Letter Journal


By Dana Mele

Tuesday, September 8th
Dear Scottie,

I see that you have forgotten to write in your letter journal. Please remember to write me a letter every afternoon using some of the vocabulary words we learn each Monday, and leave it in my mailbox at the end of the day. I will return it to your mailbox in the morning.

Yours truly,
Mrs. Olson
 

Tuesday, September 8th
Once Upon a Time

There was a boy minding his own business, trying to get through another boring day at school. Then his evil teacher appeared and threatened to send him to the wicked, flesh-eating principal’s office if he didn’t write a stupid letter. Here is that letter.

The End
 

Wednesday, September 9th
Dear Scottie,

I am glad you decided to write. Please stick to the letter format we learned in class. Begin with “Dear Name,” and end with “Sincerely,” or “Yours truly,” skip a line, and then write “Name.” Don’t forget to include some words from the vocabulary list. Great work!

Yours truly,
Mrs. Olson
 

Wednesday, September 9th
“Dear Name,”

I’m sorry I didn’t stick to the format. I will be sure to from now on.

“Yours truly,”
“Name.”
 

Thursday, September 10th
Dear Scottie,

I think you know that you are to use actual names in the greeting and the signature. Please try again.

Yours truly,
Mrs. Olson
 

Thursday, September 10th  
Dear Mrs. Olson,

Please stop calling me Scottie. Everyone else calls me Scottie when you do that. It makes me sound like a baby. My name is Scott.

Yours Truly,
Scott
 

Friday, September 11th
Dear Scottie,

Your last letter didn’t contain any vocabulary words. Please try again.

Yours truly,
Mrs. Olson
 

Friday, September 11th
Dear Beth,

I hate writing letters. MEANWHILE, math is boring because I understand it and PREDICT the answers so I prefer science experiments and I DESPISE language but ALTOGETHER 4th grade school is a DISAPPOINTMENT. Please stop calling me Scottie.

Yours Truly,
Scott
 

Monday, September 14th
Dear Scottie,

I know you hear teachers address each other by their first names, but I was not happy when you called me “Beth” in front of the class. I was disappointed to hear that you pushed Abbie in line. Dr. Feinberg was passing by and she mentioned it to me.

Thank you for remembering to use vocabulary words, but do not put them all in one sentence. That doesn’t show me that you understand what they mean. Also, you’ll notice that I don’t capitalize the “t” in “truly.” Remember to pay attention to capitalization and punctuation.

Yours truly,
Mrs. Olson.
 

Monday, September 14th
Dear Beth,

Abbie pushed me first, Beth. She stole my place in line, Beth. I get in trouble even when I follow the rules, Beth. Beth, I paid attention to punctuation and noticed you put a period after your signature. Can I stop writing my letter journal now, Beth?

Yours Bethly,
Scott Beth Olson……….
 

Tuesday, September 15th
Dear Scottie,

You know that calling a teacher by her first name is inappropriate. You know that it is inappropriate to call out answers, push other students, and tilt your chair so far that you fall backwards. You may not stop writing in your letter journal, because the whole class has to write them.

Yours,
Mrs. Olson
 

Tuesday, September 15th
Dear Beth,

Of course I know.

Mine,
Scott
 

Wednesday, September 16th
Dear Scottie,

I am glad you have continued to write so often. I met with Dr. Feinberg yesterday. She was also very glad that you have been writing to me so often. We also met with a special teacher named Ms. Holly who works with many students in our school. We would like you to spend some time with her once a week, starting tomorrow. I think you will like meeting with her, Scottie, and you should write your letter journal to her from now on, instead of to me. Good luck!

Yours truly,
Mrs. Olson
 

Wednesday, September 16th
Dear Beth,

Great. Now I’m a retard.

Worstly,
Scott
 

Thursday, September 17th
Dear Scottie,

It was nice to meet you for the first time today. I noticed that you did not feel like talking. I have never written to a student in a letter journal before. Do you think you can help me out?

Thank you,
Miss Holly
 

Thursday, September 24th
Dear Scottie,

It was nice to meet you for the second time today. I noticed that you did not feel like talking. I have never written to a student in a letter journal before. Do you think you can help me out?

Thank you,
Miss Holly
 

Thursday, September 24th
Dear Miss Holly,

No.

Your welcome,
Scott
 

Thursday, October 1st
Dear Scott,

It was nice to meet you for the third time today. I noticed that you did not feel like talking. I have never written to a student in a letter journal before. Do you think you can help me out?

