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Kids Fiction Mystery

The sky is gray and rainy in Palm Springs on the street. A mysterious envelope descends.

Daniel Wilson, 11, carrying a school backpack, counts off on his fingers as he points to the raindrops. 

The other children look at him and shrug: "what a weirdo." The letter falls onto the sidewalk. Daniel's schoolmate Maria, 11, cute, picks up the letter and looks at the writing, then holds out the envelope to Daniel.

"Take it.  It's got your name on it aaand...it's poison!"

Daniel takes the envelope and sees the name "DANIEL" on it, but he can't read the rest of the writing though the rain.

Maria said, "That's you, right? Daniel? Danny?"

Daniel waves with the letter and walks off.

Inside his apartment, lots of computers in various states of being fixed litter the room. Daniel enters and hangs his key on a hook near the door. Daniel's father, Bill, 33, in jeans, shirt and tie, rolls around in a wheelchair out of the darkness, tinkering with a motherboard. Bill points to the motherboard.

Bill says, "The guy sold me an iMac motherboard, would you believe? It's still good. Expand the memory slots and no problem."

Daniel smiles. "Awesome."

Bill says, "What you got there? Report card?"

Daniel says, "Love letter."

Bill grins. "That's how I met your ma."

At the mention of her Daniel brightens. "I forgot! We're supposed to Skype."

He runs to the one working machine in the room, an iPad, and turns it on. He clicks on Skype.

Bill says, "We already Skyped, pal. Sorry."

Daniel stares at "ANNABEL WILSON" in the contacts. Her Skype status reads "Offline". Her Skype image is of the US Air Force symbol. 

Bill says, "She had to fly out on a mission. Emergency run."

Daniel nods. "But she's coming home for Thanksgiving. Right?"

Bill hesitates. "That's the plan, champ. Hey. What do you say we go for tacos after you finish your homework?"

In Daniel's bedroom, drawings cover the walls. The letter dries on a radiator. Daniel sits at the desk and draws. A rainstorm takes shape on the paper, and then several white rectangles.  Daniel draws stamps in the rectangles. 

Bill says behind him, "Your grandma always gave me an apple after school."

Bill puts the apple down on Daniel's desk, then leans closer, looking at Daniel's drawing. "This is homework?"

Daniel shrugs. "Teacher says we're supposed to tell a story with a picture." It's true.

Bill says, "You do your math first. Okay?"

Daniel nods and takes a bite of the apple. "Thanks."

Bill looks as if he wants to say something but goes out.

Daniel gets up and goes to the window. He picks up the dry letter. He reads the name and address: "Daniel Gomez, XXXXX Driftwood Drive, Palm Desert, CA." He opens the letter, takes out a photo of a smiling Hispanic woman and a tiny baby. Daniel reads the writing on the back.

"M'ijo, my baby. I have been trying to find you. I am your mother. You see you and me? I am so sorry. I don't know who you are. I only have this address. If you look at my face and find something good, come and find me. I'll explain everything. Vaya con dios, m'ijo."

Daniel turns the photograph this way and that.  He goes to his backpack and unzips it. He takes out a book titled "Spanish I" and flips through it. 

M'ijo...mi hiho....hijo. Son.  

He turns the pages.

Vaya...con...dios...Go with God.

Daniel goes to the window and looks out in wonder. "I'm God's post office."

He opens his math book and hits the books. Working on math problems and having a tough time, eventually finishing the assignment. All the while he stares at the picture of the woman. 

Algebra and numbers dance over the woman's face. As Daniel is working on his math he draws a doodle of the woman with algebra equations around it.

The door opens, and Bill pokes his head in. “Taco time.”

Daniel and Bill share an enormous taco platter in a tiny homey Mexican restaurant. 

The next day in Daniel’s big classroom, a line of students jockey to use the computers. Some kids are playing with iPads. Daniel sits at his desk with the photograph, drawing the mother and baby.  

Maria comes over and looks at him. Daniel hides what he's doing.

