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Dear editor.

EDITOR: In order to save all of us a lot of time and depression, I have decided just to pick out relevant lines from letters received, those related to domestic troubles and affairs of the heart ("relationship bullshit," as the Publisher calls them). Given his endless complaints about such letters, I hope that these abbreviated forms will offend no one and will, as they say, get to the heart of the matter and be done with it.

I'm in love with one man, but still involved with another, and I'm now feeling myself attracted to a third ...

The only time the bitch has anything to say to me is when I'm in the crapper, it's like she saves things up and ...

Now my fourth husband has started to do the same ...

Some people say that meeting your true love on a porn site is not a good ...

He's just so predictable ...

The kids rarely call anymore ...

My third wife turned out to be ...

She said she didn't want to hurt my feelings by telling me she was fucking my best ...

He says I smell like a pile of ...

She won't even let me come in her mouth, never mind ...

He just rolls over and goes to sleep after ...

I just don't feel like fucking him anymore ...

She's got a nose like Pinocchio's and these beady little ...

Do you think it's a bad sign when you're involved with a married...

Just how often am I supposed to fuck this ...

Then he wants to cum in my ass and ...

Three guys at once is really ...

I don't think talking solves anything ...

She just goes on and on about ...

I swear to God that the kid doesn't even look like ...

At first she said they were just fantasies but ...

With men, it's like all that they want to do is ...

Frigid bitch ...

That sick fuck then wanted me to ...

Then he wants to talk and talk and talk, as if ...

They watched us from their boat and then ...

He had a hard-on about the size of the state of ...

LeRoi is going to shit in a ...

I like to think of myself as Caesar ...

Then I started cheating on ...

He calls this making love when all it is ...

Then he accused me of lying, which I was, but how could he have known? That's just the kind of man he was and I couldn't take it ...

Her mother was a slut from way back ...

Her father molested her when she was ...

The more I saw the guy fucking her, the more ...

She says my porn is sick and that I need to see ...

The only way he can get it up is ...

He can't keep an erection for more than ...

The last time she was went down there was about ...

She thinks it's funny to squeeze my balls until they start to...

I realized I had made a big mistake when she..

The kids have gone completely nuts...

She talks on the phone to him right in front of...

He won't shut up about his first wife and I think...

He wants me to masturbate in front of...

If you think I didn't feel guilty about lying to him, then you don't understand the first thing...

Do you think it was possible for her to wash at least one fucking dish every once in a...

But I still see her, or think I see her, everywhere I...

Everyone in LeeRoy...

Even though I'm involved with someone else, I don't think he has to...

She says that being involved with someone else doesn't mean that...

The thought of his cumming in my...

The porn just kind of gets me...

I've never loved anyone as much, but...

When she told me that she'd been sleeping with her old boyfriend...

I think he suffers from a lot of insecurity because just because I have male friends...

This La Roi Center for Writers and the Visual Arts is a kind of chamber of...

I lied only to protect his feelings, bur do you think he appreciated how hard...

If you could see this Irish guy who's paid for all this crap...

If your wife lies to you half the time, then doesn't this mean...

She said his big dick hardly...

I mean, doing it with a stranger down some deserted street where anyone might...

The guy was writing this stuff about all of us and I wanted to...

DEAR EDITOR: I am 67 years old and live out in the country outside Le Roy. I realize that this sounds like a sick joke already, as though Le Roy itself were not already "out in the country." I live alone in what was an abandoned house that I picked up for $2,000 from some realtor and his companion (this is a story in itself because the companion was a woman who pretended, so the story goes, to be French but, from all accounts, she grew up right here in Le Roy, opened up some ladies-wear store with a French name, developed one of those heavy French accents, and then got involved with some real-estate tycoon who swindled almost everyone in the town: God only knows what kind of scam they were trying to run on me). But they had this shack that no one wanted to buy: roof caving in, raccoons the most recent residents, broken windows; the place wasn't even worth 2,000 bucks, but that's all I could afford after a recent divorce from my second wife four years before. As I sit here writing this, I have surrounding me: a table and chairs that I picked up from the garbage dump and painted a bright yellow to bring some cheer into my dismal life; a sofa abandoned on a curb in town that I found in pouring rain: it took about a month for the fucking thing to dry out and now it's filled with mold; one overhead ceiling light with, if I remember, a whopping big 60-watt bulb in it; a can of Drano; an unopened roll of Schnuck's paper toweling; a can of band-aids, two left; a box of Schnuck's cornflakes (almost empty); a refrigerator that occasionally works, two boarded-up windows, the result of kids breaking the fucking things, apparently believing the house had somehow become theirs after years of trashing it when they weren't using it to fuck their girlfriends in; a cheap reproduction of Van Gogh's self-portrait framed in an even cheaper piece of plastic from the Dollar Store; an empty plastic saltshaker; an almost empty pepper mill with a drawing of a sea captain on it; a rusty carving knife; a pile of dirty laundry, mostly socks and underwear, that gets washed whenever the Water Department accidentally restores service; a stack of unpaid bills; three unopened birthday cards from my kids who stopped sending me any years ago; a box of rice (Schnuck's house brand); a small pile of garbage; a Royal typewriter that has almost no carbon left on the ribbon; 4 CDs (R.E.M., Susana, the Stones, and Nar King Cole) bur no stereo to play them on; two pairs of worn-out shoes; an empty box of condoms that has been empty for at least two years; about twenty sheets of 8 x 11 white paper. After 67 years, this is what my life has been reduced to. When I finish writing this, I'll kill myself with the rusty carving knife. It's the only thing I have to look forward to, though I wish I had either a gun (can't afford one) or a bottle of pills (can't afford one).

