IT WAS A PLAIN, NOTE SIZED ENVELOPE HAND ADDRESSED WITH A 2 CENT AND A 27 CENT STAMP IN THE RIGHT HAND CORNER. NO RETURN ADDRESS. WHEN HE OPENED IT, HE FELT A CHILL TO THE BONE. BLOCK LETTERED IT SAID "CHECK THE PERSONALS IN THE TIMES TODAY..." HOLY CHRIST! THAT WAS HOW HE USED TO GET HIS ORDERS A LIFETIME AGO....
Not many ways to go other than adventure when you get something like that as a prompt, so that's what I did.
It was in the middle of a stack of envelopes on the kitchen table. Chances are she never saw it. Well, not chances. Guaranteed she didn’t see it. If she had she would have opened it. She would have opened it and it wouldn’t have made any sense, but she would have asked. And after she asked he would have had to make up some story.
Or she could have just thrown it away because it was just an envelope with a block-print J on the front and a slip of paper with “Post 01/12” written on it. She wouldn’t have had any idea what it meant. But to him it said everything and it represented everything that he didn’t want her to know about him. It was his past, a past that he thought he’d left behind. A past that he was embarrassed by and ashamed of and a past that was everything he no longer wanted to be.----Everyone, including Boss, thought his request was funny. He’d asked to be let out and everyone chuckled.
“This is a one way door,” he was told. “ You can stumble into this work, lots of people do, but you can’t stumble out.”
That was a no and it’s what he expected. You don’t get out of this line of work, but he had to ask. But then Boss surprised him.
“But I like you. Always have. So I’ll tell you what. If you can disappear then you’re free to leave. Try to just blend in and fade away. We’ll give you a couple of years to do it. Start over. Get yourself a new name and a new life. But know this, if we find that we need you, we’re going to come looking. And when we find you -- and we will -- there’s no running. No trying to get away. Just recognize that we gave you a chance and you blew it. Agreed?”
Two days later his apartment was bare. He’d started over. He wasn’t Joe. He was Craig, part-time college student and construction worker with a small apartment just outside of downtown Dallas. He was eating tacos from the stand across the street and going to movies and shopping at the mall. And he was meeting people, meeting ladies. He was falling in love and getting married and starting a family and graduating from college and forgetting about his dark past.
Forgetting until he saw the envelope with the J on the front and the letter inside. It was how they used to contact him, a confusing ad in the personals that made sense to no one but him. They found him and he knew he couldn’t run.