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The Short Form

“The Behavior of the Hawkweeds”

Andrea Barrett


Not until the war was over and I met Richard did I dredge up the hawkweed story. Richard’s family had been in America for generations and seemed to have no history; that was one of the things that drew me to him. But after our picnic on the riverbank I knew for sure that part of what drew him to me was the way I was linked so closely to other times and places. I gave Richard the yellowed sheets of paper that Tati had left in an envelope for me.

This is a draft of one of Mendel’s letters to Nägeli, Tati had written, on a note attached to the manuscript. He showed it to me once, when he was feeling sad. Later he gave it to me. I want you to have it.

Richard’s voice trembled when he read that note out loud. He turned the pages of Mendel’s letter slowly, here and there reading a line to me. The letter was an early one, or perhaps even the first. It was all about peas.

We read it in Ship Stories.

Originally published in The Missouri Review: Vol 17, No 1.