The Case of the Steamed Letter

I got a letter in the mail this week. I noticed it right away, because it stood out from the usual assortment of junk mail, bills, and yellow-highlighted reminders from the dentist. First of all, it was handwritten and elegantly addressed, but there was something else about it that caught my eye.

The writing had the florid style of a former girlfriend of mine, all swirls and frills and serif upon serif upon serif. The woman was like that, a bit dramatic. Not that I blame her. I am sure I deserved everything I had coming to me that eventually came to me. But that’s a topic for another blog.


It was definitely her handwriting, although I was surprised to see that she was now living on the Upper West Side. What could she possibly want, and why was she writing to me after all this time? We hadn’t parted on good terms. In fact, she dumped me via email on the eve of my business trip to South America. I knew she had done it just to get me to lavish more attention on her. So that’s exactly what I didn’t do. When I returned, there were packages waiting for me with nasty notes and things I had left at her place: shave kit, books, shirts, and the baseball cap I had gotten her from Las Vegas. Seriously, who sends back a baseball cap?

I looked at the envelope. Then I looked at it some more. If I opened it and there was another nasty note with drawings of me in effigy, I wouldn’t have to respond, which is what I had done before. But if it was a nice note, something like, “Hi, how are you? I think of you in the wee small hours of the morning even though you completely ruined my life,” then I would have to write back. But what? “Thank you for writing. I realize my first impression of you was correct and you are crazy.” Or, “You were right all along. I love you and we belong together. Let’s meet on the rooftop of the Empire Hotel.”

It was a lose-lose situation, especially given the fact that this was a woman who told me she was a witch when we met. On our first date she brought a broom and a box of cannoli to my apartment. I may not be the greatest judge of character.

I decided not to do anything. I have been working on developing patience and prudence, two virtues that do not come naturally to me. You can see what our relationship was like. So I decided to wait for enlightenment. I have found that if you give most things time, they eventually sort themselves out. When they don’t, time allows you to develop a fresh perspective and insight into what is really going on. So I waited.

And then it came to me. I decided to steam open the envelope. That way, if it were nasty, I could seal the envelope back up with glue stick, write “No Such Person” across the address (she had sent it to my old apartment), and mail it back. If nice, I would put it on the refrigerator, held in place with a “Welcome to Las Vegas” magnet. I buy magnets every place I go, usually at the airport on the return flight.

I put water into the tea kettle, got the water boiling, and held the envelope over the whistling spout. I have since discovered a simpler and more effective technique in this art of love espionage. If you put the envelope in the microwave with a small glass of water, you’ll get the same effect. I’ll keep that in mind for next time. But the kettle proved its mettle, as it were. The envelope opened and I read the note.

My friends had sent me an announcement of the birth of their son, Parker, who weighed seven pounds, twelve ounces and was 20 1/2 inches long.

I couldn’t be happier for them.

“Letter to Caleb” Flickr photo by Kyle Steed shared under a Creative Commons (BY 2.0) license. Cannoli image by dna_xdm from Pixabay. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance


  1. Love this! Sounds like Robert’s humor that we used to enjoy in person….!! Congratulations on using your gifts so successfully.

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