that it doesnât pack a lot of punch.
Steve walked in. âSent you what?â
I handed him the sheet of plain white paper with the single word âbitchâ spelled out in glued-on letters that had been cut from a newspaper.
âWhereâd this come from?â he asked.
âMixed in with the mail. The envelope has a stamp, but thereâs no postmark and no return address.â
âI didnât notice.â
Because this was my house before Steve and I got married, the bulk of our mail is mine, so Steve usually just scans for his own name, puts glaringly obvious junk with the recycling, and leaves everything else for me.
âThereâs no reason you would have.â
âLet me see the envelope.â
As Steve examined it, I took a second look and once again found nothing remarkable. It was the kind of cheap business-size white envelope sold by the million at office-supply stores, supermarkets, drugstores, and discount department stores. The flap was the kind that you have to moisten, not the pull-and-seal type thatâs becoming increasingly popular. My name and address were neatly and evenly printed on the front in blue ink. The printing was in the style that everyone is supposed to learn in first grade. The stamp showed the Liberty Bell.
âThatâs a Forever stamp,â I said. âItâs good even if the postage goes up.â
âLooks like a teacherâs printing.â
âWhy would a teacher have something against me? But youâre right. Thereâs nothing sloppy about any of it. The stamp is in the exact corner, and the printing is perfect. The lines are straight. The letters are evenly spaced. Thatâs true about the glued-on letters, too. So, a neat person thinks Iâm a bitch. You know what? I think I should forget about it. Letâs feed the dogs and get going.â
And thatâs what we did. Because we both took showers and because Gabrielle called as we were about to leave, it was seven before we were settled in a cozy booth at Legal, where we ordered drinks, heard about the specials, studied the menu, and began to catch up with each other.
âIâm tempted to order lobster,â I said, âso you wonât think Iâm a cheap date, but I think Iâm going to have fried oysters and fried clams. Or maybe fish and chips. And youâre having cherrystones andÂ .Â .Â .?â
He shook his head. âNo, Iâm having clam chowder and that scallop special. You know, Iâve been thinking about that letter.â
âItâs hardly a letter.â
âIt isnât even that. Steve, itâs not worth thinking about. If it were, Iâd show it to Kevin. But if I do, heâll either tell me that itâs not threateningââ
âOr heâll overreact and deliver his usual cop lecture about the need to be on red alert about everything. Heâs hardly going to turn it into an official police matter. Youâve heard Kevin on the subject of people who watch crime-scene shows on TV and then expect the Cambridge police to do DNA tests for every trivial littleââ
âHe probably didnât lick the envelope, anyway. But that reminds me. I was thinkingââ
The server appeared and took our orders. When heâd left, I said, âYou were thinking?â
âIf you were going to sendÂ .Â .Â . or especially if, letâs say, Leah wanted to send an anonymous message, not that either of you would, but if you did, how would you go about it?â
âEmail? Except that Iâd have to figure out how to stay anonymous. But yes, a lot of people our age or younger would use a computer, at least to address the envelope and print the word âbitchâ. Those glued-on letters from the newspaper are old , arenât they? You and I get most of our news online and from NPR, but a lot of people Leahâs