J is for Jammy
by Jacqueline Bridges
To My Beautiful Wife, my lover,
This is not a suicide letter.
I am not planning to kill myself, you, or my neighbor (my contempt for Mr. Sherry’s lavish spending is of no consequence in this matter).
The opportunity to read this letter should arise after my untimely death, but should not coincide with my funeral. This should be addressed afterward.
I know how these things go.
Modest, black garb and white, gaunt faces will crowd around at my wake, and the occasional muffled sob will echo in the foyer at my service. I am not worried about that day, for it will take care of itself. This is about what will soon follow.
As a keen observer, I can predict what will come next: day-to-day life, which can be summed up by a famous cliché, “time heals all wounds.” Eventually, you will move on. At first, you will feel my breath on the back of your neck. The guilt will hover around your shoulders, like my corrective criticism that enabled you to recognize your faults during our arguments. In this case, please turn to another famous cliché, “this too shall pass.” I have other plans for you. Before long, you will return to our favorite independent theater and join the discussions on the use of light to portray cinematic themes.
Those were some of our best times, I think.
I encourage you to remain seated in the theater until all of the credits have scrolled off the screen. It will be difficult to sit alone, without me at your side, but it is the right thing to do. On this we both agree.
It will be like it was before, enjoying a glass of red wine by the fireside of the Bistro that shares a wall with our little theater. I can imagine the long, clear stem snuggling between your fingers as the balloon glass rests upon your delicate palm. Do not let the wait staff intimidate you. If needed, use my tasting notes as a reference guide, and remember two simple rules when ordering: One, always order red wine, and two, if you must order a white, the drier the better. Now I will present my first gift to you, Jammy.
I hope you cherish both syllables. Jam∙my.
I thought you might like to use it when describing your wine. The adjective should not die with me. The word will earn you respect in many circles, albeit, not with your mother or sister, but definitely amongst a more educated crowd. Word of caution—use it sparingly, that’s my trick. I hope you picked up on my foreshadowing when granting you your first gift. Of course you did. Your persistence to increase your observation skills has paid off. You have always been an astute pupil. Yes, there are two other gifts I will be adding to the collection. I was known for my generous spirit in life, and it is something that should be remembered in my passing as well. I would like to bequeath my anthology of first editions to you.
Many of our relatives will insist on owning one, claiming they want a piece of me. Do not listen to them. They are merely scavengers. Only you will honor my love of literature. Anyone else will sell them to the highest bidder at the first sign of financial crisis, but you would never consider it. I trust you will hold them dear to your heart, as they were to mine.
And for my final act, I have some advice you will want to heed. It is obvious that you rely on me for certain things in our marriage. I have no qualms with that. Each person should put their energy to the tasks they perform best. Numbers have always been my strength, but it is something you can develop.
Some people think they are better than others, that finance is an art few individuals have the eye for.
It can be taught, and it can be learned. On my bedside table, you will find the three most influential money management books of the current year. Feel free to read them. I recommend a highlighter and small notebook when scouring the pages. As for my gift, I am leaving you with a sizable nest egg. However, it is important you do not squander it. Grief can be a terrible thing that clouds our judgment. Remember Ms. Pendleton? I should hate to think that some salesman will try to take advantage of a lonely widow like you.
For your protection, I have locked your nest egg into a three-step ladder, high-yield CD. You will learn all about CDs in your new evening reading. I have arranged a small allotment to see to the funeral expenses, but our accountant will release the first of three CDs, 12 months after my passing. This will keep you from splurging on frivolous trips or fancy cars to fill the initial void, but once the year has passed, I will relinquish control because you will be ready to create your own portfolio. I know you can do it.
That is all I have to offer at this time. I wish I had more to give; more time and more love. If we are privileged to marry in our next life, I will choose you. My wish is to make you happy, or at the very least comfortable. If you happen to find true love again, falling twice in this lifetime, I will not keep you from it. In fact, I will be happy for you, but if that is the case, please pay a visit to Harold Andrews. I had him draft a pre-nuptial agreement.
Your Husband, your lover
My thoughts are interrupted, “Lover?” It’s my wife’s voice.
I cover my paper as best I can, trying to exude indifference. It would have worked, had my hands not flailed in the air before coming to rest squarely on the letter.
