This story was first published in Flash Me at On Fiction Writing, August 2012.
Quincy tiptoed to his bedroom door, backpack slung over his right shoulder, beat-up sneakers dangling from the fingers of his left hand. He wrapped his right hand around the doorknob and turned it slowly. He pulled the door open with equal caution, grimacing at the mouse-like squeak of the hinges.
He stepped into the hall and paused. Assured that no one stirred in the other bedrooms, he padded to the stairs. Again he stopped. He glanced longingly down the hall before creeping downward, carefully avoiding the creaky middle of the eighth step.
The stairs led him to the house’s entryway. He placed his backpack and shoes by the front door. The first glow of dawn shone through the side windows. Still, no one stirred upstairs.
Quincy’s socked feet slid across the linoleum as he headed to the back of the house. In the kitchen, he pulled the envelope from the back pocket of his bell-bottom jeans. He reread the note before propping it against the percolator.
He indulged in a moment of guilt as he imagined the scene to come: his mother, in her yellow terry robe and matching slippers, finding the envelope, reading it….
“Stop it!” Quincy told himself in a firm whisper. He looked at his brother’s portrait on the mantle. I have to do this. It’s the right thing….Isn’t it?
He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, which was at least five inches too long for his father’s taste. At least he wouldn’t have to hear about that anymore. Still, this wasn’t about his hair. Quincy pressed his lips together and looked back at Maurice’s picture. You know why I’m doing this, Mo. You’re probably the only one who understands.
He jogged back to the front of the house and grabbed his belongings. He was out the front door before he could change his mind.
Pulling on his sneakers, he glanced at his watch. Right on time. He turned left and started toward the bus stop.
* * *
Quincy began making plans four months ago, when the first envelope came. He didn’t have to open it to know what it was. Anything from the Selective Service could mean only one thing. He never showed it to his parents. They’d already lost their oldest son to the war. He didn’t want them assuming the worst about their middle son, not when all he’d gotten was his Order to Report for Armed Forces Physical Examination.
He thought about faking sick, but fooling the draft board had to be a lot harder than fooling old Mr. Toscano—and Mr. T had been hard to fool. He thought about getting a gun, shooting himself in the foot. Better to lose a foot than lose his life, he rationalized. But what would Maurice think? Maurice had obeyed his notice without question and paid with his life. Would he think Quincy a coward? What about Quincy himself? If he sacrificed his foot, would he be able to look his parents in the eye? Would he be able to look himself in the eye?
In the end, after a week of restless nights and distracted days, Quincy decided he owed it to his brother and his own conscience to keep all of his appendages. He reported as directed and left the exam without any doubt that he’d be classified I-A.
Three weeks ago, the second envelope arrived—the Order to Report for Induction. Uneven typewritten characters told him where to report (the post office) and when (today at 6:30 am). He didn’t tell anyone about the draft notice. Not until today—when he left it on the coffeemaker with his goodbye scrawled on the envelope.
* * *
The bus dropped Quincy off on the northwest corner of the town square. He checked his watch again. He still had a few minutes. He strolled around the square, soaking in the gazebo, the broken water fountain, the statue of old what’s-his-name from the Civil War. Who knew when he’d see them all again?
He stopped in front of the bank where his father worked and offered a silent apology. Then his watch told him it was time.
Quincy headed for the post office.
Click here to read the story behind "The Envelope."