Literature 8-17-2010

mnLIT presents: Jeffrey B. Burton

"Letters of Transit" is the first of our published miniStories winners in this year's contest. Burton's story was selected by a vote of our all-star flash fiction jury: Alexander Chee, Daniel Handler, Kevin Larimer, Heather McElhatton, and Dennis Cass.

2010 miniStories winner, Jeffrey B. Burton
mnLIT: What Light Poetry Project and the miniStories flash fiction competition

Letters of Transit

Bode broke the silence. “There’s a gap in logic.”

I continued driving and kept mum. He’d get to it soon enough. I shook my head for the thousandth time — still angry at allowing myself to be sucked into his madness, sucked into coming along on this asinine odyssey.

“I heard it was either Warren Beatty or Mick Jagger,” Bode picked up, “but she prattles on about him having an ‘eye on the mirror’ and how the ‘girls dreamed that they’d be’ his ‘partner.’ And the refrain is ‘you’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this song is about you.'”


“So . . . the song is about him.”

“Maybe it’s about her,” I replied, feeling contrarian.

“Then who’s the stud with his eye in the mirror getting all the babes?”

We sat in silence as I turned off the highway and headed toward the cemetery. Not much of a moon to keep us company tonight.

“Maybe it’s a compilation,” I offered, wanting Bode to fight for it. “Maybe a bunch of guys are left wondering if the song’s about them.”

“But for her specific guy, the song is very much about him.” Bode flicked his flashlight on and off again. “I guess it’s just another literary device you’re not supposed to spin your tires on. Like the ‘Letters of Transit.'”

“Not that again.”

“If the French police and the Nazis knew the ‘Letters of Transit’ were stolen from those dead couriers, just make them null and void. Have Gestapo waiting at the Casablanca airport and anyone who shows up with them gets shot.”

I pulled the old Taurus to a stop by the west wall of the cemetery, the spot we’d scouted during the day. The spot where it would be easy to get up and over.

“I tried using an expired Burger King coupon once and the manager threw a hissy fit . . . and I hadn’t killed any couriers to get the damned thing.”

“Enough with the blather,” I finally said. “This is absolutely nuts, Bode. It’s desecrating the poor man’s grave.”

“But it’s from his own prophecy.”

“Right,” I replied. “J.D. Salinger would want us to write ‘Fuck You’ on his tombstone.”

“Page 204.” Bode tossed a hand at the iconic red book between us. “He talks about how if he ever dies, they’ll stick him in a cemetery and under his name and the dates he was born and died, it’ll say ‘Fuck you.’ We’re just making that come to fruition.”

“That was Holden Caulfield talking, you idiot. A fictional character.”

“You know exactly what I mean. It’s why he never had them make it into a movie. The phonies would’ve gummed it up. J.D. was Holden Caulfield.”

“But what you’re doing is some messed up shit.”

Nothing was said for a minute, and then Bode grabbed the spray paint and opened the passenger door.

“I’ll be back in five. Hope you’re still here.”

I sat alone in the idling car.

And waited.


About the author: The lies of Jeffrey B. Burton have appeared in dozens of genre magazines (mystery, horror, humor, literary). Jeff is a member of the Horror Writers Association. A collection of his short stories, Shadow Play, was published in 2005 by Pocol Press. His mystery novel, Sleuth Slayer, was published May 2008. Jeff’s web site is


About the jurors: Jeffrey B. Burton’s piece was selected as a 2010 miniStories finalist by an all-star panel of flash fiction judges — Alexander Chee (The Queen of the Night, Edinburgh), Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket series, The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs), Kevin Larimer (editor of Poets & Writers), Heather McElhatton (Pretty Little Mistakes, Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single), and author Dennis Cass, who served as lead juror in’s 2010 miniStories competition.

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Jeffrey Burton

THE FINDERS came out June of 2020 to starred reviews in Booklist and Library Journal. THE EULOGIST came out in the fall of 2017. THE CHESSM­AN (a seri­al killer ­in hot pur­suit of hi­s own copy­cat) came ­out to a s­tarred rev­iew in Pub­lishers We­ekly and w­as listed ­by PW as o­ne of the ­best new b­ooks for t­he Week of­ May 21, 2­012. Harle­quin’s Mys­tery and S­uspense im­print purc­hased the ­mass marke­t edition ­of THE CHE­SSMAN, whi­ch comes o­ut …   read more