The other girls giggle. One of the class bullies who is always on Daniel shoves Maria out of the way. “Hey...hey...nerd, watcha doing?  You don't like computers?”

He grabs the photograph and drawing.  Daniel glares at him.

The bully sneers. “Awww...is this Mommy?”

The bully makes a move to rip the photograph and drawing.

Maria snatches them out of his hand and gives them back to Daniel. Maria shoves the bully. The bully, shocked, makes a beeline for the other side of the room. Daniel and Maria exchange smiles.

After school, the kids rush outside toward the school bus. Daniel runs with them.

Daniel walks down the aisle in the bus. He sees Maria, hesitates, and sits next to her.

“Thanks,” he says at last.

“My name's Maria,” she says. “In case you forgot.”

“You can call me Danny.”

“I do anyway. What were you doing?”

“Where is this address?” He shows her the envelope.

“First tell me what you were doing.”

“Drawing. Where is this address?”

He could look it up on the computer, but for some reason, he wants to ask a real person.

“Over where I live...but you don't get out there.”

Daniel sits quietly.

“I'll show you where it is.”

Daniel smiles. “Thanks.”

“Can you come over?”

He blinks in surprise. “Not today.”

“Tomorrow. We can have enchiladas. I bet you've never had them.”

He thinks about going for Mexican food with his dad. “Have too.”

Maria is smug. “Not like my mama’s.”

“Have too.”

They get out at the stop close to where Maria lives and walk past Maria’s street to Danny Gomez’s street and the small house with the cacti in the front. Daniel and Maria look at it.

“Who lives here?” Maria asks.

Daniel shrugs.

“You'll tell me tomorrow.” Maria kisses him on the cheek before he can react and walks away.  

Daniel rings the bell. He waits patiently. No one answers. He sits and waits.

Later, Daniel has fallen asleep. 

A voice wakes him up. “Hey, kid.”

Daniel wakes up to see Danny Gomez, Hispanic, mid-40s, wearing a coat with a hood.

“Daniel Gomez?”

Danny Gomez lowers his hood. “People call me Danny.”

“I'm Daniel.”

Daniel unzips his backpack, takes out the envelope, and hands the envelope to Danny Gomez.

“I'm God's post office.”

Danny Gomez looks at the open envelope, then looks at Daniel.

“You shouldn't open other people's mail, especially these days.”

He takes the photo out of the envelope and stares at it. He turns it around and freezes as he reads the back of it.

Daniel rummages around in his backpack and takes out the picture he drew from the photo. He hands it to Danny Gomez. “This is for you.”

Danny Gomez studies the photo, the drawing, and the envelope. He looks down at Daniel and waves the drawing.

“Come inside. We'll call your parents, let them know you're OK.”

Danny’s house is full of easels and paintings. Danny Gomez spreads out the photo and drawing on the kitchen table. He studies them both. Daniel stands. 

Danny Gomez looks up. “Not going to eat you. Take off your raincoat before you catch cold.”

Daniel does so and puts down his backpack. Danny Gomez goes to the stove.  There's a kettle on the stove. Danny Gomez turns on the stove. “Sit down. You like hot chocolate?”

“Awesome. Please.”

Danny Gomez opens a cupboard and gets a tin of cocoa. “How'd you find me?”

“School bus.”

“The school bus doesn't stop close to here.”

Actually, it does, so Daniel says, “You don't have kids?”

Danny Gomez sets two cups down and goes to the kitchen table. “They're with their mom. In Miami.”

Daniel absorbs that for a beat.

“I guess you know my story. If you read what's on that photograph,” Danny says.

Daniel nods.  

Danny Gomez doesn’t seem to know what to say. “I guess we better call your folks.”

“They're not home.”

“Latchkey kid? Man, that's dangerous. Where's your mom?”

“Overseas. She's Air Force.”

Danny Gomez gets his phone.

“Where's your dad? You probably know his number.”

Daniel doesn’t want his dad knowing about this. “Computer stores.”

