I haven’t been well.  

The bees hum in the Spice bushes outside my porch. It is warm for the first of June. I sip my tea and tap the envelope on the table.  

If I imagined the sneer and raised eyebrow, then the documents must be good. But, then why not give me an inkling? Why not want to share the happiness with a clap to the back or knowing wink? 

This envelope and its contents must be damning.

A sludge of somber reddish copper has sunk to the bottom of my glass. The ice is melting and transforming the liquid near the top to a dewy saturate of pink hue. I stare at it and think of things that could sink me to the sweet, opaque abyss. I stare at my glass.

There is a rap at my screen door. “Yow!” I leap off my chair. 

“Hello, Jillian! Oh, dear. Did I startle you? Tut. Tut. Didn’t mean to. Just came by to say hello.”

“Mable. How. How thoughtful of you. Forgive me. I was a world away.”

“Don’t want to trouble you. Just out walking Scooter.” At his name, Scooter said hello with two quick yips.

“Thought I’d pop my head in when I saw you on the porch. See how you are doing.”

 “I know what you want, Scooter,” I reached inside a lidded glass bowl and pulled out a tiny dog bone. I crossed to the door, opened it, and handed the treat to the tail-wagging pup. I closed the door before Mable had a chance to step onto the porch. 

“Okay. We’ll be off, then. Looks like some clouds building in the west. Scooter needs to take care of things before the rain comes, if you know what I mean.”

“I have business to attend to, too. Have a good walk. Bye.” I turned and let out a long, slow breath.

“Bye-bye. Say goodbye, and thank you, Scooter.”

“Yip. Yip.” 

I wave before they disappear around the corner even though my back is to them. She scared the bejesus out of me. Her and that little ankle-biter. 

Where was I? Ah, I am holding an envelope. I don’t own a yippy-yappy dog, so this isn’t a summons about noise control. What does she mean by she was stopping by to see how I am doing? I am doing just fine or was until she exploded my heart rate.

 Do my neighbors know more about me than I do myself? Are they keeping tabs on me? Have they banded together against me?

I slump into my chair. I look through the porch screens. I can see no one watching. I roll my shoulders in an attempt to lose the tightness in them. I breathe in deeply and exhale with a whoosh. “Remember to use your relaxation techniques,” I repeat the doctor’s orders, my new mantra.

The envelope is heavy in my hand. So white. So blank. A shudder runs down my back. I bite my lower lip. Did my neighbor have news that was so catastrophic he could not speak when he handed the sentence to me?  So shocked that his lip curled in dreaded relief at being done with them? Perhaps I should pity him for the toll on his soul to pass on such sumac news.

I take a sip of tea and feel the cool liquid hit bottom in my stomach. Does the envelope hold proof of rampant neurosis that strikes unwittingly and unerringly, but skips generations? Was my proclivity for prolonged sour periods spawned hundreds of years ago and passed, like rolls at dinner, across the table, and through the generations?

Like a blind woman, I run my fingers over the ridges. I Braille through the thin envelope covering. Is that the edge of a picture? What have I done that was caught by the paparazzi of sneak and snare? That will now be my ruin and my shame? That will cause whispers and sidelong glances even among people I thought were my friends? I have a few friends, are any of them still loyal to me?

I swirl the tea with my spoon and cause a mini tornado to spin counter-clockwise. The bits of ice that remain are too weak to clink against the glass. The raspberry gives off an infirm fetor, the sickly sweetness of artificial berry-like flavor. Is this my last supper before opening the warrant before me? Glassy droplets of water roll off the base of my glass to form splotches on the envelope. An omen of tears of atonement.

Perhaps there is another way to be rid of this envelope. Asked, I could say that it blew away in the wind before I saw the contents. I could say it was lost among the flimsy pages of the Sunday paper and given to the recycling gods where it was most likely shredded, mushed, reprinted, and unwittingly became the blacker news of tomorrow. 

Or, perhaps, I will burn it unopened. I could take the white rectangle and sear it to bubbling black. Then pour water into the wastebasket and make a slurry of freedom. I would empty it onto my rose beds. But then, could I ever enjoy an inhale of their coral fragrance without wondering what was in the envelope? In a sane world, I have no choice.

I hold the envelope low on my lap. I slip my finger under the glued edge without looking. My eyes settle on my glass of tea. More drips swell and sink slowly down the sides of the glass to melt into the tablecloth. I cannot bear to watch my destruction. I close my eyes to the fluke of disaster.  

With nothing and with all to lose, my thumb and forefinger reach in and pull out a stiff piece of paper. Blindly, I remove a second, smaller square. My thumb slides over one slick side and recoils at the ruffle edge. My heart hammers. I hold my breath against constricting lungs. I am on my feet without knowing that I have stood. I feel the cool and wet of the glass on the back of my hand. I rock the vessel off its center in my haste. I reach out with the hand that holds the photograph.

My eyes spring open. I wince and gasp as my iced tea slews in one obliterating rush. Too late to lose, or shred, or burn the contents. Instead, they are awash in a rosy glow of sugarberry. Water welts rise on the face in the photograph.  

I peel the sodden high school graduation invitation from underneath the picture of my neighbor’s son. 

Where was Occam’s razor perception when I needed it?


 Patricia Bohnert

Ohio is home for this writer of technical articles, poetry, essays, and fiction.  Her work is found online and in print editions such as Untreed Reads, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Green Silk Journal, The Clockwise Cat, The League of Laboring Poets, Joyful!, Midwest Literary, The Toucan, and more. Her children’s poem, Escape!, is available as a digitally illustrated poster by artist Aimee Brown.

Professionally, Patricia was a LEED AP in the US Green Building Council program. That didn’t stop her from traveling the world or walking down the street to find inspiration. Friends, readers, and writing cohorts offer comfort and the always welcome critical feedback. The thirteen grandchildren, well, they are there just to love!


  1. marvelous work. please send more.

  2. Wonderful read! Love the anticipation the story evoked.

  3. Nice story. I liked the ending. Keep writing!

  4. What a fun little story, I appreciate the writer's vision. Keep these coming please.

  5. Well crafted! Great suspense and whimsical ending. Well done!!

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