Eddie stared at the plain in front of him. “Am I seeing this right?” he asked, not really expecting an answer. It was a dream. People didn’t answer back in dreams like that, no matter how damn vivid they are.
“You are.” He turned around at the sound of the voice; it was his brother Jake. “An entire clearing full of dirt, dust and mailboxes.”
Jake had a real talent for description. Even in Eddie’s dream. “C’mere, bro. Let’s check some of these out.”
“We can’t take too long. Oy and Suze will be worried,” Jake warned him, coming up from behind Eddie and taking his hand. It felt small and cold, clammy, beneath his fingers.
“Right-o, Daddy-o,” Eddie agreed, grinning as he always did at the thought of his O Susannah. His beautiful black park Goddess. Eddie didn’t look gift horses in the mouth, even when they appeared in dreams and out of thin air. “Jake? Is this like the Suze dreams? Are we gonna wake up both having this dream?”
His younger brother shrugged and reached toward the first mailbox, the one closest to them. It was old with cracks running through the paint and a number so faded Eddie couldn’t make it out. For some reason, down his bones, Eddie believed it was a nine.
Jake opened the lid with a grunt as he fought the rusted axels. Inside was a weathered off-white envelope. “It’s to someone named Roland. From Cu - Cu -” Jake frowned squinting at the faded scrawl. “Cuthbert.” He frowned more. “I thought Roland’s friend was supposed to be named ‘Oliver.’”
“Put it back,” Eddie advised, looking for a newer one. He spotted a shiny blue plastic one about thirty feet into the clearing and tugged Jake toward it. The number read “86.” He opened it easily and pulled out a short note.
“Read it aloud,” Jake told him solemnly.
Eddie nodded. “Eds - hey, that’s me! - I’m losing things fast. Miss you, buddy, and Stan the Man. Going back to LA, hope I have a job left. Hell, I shouldn’t be worried, everyone wants Kinky Briefcase, Sexual Accountant. Wish you were here with that battery acid of yours. Rich.” Eddie folded the letter back up and put it away. “Guess that’s not me.”
“This one next. It’s last.” Jake pointed to the only grey metal mailbox, dead center in the clearing. Eddie nodded at him and following his brother’s lead. The mailbox was locked. He looked at his brother. Jake sometimes just knew things. “It will open for you.”
He shrugged and tugged loosely on the padlock. It came apart in his hands and crumbled to dust. Eddie grinned; too bad he couldn’t do that in real life, out of dreams. “Like the Hulk, man.” Jake grinned back at the words and Eddie reached into the mailbox and pulled out a scarlet envelope. It was addressed to him. To Eddie Dean.
He fingered it lightly, running his tips over the groves and dips within the envelope. It felt pretty light, like the writer wasn’t someone who used a pencil a lot. There was a doodle in one of the corners of the envelope. Eddie checked it out; it was a picture of a dragon. Sort of. At least he thought the lines and squiggles were supposed to be wings and a tail and horns.
“Could be a squirrel,” he and Jake said together. They grinned briefly before Jake gestured to him to hurry it up. Eddie slipped his thumb under the leaf of the envelope and started to rip it open. He winced as instead of getting it, it got him. He pulled his thumb out and nursed the paper cut.
“Let me.” Jake snatched the envelope out of Eddie’s hand and began to open it primly and carefully. He didn’t get any paper cuts. Typical.
Eddie shook his head and took the letter back, pulling out the note.
“Eddie, you little fucktard, you wrinkled little pissant.” Eddie paused and stared at the note. “Damn, this guy seriously hates me.”
Jake nodded at him and tugged on Eddie’s sleeve. “Hurry up. You have to finish.” He pointed in the distance where, when Eddie looked, mailboxes were disappearing quickly. “You have to finish now, before the dream ends. It’s important.”
Eddie looked back down at the letter, this time not bothering to read it aloud. Jake didn’t need to hear this sort of shit about his brother. Especially since it was a dream and probably just Eddie’s screwed up subconscious or something.
I know Mom wants me to look after you, you stupid little monkey, ’cause you’re small and I’m big and she don’t want nothing to hurt you. Well, if you don’t stop cryin’ and shit, I’m gonna be the one to hurt you.
That didn’t make a bit of sense. The only brother Eddie had was Jake and Eddie was the one who was older. “This is fucked up.”
“Just read it, Eddie. We have to go.”
He nodded and looked back down at the letter.
I’m still pissed at you for making Mom not spend a lot of time with me anymore, so you’d better hurry up and get bigger.
I could crush your head in my hand. Wonder what that’d look like? Wonder what the world would be like if Henry Dean was an only son. Bet it’d be great without an Eddie anywhere.
Mom’d miss you. I probably would too. And I’d get in real big trouble. So I’m not gonna. But hurry up, already? You’ll be a lot more fun when we can actually play together and I don’t have to change your stupid diapers.
Grow up, Eddie.
Your Big (and bad) bro,
Eddie stared at the letter, still confused. “C’mon!” Jake tugged on his arm. “It’s ending; we have to go!”
He folded the note up and stuck it in his pocket as Jake dragged him away and awake.
The letter was in his pocket.