Thank you,
Miss Holly
 

Thursday, October 1st
Dear Miss Holly,

I already said no. Are you retarded like me?

Retardedly,
Scott
 

Thursday, October 8th
Dear Scott,

I’m not sure what that word means. Maybe you can help me with that too.

Thank you,
Miss Holly
 

Thursday, October 8th
Dear Miss Holly,

Retards are kids they send out of class to talk to people like you or in your case, jerks who think just because they have an office with all these certificats on the wall they can know how you feel about things and tell you what to do.

Retardo.
Scott
 

Thursday, October 15th
Dear Scott,

I’m very glad you decided to talk today, especially because you seemed upset after your last journal entry. Many people do have certificates on the walls of their offices. I agree with you that it does not mean they know everything. I’m sorry that you had to sit in some offices with some people you really did not like. If you had your own office, what do you think you would like to put on the walls?

Sincerely,
Miss Holly
 

Thursday, October 15th
Miss Holly,

Just because I decided to talk this morning does NOT mean I am going to talk next Thursday, so you can forget that. I don’t know what you told Beth but I heard her say to Miss Damiano that I am not her problem anymore at least for an hour a week and that’s a start, and I do NOT like that. So you can FORGET about me talking, and shut up to Beth because I am not a problem you can fix. RETARDS DON’T GET FIXED. I don’t like sitting in your office or any office. If I had an office I would chop down the walls so that it wouldn’t be an office anymore and turn it into a garden or a pool or something. NO THANK YOU TO OFFICES AND STOP TELLING BETH THINGS I SAY.

NO THANK YOU,
SCOTT
 

Monday, October 19th
Dear Scott,

Before we meet this week I want to let you know that I absolutely did not speak to Mrs. Olson about you. I will meet at some point with Mrs. Olson and your mother, but you will know about it. I would like to speak to Mrs. Olson, however, with your permission, about the things you heard her say. Also, I don’t fix things, or I would have wrenches and hammers and saws in my office. I like your idea of turning an office into a garden or a pool. Maybe I will get a plant or a fountain for my office.

See you on Thursday,
Miss Holly
 

Wednesday, October 21st
Dear Miss Holly,

I heard you got Beth in trouble with the principal because of what she said about me. That makes you a tattletale. You said you were going to speak to Beth, not Dr. Feinberg. On the other hand, it got Beth into trouble, so I’m not sure whether to be mad or to congradulate you. I’m still waiting for you to yell at me for using the word RETARD, so you can stop pretending it doesn’t bother you. Teachers hate that word. Especially retard teachers. Did you ever teach in the retard room or did you always have an office? I bet you taught in a retard room until you got all those certificates on your wall and then they said “Congratulations, nerd. You get an office. Enjoy the retards!” and then they gave you the really special ones, like the ones who push other kids or think they hear voices or wash their hands five times a day like Josh Weinstein, King of Retard Nation. 

Sincerely,
Scott
 

Wednesday, October 21st
Dear Scott,

You do seem fond of that word. To be honest, I don’t discuss it with you because we don’t meet to talk about what I think about things, we meet to talk about what you think about things. But if you want to know my opinion, I think the "R" word is something people say to hurt each other's feelings. Sometimes, people who learn differently get called that name, and it makes me angry because it's a very hurtful word. My favorite "R" word is respect.

It sounds like this is something you think about a lot. If you like, we can talk about it tomorrow. By the way, feel free to write me letters during the week if you like.

Sincerely,
Miss Holly
 

Thursday, October 22nd
Dear Miss Holly,

I just want to be clear about one thing. When we talked today I did not mean that I care that people think I’m a "R" word. They’re all idiots. I especially don’t care what Ryan and Todd say about me even if they used to be my best friends. They’re the biggest idiots of all. I knew they were going to call me a "R" word the second Beth told me I had to come see you. I don’t give a flying fart.

It takes too much energy to be liked. You have to be happy and nice all the time like Hannah Bradley and if you slip up once, you’re a loser and a freak. And everyone knows Hannah has this stupid weird disease that she’s dying from so everyone has to be nice to her, and she happens to be my work buddy so I have to be nice to her all the time. And the fact that I have to be nice to her makes me really want to not be nice to her, because why should you have to be nice to anyone? You should be nice because you want to. I hate perfect people and sometimes I want to throw things at her, but you can’t, because of all the people you can’t throw things at, Hannah will break if you even blow on her. And I hate when Hannah sticks up for me. I’m the normal one. It’s not fair. But I definitely, one hundred percent, do NOT care who calls me a "R" word. I hope that makes things more clear.

