The Sunset in My Mailbox by Callie Lorentson

UH-OH. JULIEN’S letter was here. I could tell by the way the mail carrier dropped it in my hands and fled. Peering down at the pastel pink envelope, I saw the words “PLEASE REFRIGERATE CONTENTS” printed in bold black letters on the back.

This should be interesting, I thought as I slit the envelope and tipped its contents into my hand. Something sticky plopped into my palm.

It was a Popsicle. A gooey, purple, sticky, slimy, gorgeous, grape flavored Popsicle that had melted all over my pen pal’s letter. I deciphered the letter:

Dear Caitlin,

This Popsicle was so delicious that I wanted to share it with you.

It’s gorgeous grape, my favorite flavor. Enjoy.

Hugs and smoochies,

Julien

P.S. Next week I’m sending you breakfast.

As I held the stained Popsicle stick, I thought, breakfast?! Oh no. I could already imagine a cheese omelet  traveling by mail.

Ever since we became pen pals, Julien has sent me strange things. Once, she sent her sneeze in a jar. (“I have a cold, can you tell?” she wrote.) Then she sent her fingerprint. (“So you’ll recognize me in a crowd.”) One week she even sent a snowball. Or at least it had been a snowball. (“Here’s a souvenir from my ski vacation.”)

Julien sent me breakfast, all right. Cornflakes. Soggy, milky, grainy, crumbly, limp cornflakes scraped from the bottom of her cereal bowl. I lost my appetite, but I read the letter.

Dear Caitlin,

These cornflakes were so nutritious that I wanted to share this high-fiber, low-sodium, just-three-calories, balanced breakfast with you.

Bon appetit,

Julien

P.S. Next week I’m sending you a sunset.

“She’s mistaken,” I told my mom. “No one can send a sunset, not even Julien. It’s impossible.”

“I don’t know,” Mom said. “Julien might find a way. After all, she did send you her sneeze.” Mom wrinkled her nose at the memory.

A week later, I waited for the mail carrier. I’d be able to tell from his face if Julien really sent a sunset. But he just popped the letters in our mailbox with a smile and continued on his way.

I checked the mail and found a box with air holes and the words “FRAGILE–THIS SIDE UP” printed in bold black letters on the top. It was from Julien.

I stroked the box with my fingers. It was perfectly dry. I smelled it. It didn’t reek. I held my breath and started opening the package. What if sunbeams spring out and hit me in the face like those fake snakes in a can? I thought.

My hands shook as I lifted the last flap and peeked inside. Where in the world was the sunset? All I could find was a letter and a twisty, gray, papery shell. It looked like a submarine. I read the letter.

Dear Caitlin,

The sunsets at my house are so beautiful that I had to give you a piece. I counted at least five different colors in one yesterday. Can you find more?

Hugs and smoochies,

Julien

I looked again at the gray shell. That’s no sunset, I thought.

“You must mean the submarines at your house, Julien,” I said. Without reading the postscript, I laid the letter and the submarine on the kitchen table. Then I left the room to find a pen so that I could cross out “sunset” and write “submarine” above it.

When I returned, I stared in shock at the submarine. A creature was oozing out of it! Was it a sea monster? I looked closer. It was a winged creature…an insect…a butterfly. An orange, blue, purple, red, and gold butterfly. It looked like…a sunset!

While the sunset opened and closed its wings to dry them, I read Julien’s postscript. It said, “P.S. Next week I’m sending you Japan.”

Uh-oh.

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