Letters to a Lover
by Heather Lee Schroeder


A is for the awl that sliced open the wood and, later, the head of Maggie Lawrence’s lover when her husband Frank found them entwined on the front parlor couch.

B is for britches—what most folks said Maggie wore around the Lawrence house before the fateful day.

C is for the yellow canary that sang bright and true for Maggie in the kitchen—a gift from her unsuspecting husband.

D is for the demon drink that some speculate drove Frank to his terrible act.

E is for the ear, upon which Maggie’s lover placed a tender kiss that would become his farewell.

F is for the fig of which the lovers partook, carving tiny pieces from the sweet flesh and feeding it to one another.

G is for the gourd dipper that her lover gave Maggie that last day and from which they took their last draught of cool water together.

H is for the house with the root cellar below and the hand pump in the kitchen that Frank built for Maggie before they married.

I is for the ink that spilled on the rug when Frank threw his wife against the desk and pulled up her skirt.

J is for the joker Maggie’s lover played in his poker game against Frank the evening before, throwing it down triumphantly and gathering up the money with a taunting smile.

K is for kidskin—from which the gloves Maggie wore each day in court were made.

L is for linden, the tree outside the front parlor whose heart-shaped leaves hammered silently against the window to warn the lovers that Frank had returned.

M is for monster, the word Maggie shrieked over and over again as her husband wreaked his vengeance.

N is for newspapers in which there were many accounts of that day, but few accurate.

O is for the oriole that called for its mate outside the courtroom window.

P is for the porkpie hat that Maggie’s lover doffed by the back door and that her husband saw as he walked in to retrieve his lunch pail.

Q is for the quid of tobacco Frank held in his cheek as he did his work that day.

R is for the rope that hung Frank from the crossbeam, kicking and gagging to his death.

S is for the shadow that was cast over the lovers when Frank opened the parlor door.

T is for the talcum powder Maggie smoothed on her skin, the scent of which wormed its way into Frank’s dark memories.

U is for uvula—that quivered and danced in her lover’s open throat and burned itself into Maggie’s memory when her husband held her lover by his raven black hair and sliced open his scalp.

V is for the velvet of the couch beneath Maggie’s smooth, bare back.

W is for the welt on Frank’s boot that left a raised ridge of flesh below Maggie’s right cheekbone.

X is for the signature Maggie’s husband made the day he was arrested.

Y is for the yard at the jailhouse in which Maggie visited her husband.

Z is for the zygote that twisted into life in Maggie’s belly the day her husband slew her lover.