Sincerely,
Scott
 

Friday, October 23rd
Dear Scott,

I do appreciate the letter to make everything very clear. You can think about it and decide if there is more you would like to say next week. I notice that your letters are getting longer, and I think that’s great. 

You mentioned “perfect people” and it got me wondering what a perfect person really is. What do you think a perfect person is? I also thought about the words “loser” and “freak” and the idea that there are people that you have to be nice to whether you like it or not. You write about ideas that are very thought-provoking. I hope you think about them too so we can discuss them more next Thursday.

Yours truly,
Miss Holly
 

Friday, October 23rd
Dear Miss Holly,

No, there is nothing more I would like to say. Perfect people are worse than bad people. I think bad people try harder to be good. That’s my two cents. I bet if the perfect people had to actually try to be good they would turn out rotten. You shouldn’t be rewarded for having people like you, and nothing bad ever happening. I guess you heard what happened. I hate Hannah and everyone and I hate this school.

I just hate it all. I don’t want to talk to you anymore.

Scott.
 

Monday, October 26th
Dear Scott,

What happened?

Sincerely,
Miss Holly
 

Monday, October 26th  
Dear Miss Holly,

You’re a liar. Everyone knows what happened. Now I hate you too.

From,
Scott
 

Thursday, October 29th
Dear Scott,

I missed you at our usual meeting time today. I hope all is well.

Sincerely,
Miss Holly
 

Friday, October 30th  
Dear Miss Holly,

No one would care if I was the sick one. No one would care if I was blown up into a million pieces.

From,
Scott
 

Friday, October 30th  
Dear Scott,

I would definitely care, and I can say for sure that I am not the only one. The janitorial staff wouldn’t be thrilled either. What a mess.

Thoughtfully,
Miss Holly
 

Monday, November 2nd  
Dear Miss Holly,

What isn’t fair: 

1. I might get kicked out of school FOREVER. 

2. I did push Hannah, but it wasn’t on purpose. 

3. If it was ANY OTHER PERSON, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Any other person wouldn’t get hurt. Henry or Emily, I wouldn’t be in trouble. It just happens to be that Hannah is half dead anyway and you can’t touch her or she’ll die. Then why is she in school?

4. They always put us together! 

5. I know it’s bad to push, but I get very nervous if I am stuck in one place too long and I feel like I have to move or I will sufficate and the line moves so slowly that I HAVE to move. I was trapped in line and Hannah was the one blocking me. 

6. I have gotten in trouble for pushing people like ten times already this year. 

7. What kind of idiot would continue to place me next to Hannah over and over? It’s like they want to kill her and expell me. Thanks a lot, geniuses. I could be a teacher if you have to be that smart to quallafy.

Angrily,
Scott
 

Tuesday, November 3rd  
Dear Scott,

That is great logical thinking. You will make an excellent lawyer someday, if that is what you choose to do. Please feel free to talk about all of this when we meet on Thursday. I agree that none of it makes any sense at all. The good news is that we can work together to find ways to make things work better for everyone, and I think you may have thought of some already.

Sincerely,
Miss Holly
 

Wednesday, November 4th  
Dear Miss Holly,

Well that was close, but it looks like I’m staying right here. Something tells me that somebody around here likes me, because Beth has it in for me and I was sure I was going to get kicked out. Once I almost got kicked out just for writing something. It’s funny how much trouble you can get in from just writing words, without actually doing anything. Maybe they should make you get a lisense to own a pencil.

Sincerely,
Scott
 

Thursday, November 5th  
Dear Scott,

Your remark about needing a license to own a pencil reminded me of the saying, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” I like the way you put it. When you think your observations out carefully like that and write them down, you sound like a true author. Maybe you’ll show me a story you’ve written for class?

Hopefully,
Miss Holly
 

Wednesday, November 11th  
Dear Miss Holly,

I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to share my stories. I am writing two or three of them for writers workshop but even Beth doesn’t read them. One is about a kid who no one knows is a robot and one is about a kid who has the power to become invizible, but he can’t control it. And one is The Hobbit Part 2 ½. But that’s all I can tell you. Also, I would appreciate it if you would not share the plot of the stories with anyone because I would hate for someone to steal my ideas.

Sincerely,
Scott
 

Thursday, November 12th  
Dear Scott,

Wow! I have to say, you did nothing to decrease my interest in reading your stories. Those ideas sound like the foundations of three potentially riveting tales. The one about the invisible boy sounds particularly fascinating. If I can convince you to let me read one, I would be very honored.

