They all gathered to hear the letter from their long-missing relative, William, Junior. His mother Betty called to her sisters from her alley window, who called their children from slumber, and they all met on the community patio outside of Betty’s home to hear the news. Frank, a second cousin, had secretly been taking bets that young Will had been killed in a bar fight, while his sister Evangeline insisted he had joined the Peace Corps and was saving the world.
Betty didn’t even change from the robe she wore around the house; as a matter of fact, she hadn’t even bothered putting on shoes or slippers. The others, some of whom took the time to get dressed in their day suits, some still in pajamas, all congregated around the family matriarch, whispering at the possibilities of what the letter might contain as she carefully pulled at the envelope. The markings on the postage said California, which was quite a long trip from William’s hometown of Coney Island.
They were waiting for Will’s youngest brother, Peter, who had run into town to get his father, only to have the elder William return before him. Moments later, Peter ran up to the group, panting. Nobody bothered to ask what had taken him so long as Betty pulled the three pages out and started skimming the letter before her public reading. A single tear ran down her cheek as she cleared her throat and prepared to read aloud.