Descending Order of Totems


The daffodils were now blooming on the table. Lauren had placed them in a small mason jar before leaving for her errands. They were still tightly enclosed buds this morning. It’s amazing what can happen in two hours, Packer thought. Time is its own perpetual engine. We’re just its clogs. Everything will eventually get grounded down by it.

Packer was supposed to be working on his novel, but 60 pages in he was stuck. His character repulsed him and the plot was gossamer thin. Writing isn’t supposed to feel like jagged glass running through your intestine is it?

Instead of writing, he shuffled through the mail.

Cable Bill.
Credit Card Bill.
Junk Mail.
He stopped breathing.
There was an envelope addressed to Lauren, conspicuously featuring no return address. Her name was written sloppily, frantic..

It had to be from him.

It only took a few seconds to give in. Packer got up and locked the door. Lauren would be coming home any minute and he wanted some warning. He then sat back down and sliced the envelope open with a kitschy letter opener they brought back from Alaska – a trip they took two years ago after everything went down. There was a totem pole on the end of it, an eagle perched on top, but do you know totems actually gain significance in descending order, the bottom of the totem is actually the one most revered?

Packer thought about that trip, which he referred to as ‘their salvage expedition’. They took a cruise of the glacier inlets. Big, shinning, white and blue mountains of ice. They drank steaming cups of hot chocolate on the cold deck. They watched in awe as giant chunks of ice broke off and crashed into the arctic waters, felt the waves sway the ship.

He felt a large wave under him right now.

He opened the envelope.
There was just one folded-up piece of paper inside.
The only thing written on it was:

I need to see you.

He didn’t leave his name. He knew she would know who it was from.

Fucking Hamilton!

Why can’t he leave us alone? Packer thought.
Why can’t he leave her alone?!
What kind of name is Hamilton anyway?
He was thrown back two years, just like that. His hands shook.

The sound of the key jiggling in the lock snapped him back to the present. Packer roughly folded the paper and stuffed it back into the envelope. Lauren came in with a bag of groceries, a french baguette sticking out the top, like some prop from a TV commercial featuring the perfect family in need of home insurance or the right dog food for their beloved pet.

“Hi, baby,” she chirped.
“Hey, how was the store?”
“Busy. How’s the writing going?”
“Great,” Packer lied.
“Good.” She came and stickered a kiss to his forehead. He felt like a wall being vandalized. “I’m going to go to the gym after I unpack these,” she told him.
“Need help?” He asked.
“No. Keep writing. I got it.”
“Wait,” He beckoned. “Here.”
He handed her the letter.

There was a second where he could feel the Earth beneath him heave and sigh. She took the envelope, turned it over in her hand and paused upon seeing the handwriting. He could tell she knew who it was from.
“You opened it?” she asked.
“I’m a small man,” he admitted.

Lauren removed the letter and glanced briefly at the contents. Her eyes were like actors in a poorly produced off-Broadway play. Her expression remained stoic, deliberate. He read her face and it was more horrifying than an Edgar Allan Poe story.

Fucking Hamilton!

“Baby, it was two years ago and I don’t know what I was thinking,” she told him.
He asked, “What kind of name is Hamilton anyway?”
“I know, it’s stupid. Look, I love you,” she said. “I’m throwing this away. I don’t want to see him! Don’t worry.”
“I’m not worried,” he answered.

Packer watched his wife rip the letter up, then dump it in the trash, and marveled at how good they’ve gotten at lying the last two years.



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