Curiously,
Miss Holly
 

Friday, November 13th   
Dear Miss Holly,

I don’t know if you realize this, but your letters are getting hard to understand. You are starting to use a lot of really big words. I may seem like a walking dictionary, but that is an illusion.

Confusedly,
Scott
 

Monday, November 16th  
Dear Scott,

Here is a copy of my own personal dictionary. It doesn’t walk, but it does have a lot of my favorite words highlighted, including the big ones in my last letter, which I attached in a list. I also enclosed a list of words I am pretty likely to write in my next few letters. 

Enjoy,
Miss Holly

P.S. Illusion is a pretty impressive word! I highlighted it for myself.
 

Monday, November 16th  
Dear Miss Holly,

I hope this present isn’t homework in disguise.

Doutingly,
Scott
 

Tuesday, November 17th  
Dear Scott,

I see you are acquainted with the tale of the Trojan Horse. I’m fond of Greek mythology and epic tales myself. Here is a copy of my favorite collection. I don’t suppose you have changed your mind about letting me read your stories?

Doubtfully,
Miss Holly
 

Wednesday, November 18th  
Dear Miss Holly,

I think you made me read about the Trojan Horse on purpose! I had to read the story just to know what you were talking about. I can’t stop reading the book now and it’s enormous. I have to keep using the dictionary now too. Thank you for such a thoughtful gift. (I am being sarcastic, which means it was NOT a thoughtful gift, in case you aren’t acquainted with sarcasm).

Thoughtfully,
Scott

P.S. You know what I didn’t like about the Trojan war? You couldn’t tell who the good guys were. It made me not want anyone to win.
 

Friday, November 20th  
Dear Scott,

That’s an excellent point you make about the Trojan War and good guys. A lot of people say that about wars in general. Maybe you should write some of those thoughts down. I will be visiting my family before the vacation, so this is my last letter before Thanksgiving. Have a good holiday, keep reading and writing, and don’t eat too much stuffing—it’s called that for a reason.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Miss Holly
 

Wednesday, November 25th
Dear Miss Holly,

I didn’t mean to hurt her. I know you won’t believe that because everyone else will tell you that I did and that I’m a bad kid and that’s why I won’t be allowed back at school this time, but I didn’t. 

I don’t know if I will get to write again because I have to leave school. I’m writing this from outside the principal’s office waiting to get called in. Mom is inside already with Hannah’s parents and they’re crying and I don’t deserve anything good to happen to me for the rest of my life.

I didn’t mean to hurt her though. I was it and I forgot to tag lightly because you can’t really tag Hannah and I tripped on my shoelace and fell on top of her in the mud and I don’t want to write about what happened to Hannah but everyone saw and I FELT it and I probably don’t deserve to be forgiven but I didn’t mean to.

I should be the one who’s dying. Everyone thinks so. I can tell when they look at me. My life is ruined and it’s her fault. I hate her. But I didn’t mean to hurt her. I don’t think it matters what I meant though because she might die this time for real and if she does
 

Tuesday, December 1st  
Dear Scott,

Thank you for leaving your journal with Dr. Feinberg. She gave it to me, as promised. She told me you were extremely upset about having her read it, and I'm very sorry about that. I certainly did not give her or anyone else permission to look into your journal, which your teachers and I, and you, had a special agreement about.

I'm sorry your trust was broken, Scott. I do hope I will see you soon again in school, and we can continue our meetings and our journal work.

Hannah is back in school and came to see me on Tuesday. Did you know that I also have meetings with Hannah every week? She is feeling much better and she said she felt bad that you were gone from school and that she knew you didn’t mean to hurt her. She hopes you’ll come back soon.

If you do not return to this school and decide to go to another school from now on, you are very welcome to write me as often as you would like to let me know how you are doing.

Sincerely,
Miss Holly

The Deerfield School
32 West Meadow Way
Fellsdale
 

Saturday, December 12st  
Dear Miss Holly,

Thank you for writing me that letter. I’m glad you told me about Hannah. No one told me if she was okay or not and I was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to find out she was dead or have people think I hoped she was.

I’m not coming back to Deerfield. Mom found a new school for me not far from here. It’s a private school. I’ll probably hate it. I already started calling it Hellfield Part 2 and she yelled at me “Don’t start!” and started crying. Then I felt the worst. Still, she’s not the one that has to go. 

I won’t start until after vacation, since school ends in a week anyway. I really don’t want to go. I don’t want a new set of teachers, and kids, and everything. And there probably won’t be anyone like you there. But I guess it could be worse. It could be in Afganustan.

