flash nonfiction

The Envelope by Lynn Magill

The Envelope | By Lynn Magill

I recognized the slightly shaky, looped handwriting on the outside of the envelope. It looked much like my own, only bigger and hastier – just like its author. It was addressed to me, and the postmark read: Waterloo, Iowa

I let it marinate on the black granite kitchen counter unopened for a day or so, like a clog I was hoping Liquid Drano would take care of for me with no unpleasant interaction on my part. No such luck. There’s just no way to deal with either of my half-sisters without getting some shit splattered on you, really. I could make out purple hydrangeas on the inner card, opaque, like everything else in this relationship.

Deep breath.

It’s just a card. You don’t have to open it if you don’t want to.


I hadn’t heard from my older half-sister Julie since, what? 2018? Amanda, our younger sister, had been silent even longer– 2015, when she’d blown up in a meth-fueled text tirade over my not calling her within 10 minutes while I was inside the county hospice center, seeing my mother alive for the very last time. Holding her weak, impossibly pale hand and fixating on the flecked institutional linoleum so she didn’t exit this earth worrying about me crying. When I’d walked out of the aging one-story facility to my rental car, the summer humidity hadn’t yet turned to fall and the scent of the recently harvested cornfields was like my own hope: freshly plowed under. I wriggled my nose to dislodge some of the beige dust from the dirt roads that still managed to seep in through the a/c vents. I plugged in my phone and it managed to pick up a one-bar signal as I turned out of the parking lot: 43 fucking texts? Now?

Not today, Satan. I stuck the card upright between the Black & Decker coffeemaker and the microwave, brushing away a few grounds and crumbs from breakfast as I walked away.

When I awoke from a fitful nap, my husband said “Aren’t you going to open it? I’m curious.”

I wasn’t. But I slid my index fingernail under the flap and moved it along the seam, the paper separating from glue sounding like a page being torn out of a book.


Thought you might want this picture of you. I have a new job in town now, closer to my house. It is much better! I can walk to work.


And I began to laugh. The picture – what was left of it – was one from 1972, taken in front of my father’s orange floral couch, brown wall paneling. Kindergarten. Smiling, hands clasped in front of me; wearing a white chiffon dress. Someone had even combed my wavy hair. Easter. I had this exact same photo; my mother must have had copies made back then. Except the one in my album had four people: my father (long dead), my half-sisters, and me. The one she so graciously sent me had telltale original rounded edges on the right side, and on the left the edges were, in contrast, sharp: it had been cut in two from its original rectangular shape.

They had cut me out of family photos and were sending the discarded halves to me.

Half-sisters indeed.

About the Author:

Lynn Magill lives in Western Washington with deep Iowa roots that influence many aspects of her work. She writes poetry and nonfiction and is also a painter and visual artist. She is scheduled to graduate from Central Washington University in Winter 2021 with a master’s degree in Professional and Creative Writing. She has two nonfiction pieces scheduled for publication in Spring of 2021 in an anthology via McFarland & Sons, as well as a poetry piece in Route 7 Review. Lynn loves to travel and spend time with her husband on their Texas ranch herding goats and finding any excuse to avoid being within range of cell phone reception.