“What?”

“He fixes people's computers. Sometimes from home, sometimes at their house.”

“So he has his own business.”

“I guess.”

Danny looks like he’s figuring something out. “Then he should be available.”

“He was meeting people all day.”

And Danny scowls. “He doesn't know you're here, does he?”

Daniel doesn't respond. Danny Gomez goes to the table and picks up the photograph. “Does he know about this?”

Daniel stays silent.

Danny Gomez waves the photograph around. “Jesus. What's your dad's phone number?”

Daniel gets his sketch pad out of his backpack and writes his phone number on sketch paper. He rips off the sheet and gives it to Danny Gomez, who quickly dials the number. He speaks into the phone.

“Hello? Mr. Wilson? This is Danny Gomez. Your son's here. He took the bus here. He was returning something I lost."

Danny Gomez winces as he listens.

“No, I didn't know. And I can explain everything when you get here. That's why I called you. Yeah. We'll sit tight. Here's my address...”

As he talks, Daniel sits watching him. Danny Gomez hangs up and looks at him in a way that makes Daniel slump in his seat. “Kid, you were lucky. He's on his way.”

Danny Gomez makes the cocoa and brings it to the table.

“Why'd you bring me that picture?”

“I miss my mom too.”

Daniel sips the cocoa and grins. It’s good. “You paint?”

“You change the subject a lot. Yeah, I paint.”

“Any money in it?”

“Yeah, finally.”

He studies Daniel's drawing and the photo.

“Let's talk about you. Does your mom make cocoa like this?”

“My dad. Mom says I should show my work to my teacher so I can get scholarships.”

“So do you show them?”

Daniel looks into his cocoa. Danny Gomez sighs.

“I didn't want to show anyone either. Thought I was no good.  But I was just scared.”

Danny Gomez gets up, takes their cups and pours more cocoa.

“I'd like to have a mama and papa like yours. I grew up in foster care. You don't know what that is, and you're lucky.”

Daniel holds up the photo. “Are you going to go see her?”

Danny Gomez freezes, holding his cocoa cup.

“She's really sorry.” 

“You think I should?”

“Yeah.”

Danny thinks about it. 

“Tell you what. You show your work to your teacher, and I'll go.”

Daniel thinks about it.

“Okay.”

Danny Gomez clinks Daniel’s cup with his own. Daniel smiles. 

After they have their cocoa, Danny Gomez shows his paintings to Daniel.

“Really awesome,” Daniel says.”

“Oh, it's ‘really awesome’ now. I'm moving up in the world. You do portraits?”

“Weather mostly.”

“You do well on portraits. Ever thought of setting up a table and charging people to do their picture?”

“Could I do that?”

“No one says no to a kid.”

Daniel looks at the paintings. The doorbell echoes through the house. Danny Gomez looks at Daniel. “I'll be right back.”

Danny Gomez runs to answer the door. Daniel stares at the paintings. He turns all around, looking at them. There are a lot of paintings of a woman that looks like Danny’s mother.

Bill runs in and swoops down on him, grabbing him.

“You know what could have happened?”

Daniel hugs his father back and feels hot with embarrassment. “I was hanging out with Danny. What happened was…”

“He told me. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’d have said no, right?”

“I’d have looked him up on the computer, made sure he was okay, and we’d go from there.”

Daniel blushes. “Are you mad?”

“I am. I’m proud of you, but you’re losing computer privileges for a week other than homework.”

Daniel shrugs. “Okay.”

Danny Gomez enters. Bill stares at him. “Thanks.  This won't happen again.”

“Actually...I'd like to ask you if I could give Daniel art lessons.”

Daniel and Bill are surprised. Bill steps forward. “What for?”

But Bill looks around, seeing Danny's work.

“He's really talented,” Danny says. “I could help him get a scholarship.”

“I'd insist on paying you,” Bill says.

“I couldn't...”

Bill holds up a hand. “Why don't I discuss it with my wife, you think about it, and we'll talk.”

