What Ended Up Being a Suicide Note

by Randall Brown


Do you remember that trip to that tiny beach town in Maine? Some girl had died in a small plane accident and we saw Stop Making Sense and I bought that too-big jacket and the news vans and reporters were there for that crash but we pretended that they were there for us, until we felt so sad and guilty because we found out about this letter the girl who died had sent to the Soviet Union a few years before to the Premier, asking for peace, trying to save the world, and well…I am getting off track.

Later, there was that dog in the waves, going under, popping back up, each time a little less above the foam and I was paralyzed but you didn't hesitate. You ran into the water and snatched that dog up and even then, both of you struggling in the surf, none of it registered, nothing in my brain said move, run, save them.

So, I don't know. I'd like to think that if I went back somehow, if a twister came my way and I jumped inside and it had the power to take me back that I would emerge with new-found powers and I'd snatch everyone up and out. But I have this odd sense that I wouldn't. That I'd stand there still. I know there's no cyclonic portal to the past, so I drive up to Maine instead.

And here I am now. Maine. In that tiny beach town. That movie theatre still stands. That little girl ends up on a stamp in the USSR and it's here, along with plaques and a copy of her letter:


Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren't please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.


Y. Andropov wrote back: "We want peace—there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all peoples of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha."

I'm not saying things clearly. I'm in Maine and I am thinking of that piece of my past and the part you played in it. And I think tomorrow I'll walk out on this promontory with that picture of you with the dog speckled with sand, dripping, and I'll set it on the edge, have the ocean come for it, begin to pull you away, and see if anything rises within me this time to answer it.