Okay, I am going to mail this and read another chapter. I am reading Lord of the Rings like you recommended. It started very slowly but it’s starting to get interesting. Mom offered to rent me the movie but I said “NO!” I really want to read the book first. I don’t know if I will agree with you that it’s worth it to read a book before you see the movie, but this will be my test.

I hope you are getting ready for Christmas vacation unless you are Jewish, and in that case I hope you are lighting the mennorah and living it up.

Sincerely,
Scott Brennan

P.S. I want to know your honest opinion. Do you think I am a bad person?
 

Wednesday, December 16th  
Dear Scott,

No, no, and no. You are not a bad person! I do not want to see you write the word “bad” to me one more time. If you want to tell me about a bad dream, call it a “nightmare.” If you want to refer to one of the evil characters in Lord of the Rings, and I hope you will at some point, call him a “villain.”

I have some news that might surprise you. I too will be leaving the Deerfield School at the end of the term. I will start teaching in January at a new school. Of course you will be welcome to write to me there from now on and if you feel like sending me a letter in between, I have a post office box. I will be happier at my new school, and I hope you will too, Scott. It is very important to remember that many teachers come in and out of your life and some of them will seem like they don’t listen and don’t want to help you and other ones will. 

There are always teachers in your school who want to listen to you and want to help you. If your classroom teacher doesn’t seem like a good listener for you, don’t give up on teachers! Somebody will listen…I promise. It’s okay to say hi first. And you can always write to me, but I think soon you will get so busy with your new friends and activities that you won’t have time for letters!

I am so very glad that you decided to read the Lord of the Rings books before the movies. It will definitely be worth it. You may be surprised by some differences though. That is something to write about.

As it happens, I am not Jewish, but my fiancé is so I have been lighting the menorah and living it up a little bit. 

I have to pack up the rest of my office (certificates and all) in three days, so I must end this letter.

Best wishes,
Miss Holly

P.O. Box address enclosed
 

Monday, December 21st  
Dear Miss Holly,

I can’t believe you are leaving Deerfield too! I don’t blame you. I bet that by spring vacation, half of the 4th grade will be expelled and five more teachers will have left.

I hope this Christmas card reaches you in time. My mom thought I should thank you for all the nice things you’ve done for me, blah blah blah this year, but I would have sent you one anyway if I had thought of it. But I didn’t know if you celebrate Christmas. I didn’t want to offend you. I don’t know what kind of a last name Holly is.

And that reminds me. 

Because you will never be my teacher again, as a Christmas present, do you think you could tell me what your first name is?

For your Christmas present I will tell you this: 

1. You are the best teacher.

2. I write stories now all the time just because I want to, and I blame YOU for getting me in the habit of writing and thinking so much!

3. I probably would have thought that I was a horrible person forever for almost killing Hannah if you had not let me know she was okay, and she wasn’t mad at me, and you didn’t think I was a bad person. I probably would have felt so bad until the day I died that I could never feel happy.

Thank you.

It’s not much, but enclosed is a copy of “The Invisible Boy.” I also included the story I almost got expelled from school for writing, but Mom understood, and you will too. It’s about when terrorists crashed a plane my Dad was on in New York City. We were supposed to visit my Grandpa in L.A. but I was sick so Mom stayed home with me and Keith. I got in trouble because Mrs. Olson thought the story was upsetting. It is. But it’s my story. So is “The Invisible Boy” and I hope you like them both.

Merry Christmas,
Scott Brennan
 

Thursday, December 24th  
Dear Scott,

I had to chase the postman down the street to get this delivered to you on time! He is being very patient, so I am going to write very quickly.

Thank you for your Christmas presents. I am one hundred percent positive they will be the best ones I get this year.

It has been an honor having meetings and writing letters with you. I’m glad you agreed to do some writing with your mother now that I can’t be there to meet with you. You are a very bright, talented, warm-hearted boy and if you keep it up, you will make an excellent writer. 

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family, a fresh new start of the New Year at your new school, and give yourself a chance to start over. Everything is new. I know I’m excited for my new school. No one, Scott, and this goes for grown ups, teachers, principals, the president of the United States, can decide that you are a bad person (oops, I said the word!). I know that you will show the world, as you have shown me, and your mother, and your little brother, all the good things about you.

Merry Christmas, Scott! And I wish you the very best New Year.

Decking the Halls,
Alexandra Holly


Dana Mele is a Catskills-based writer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Jersey Devil Press, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Right Hand Pointing, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Mad Scientist Journal, among others. She recently founded Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal and is currently working on her first novel.