When my friend received a postcard in the mail depicting his childhood home he had no idea who had sent it or why. Even stranger was the unknown address scrawled on the back in his own inimitable handwriting. Only one thing was clear. We had to go and find out for ourselves what this was all about. Our innocent little road trip down memory lane soon turned into something quite different, as one mystifying turn after another led us into a tangled knot of confused identities, alternate histories, unfathomable intrigues and sheer bewilderment in this short novel of the truth, the partial truth, and anything but the truth.
My friend Hernan noticed a few unusual things about the postcard he received in the mail one Saturday in August. He couldn't remember the last time he'd ever received a postcard and was even a bit surprised that such things still existed and could be sent overland in trucks and cars. Such inefficiency offended his modernist instincts. Not only was the thing an actual postcard, such as thrived in abundance in an earlier century, but it had come stuffed inside of a regular envelope. He'd always heard of postcards as being self-sufficient. The waste was doubled, not to mention the increased cost, which was anathema to his current, if not consistent, mode of budget consciousness. Thirdly, the postcard displayed the image of an ordinary looking house, a brownish squat thing with a flat pebble roof, a pair of absurd rectangular granite columns bracketing a dull and lifeless porch, a front window hidden by a dirty gray curtain, and all of this approached by a cracked and ragged concrete pathway heavily colonized by dandelions and other unwelcome flora. There were no pleasant features about the place, and the only clue to its whereabouts, if anyone cared, was the number seventy-five tacked up in aluminum letters and half-hanging on a middle step.
Hernan turned the postcard over to see what else might be waiting to dismay him there, but there was nothing written except a different address: 44 Misteranibal Street. This meant nothing at all to Hernan at first, except that the address had been scribbled unmistakably in his own terrible and peculiar handwriting. He turned the postcard over again, to make sure he had seen the number 75 instead of the corresponding 44 on the back, and while making certain of this fact, he suddenly had the most vivid recollection. He was twelve years old and his family was moving away. His best friend from childhood was standing on those very steps, just above the silver numerals, waving goodbye and sniffing back some tears. Hernan found himself nearly crying too as he stood there in the post office, still holding the key to the P.O. box in his hand. Mrs. Mary Holloway, a notorious busybody, took note of that unusual occurrence, and reminded herself to tell someone about it just as soon as she possibly could. Meanwhile, she stopped and stared at the middle-aged man she'd seen about town for years but whose name she had only discovered through the rumor mill.
It had been thirty years since his family had moved away from Misterlittleton. In that time he had certainly heard about the eccentric developments occurring there, from the perpetual re-beautification program to the accordion freeways, the tremendous exodus followed by the equally dramatic immigration, the utter transformation of the city more than once, and the legends of the peculiar archaeological artifacts uncovered there from time to time. He had always thought of going back, but the idea had always been overcome by sadness, at the realization that literally everything and everyone he had ever known from there was gone and gone forever. Nature and mankind together had made sure of that.
Enrique Cardoval. That had been his best friend's name. A shy boy with always too much hair hanging over his face, and barely enough weight to keep himself aloft. He had been a follower of sorts, an early version of the sycophants Hernan would later find himself surrounded by in his occasional and detrimental extravaganzas, but Enrique had been a friendlier rendition of that kind, a genuinely nice boy who seemed to always have something going on in that tiny furry head of his. He was forever laughing unexpectedly at his own little jokes which he'd never bother to explain to anyone else. Other kids thought he was a weirdo. That was what they called that kind of kid back then. Nowadays they have more official-sounding terms and diagnoses. Hernan remembered that he'd promised to write Enrique, but never did. Come to think of it, he told himself, he had promised to send a postcard! He snorted to have such memories evoked, another eccentricity duly recorded by Mary Holloway, who was running out of excuses to hang around the building. Hernan became aware of her presence, and darting a grimace in her direction, shut his box and locked it, and marched out to the sidewalk, still clutching the postcard and its ridiculous envelope in his hand, wondering how and why someone had managed to forge his chicken scratch.