“Who’s that for?” Her voice raises in anticipation, and I can tell she believes it to be a love letter, for her. She’s about to be disappointed.
“It’s nothing.” My voice cracks.
“Nonsense!” Carly pushes my hand away and reaches for the letter. “Let me read it.”
There’s nothing I can do, but wait, with outstretched arms, ready to dry her tears. At first, Carly smiles. I know my terms of endearment must be the cause. Right after, her smile falls flat. She must be past the first paragraph by now—she’s a speed reader of sorts. I expected this. She’s quiet for the length of the letter. Not a frown, no smiles, no scrunched brow. Finally, she lowers the letter and tilts her head sideways, the same way our lab does when we’re talking to him.
“Who’s this for,” she demands.
I’m quick to jump in, “You, of course.”
“You don’t call me lover.”
“I might,” I defend. When I see that she doesn’t buy it, I shrug, “I might start.”
She returns her attention to the letter, ignoring my last comment. I can see that she’s in shock, so I offer my condolences, “There’s a chance I’ll pass away before you.”
Carly’s smile returns, this one a bit wicked, “A good chance.”
I push past her joke, then ask, “So, what do you think?”
Now her eyebrows scrunch, “It’s cute.”
I jump up, “It’s cute?!” My voice is strained, “It’s my last wishes—you can’t call it cute.”
She purses her lips, and I know she’s holding back.
“What? Is there something on my list you can’t honor?” I place my hand on my heart, “I need to know if you can do the things I ask?”
“Seriously?” she’s practically laughing.
“Okay, then.” She traces the lines of my letter, then stops, “First of all, I don’t like that artsy theater. It smells like mold. I go there for you—so I won’t be going there once you’re dead.”
I hold a hand up, “Please, once I pass away.”
“What do you care what I call it if you’re dead.”
“Fine,” she rolls her eyes. “Once you pass away, I’ll be seeing movies at the new theater in that strip mall of 6th avenue, you know, the one with the reclining seats.”
“Fine.” I look for a pen so I can strike the theater reference in my letter. “Anything else? It’s best to clarify it now.”
“Yeah,” she jumps right in, “I’m not using that word.” She’s pointing at my Jammy reference.
“I’m not using it. It sounds ridiculous.” She pauses, “Even when you say it.”
I place my hand on my heart once more, “It’s very descriptive, in a classic way.”
“And what’s this about your first editions?” She turns, holding the paper out for me to see. She’s like a cat, swift, sneaky, and in full attack mode before I’ve even registered her last move. “Do you mean your comic books?” she asks, a furtive brow in place.
“They’re first editions!” I defend.
She purses her lips again, “So it’s safe to say you took a few liberties with this, aye?”
“Aye?” I taunt, “It depends on your circle. For the record, I don’t include Cananda in my circle, nor your sister.”
Mentioning her sister triggers the let’s not go to bed angry glare, but she moves past it sooner than I expect. “Okay.” She says. Her tone is even, lacking the placating tone I’ve come to listen for, “I can go with that—among your friends,” she clears her throat, “and perhaps many other Americans, your collection may be an asset.”
It bothers me that she placed quotations around my collection, but I’ve escaped an argument at this point, so I just nod.
“But in what circle is 5000 dollars a sizable nest egg? American or not.”
I snatch the letter from her hands, “Obviously I’m not going to die for a long time.” I fold the paper up and slip it into an envelope, “Just wait, that nest egg is going to be huge. It’s called compounding interest, but of course you don’t know about that yet.” I lick the envelope and seal it. “I can see you’re not ready for this just yet. I’ll find nice spot for it, someplace safe. Don’t worry,” I add, “When you’re truly ready, you’ll find it.”
She smiles, “I’ll never be ready for Jammy.”
Jacqueline Bridges works as a guidance counselor to junior high students, where she puts her Masters degree to work, and then some. She is new to flash fiction and reads it daily (even in the counseling office). Her students join her weekly for a writing club, where they impress her with stories about fairies, dragons, and golden retrievers. She has three publications to-date, with 365 Tomorrows, Touch Poetry, The Fable Online, and Short Fiction Break. She’s currently working on a young adult, science fiction novel, mostly void of fairies, dragons, and golden retrievers.