She opens the letter like any other, tearing the short edge before blowing in a puff of air to inflate the envelope. She turns in upside down over the kitchen counter and grains of sand bounce and jump on the blue tiles, settling on the grout. A black and white photo and a one page letter follow.
Fiona pushes her fingers into the sand, feeling the small pieces impress into her flesh. She turns her hand over and rubs her thumb and index finger together- the grit rolling around on the pads of her fingers before falling back to join the others. The photo, one of those four-inch squares with scalloped edges from her childhood, is of a woman smiling down at a toddler in her lap. The child has a goofy grin and his chin glistens with drool. The woman has black horn-rimmed glasses and a scarf tied around her coiffed hair. There is writing on the back, in a faded blue ballpoint- “Christopher and Ruth- Feb. 10, 1953. There was a photographer’s stamp below the writing that looks like ‘Archer Photography, followed by an address, which is her own.
Putting the photo aside, Fiona unfolds the letter. It is written in block print- the letters smudging to the right, probably leaving a stain of black ink on the writer’s left hand.
April 12, 2011
To Whom it May Concern,
I found the enclosed photograph while traveling in Northern Africa. It was tucked between pages 30 and 31 of a well-used copy of The Sorrows of Young Werther. I purchased the book at a small used book store at the urging of my young companion. It was supposed to be the best book I have never read. I am a bit ashamed to say, it is still a book I have never read. I couldn’t get past the synopsis on the back- too depressing. In any case, I wanted to return this photo, as I thought it looked like something that might be missed. I am sending it to the photographer’s address in the faintest hope it is still a valid business. Perhaps someone there can find the owner.
If the owner is found, please pass on my thanks- the photo reminded me I hadn’t seen my mum in a while. Also, I do not mean to offend if the above title is one of your favorites.
If this photo does not find it’s way back to its owner, well, than I hope whoever it ends up with, will be reminded to call their mum too.
Fiona looks at the photo again. It’s nothing special- very much like many her parents took when she was a child. If she had found it inside a book she might have just continued using it as a bookmark. She opens her computer and Googles Archer Photography Brooklyn. The search returns two possibilities—Archer & Sons Photography and Archer Photos. She writes down the two numbers and addresses on the back of the envelope and slips it, along with the letter and photo, into her briefcase before quickly cleaning up the sand and grabbing a yogurt. She was late for work.