Daily Archives: November 6, 2008




Kenneth Burchfiel


    She traced her hands across the page, feeling for the metallic seal at the bottom. It was no use reading beyond the “Congratulations!” at the top; that was the only word she needed.

    Miranda folded the letter in half, walked over to a wooden bin and dropped it in. There was a checklist on the side of the box; she dug a pencil out of her pocket and made a check. Seven out of seven. Every single one a stretch—to the rest of the country, at least.

    The sun drew a square of light on the faux granite counter. It looked like one of her letters, only brighter. She placed her hand on it, feeling the same warmth that crawled up her skin when those seven envelopes arrived in the mail.

    So this was her celebration. She had the house to herself, at the least.

    Miranda looked out the window. A few kids were out by the basketball hoop; she knew them only by their SAT scores. The one on the left: 1570. A pushover. The other two came closer, but she still outpaced them.

    She reached for the telephone and punched in ten digits. Always awkward, making these sorts of calls to those outside her quartile, but they were her friends.

    Three rings, then four, then a beep.

    “Jennifer, hello. It’s Miranda. Just calling to let you know I got into—”

    She heard a loud noise, then a dial tone. Miranda looked at the receiver before putting it back into place.

Miranda was the only animated thing in the house, Friday night or not. She and her friends used to spend these afternoons making smoothies or gossiping about the hunk of the week. She had gone off to better pursuits. Applications, for instance.

    She leaned against the counter. Seven for seven. She had won in the Northeast, the Northwest, the Midwest—well, not in the Midwest. Those schools weren’t quite her league. But the Northeast had gone her way. What state had crisper weather in the fall? Massachusetts? Maine?

    Her hands found their way back to the receiver. She played it safer, this time, dialing a number she had known since the age of three.

    “What is it, Miranda?”

    “I got into the last two. You know, the—”

    “That’s great, honey. Look. I’m busy with this proposition. We can talk about this during dinner.”

    “But I—”

    “How does chicken sound? We haven’t gotten chicken in a long time. I’ll swing by on the way home. Don’t forget to feed the fish.”
    Don’t forget to feed the fish. Most parents just said “bye” before they hung up. Or “love you.”

    The house did get quiet without the mailman. She swiped at the floor with her shoe, releasing a few stray grains of dirt that had escaped the vacuum.

    But she still had to spread the news. The phone book lay open on the table, with envelope 4 lodged in as a bookmark. Miranda flipped through, looking for names underlined in green ink, but most had been crossed out. She had been too upfront in her earlier calls.

    The names and numbers did not matter. After all, she still had sweatshirts to buy—dorm accessories to personalize. The entries in this phone book would be stale within a year; she would be at one of seven dream institutions, living it up with a crowd meant for her.

    As she returned the directory to its resting place, Miranda noticed a few photographs above the bin. That one—yes, they had gone skiing together. She had almost forgotten. They rarely saw each other in high school; only one of them had the initiative to take honors classes.

    And what was this picture of? A church retreat? Yes, back when she did not have scholarship forms to fill out and essays to edit. Serious applicants had their priorities.

    So this was her party; her celebration. Not a single rejection.

    From the colleges, at least.

    Miranda stared across the room to the wall, trying to envision what her dorm would look like. There would be a roommate in it, for once: someone whom she could converse with on a higher level. They would put up a periodic table, and a list of calculator shortcuts, and even a few articles on Bohr. Their room would never be quiet; there would always be some sort of joke, some conversation going on. Never silence. They would ban that. They would ban indifference.

    She looked out the window once more. The basketball bounced aimlessly from player to player, never going anywhere, never doing anything worthwhile. Yet it received all the attention…

    Miranda threw the bin of letters to the ground, breaking the wood in half. She took the letter with the seal and crumpled it into a ball. Her legs smashed the box against the cabinets until the wood splintered. A letter balanced on the counter; she ripped it in half and flung the pieces at the floor.

    In time, she caught herself. Her right foot had a cut running up the ankle.

    The house regained its silence. Breathless, Miranda held herself against the counter and stared at the pieces of the bin. The phone vibrated on the table.





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