Danny relaxes. “Sounds good.”

Daniel and Danny Gomez grin. 

“Super awesome,” Daniel said.

Danny Gomez shakes Daniel's hand. Bill shakes Danny Gomez's hand. “Where's his coat and backpack?”

Danny Gomez smiles. “I'll get them.”

Danny Gomez goes to the kitchen. Bill kneels down and holds Daniel by the shoulders. “Don't ever do this again.”

They hug.

Daniel asks, “Can I go to Maria's tomorrow?”

“We'll see. Who's Maria?”

The next morning, Daniel and his dad eat breakfast together at their favorite place, Keedy’s, before school.

Later that afternoon, Danny Gomez stands on the doorstep of a large split-ranch house in a quiet local neighborhood. He looks at the envelope, then knocks on the door.

After school, Maria’s mother holds Maria's and Daniel's hands outside Maria’s house. Bill waves as he gets into the Ford Pinto. Daniel grins.

At Danny’s mother’s house, the door opens and Danny Gomez's mother Angelica Rossi, the woman in the photograph, opens the door. She and Danny Gomez stare at each other. Danny holds up the photo and Daniel's drawing. Angelica gently touches them.

In Maria’s house, Maria’s room has a computer. Maria sits on her bed as Daniel sketches her.

At school the next day, Daniel’s teacher sits at a desk grading papers. The students line up once again to use the computer. Daniel, holding his drawing of Maria, walks up to the teacher's desk.

The teacher looks at Daniel. Daniel lays the drawing on the teacher's desk and grins shyly.  The other kids stare curiously. The teacher holds up the drawing. Daniel offers another one, the one with the envelopes. The teacher smiles at Daniel.  Maria and Daniel stick their tongues out at the bully.

Later after school, Daniel sits outside behind a table near his apartment building, sketching an elderly couple. A gust of wind blows an envelope out of the sky. Daniel grabs it and looks at it. He holds out the envelope to the elderly couple. The couple give him money.

Another letter blows in. Daniel looks at it. It's from "Los Angeles".

Daniel smiles.

August 18, 2023 19:43

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5 comments

Jody S
22:10 Jan 16, 2024

Love this take on the prompt. My favorite line is "I'm God's post office." That is beautiful. I wasn't quite sure where the story was going so there was a good tight weave of suspense. The Pinto reference was interesting--a real throwback! I feel like it should have a lot of significance, but that was never fleshed out for me. There was one line that has me thinking and a bit confused...which was "There are a lot of paintings of a woman that looks like Danny’s mother." Is the Danny the boy or the adult? I thought maybe this was leanin...

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Kevin Logue
08:04 Aug 24, 2023

What an interesting tale Kristin. Was very enjoyable. Wonderful flow that went from mystery, to suspense, to supernatural, to wholesome. The darker part of me was worried when Daniel told Danny no one knew he was there, boy was I glad Danny demanded his father's phone number. The Daniel, Danny artists had me waiting for a time travel twist, but god's post office is just lovely. Some great imagery too, you really excel at omniscience storytelling, makes the narrator voice so strong and almost retro. Well done, great work.

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Kristin Johnson
18:40 Aug 24, 2023

Thanks! It just occurred to me that that omniscient feel, which was unintentional as I'll explain in a moment, really echoes the "letter from Heaven" angle. Because maybe it's a report from an angel observing everything. What do you think? This was actually adapted quickly from a short script that has gotten a lot of interest and good reviews but not been made yet. I figured why not try it in a different format? The idea for the script came when a letter blew my way in the rain. Nothing very exciting as I recall, but it planted the seed of...

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Kevin Logue
19:21 Aug 24, 2023

I really like that, it's kind of like death being the narrator in the Book Thief. It's strange were these stories come from, I wish I had better memory to recall such events to help inspire me, ha.

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Kristin Johnson
18:11 Aug 27, 2023

I forget them too, which is why I sometimes jot them down, when I remember...

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