So, this is my farewell letter. I have a lot of people to thank: my parents and two siblings; a grandmother who molested me over a period of 8 years; the fucking high school I went to up in Chicago; two ex-wives (no point in going into that, and besides I wrote about my wonderful lives with them in various stories I had published years ago); the last woman I was involved with who, as the love songs would put it, broke my heart; my loving children, one of whom is a female impersonator and another is in prison for a series of armed robberies; and last, but not least, all of my great friends who dropped off one by one as my "circumstances" deteriorated ("we just don't have much in common anymore," one of them said). God bless all of you; without you, this day wouldn't have been possible.

EDITOR: Well, thanks so much for these cheerful pieces of news on yet another gray, drizzly Monday morning here in Normal. Just the kind of thing I like to read to start off the week. Please people, keep them rolling in; I really enjoy the fits of depression that these letters generate. I assume that this guy is dead by now and so no reason to find some book or manuscript here by my side in the slush pile that might shed light on his troubles.

DEAR EDITOR: You remember back in grade school and those arithmetic problems about if a train left Los Angeles at 9:00 at night Pacific Time, and another train left Pittsburgh at 11:00 at night Eastern Time, and the first train was traveling at 90 miles an hour, while the second one was traveling at 80 miles an hour, and when would the two trains pass each other? I could never make a damn bit of sense out of these problems, and would wind up getting slapped across the face by a nun when I'd say something like, "But what if one of them crashed along the way, what would happen then?" I really wondered about such things. I mean, how do you know whether they would crash or not, maybe they would, and then they wouldn't ever pass each other. Then when I got older, I'd remember this train thing and used to think of the trains going through the countryside at night, and maybe there's a moon out, and I'm watching the moon through the window in one of those train cars with two stories, just sitting up there by myself, and then I'd start looking at the lonely houses that you'd see as the train passed by them in the night and wonder about all those lives, and all the stuff that those people were going through and them thinking it was all so important, bur you'd know that everyone was going through stuff, and so it didn't really matter what was going on. In one of the houses, someone was dying, but in another some guy is balling his girlfriend for the first time, and she's thinking that he's probably just using her to get his rocks off. Is she just a slut, or did she really think this was true love? And so I'd start imagining her crying afterwards because, even if she's a slut, she knows that this guy doesn't give a shit about her, and now he'd just like her to get the hell out of there. Aren't these the things worth thinking about rather than at what fucking time the trains would pass each other? I mean, who cares what time they would pass each other? Would it be some big thing that all the passengers would care about, like, Oh, boy, here comes that train from fucking Pittsburgh, break out the champagne, this is so fucking exciting! And you know that these days the trains wouldn't get there on time anyways, they're always late, and they're dirty. Bur I still think about all of these kinds of things, and have these pictures in my head from grade school, and I've hardly ever been on a train, bur still you could imagine it all because you'd see these trains in the movies, and there'd always be these two lovers who were traveling crosscountry together, and the woman was running away from her domineering father, or some shit like that. Bur they'd never show you what those two were doing up there in that train car all by themselves. I mean, he'd probably have his hand down her pants, or she'd probably be giving him a blowjob. I mean, think about it. That's what they'd be doing, bur you'd never see that in those old movies. Women never gave blowjobs back then. Well, actually they don't give many of them now, especially my wife. She says it makes her sick, and that always makes me feel just dandy. Actually, she's like going to bed with a block of ice. Don't do this, don't do that, are you a pervert, what's wrong with you? Then she has all these suspicions that I am going out and getting something on the side, which in fact I do. But what does she expect? I mean, what do women expect? Their favorite thing is saying it's not the right time, it has to be the right time, but the right time is always THEIR time, and that comes around once in a blue moon. Their other favorite thing is saying, Oh, now you've wrecked it! What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Why don't they just print up a bunch of rules and tack them up on the bedroom wall? But I guess none of this has much to do with that business about when the trains pass each other, and maybe none of this makes sense to you.

EDITOR: Don't worry about making sense in these letters. Anything that crosses your mind, just send it in.

DEAR EDITOR: I have a movie that I hope The Archives Press will publish. It's about some lonely kid who has to go away to boarding school, a military school, because his parents are sick and tired of all the trouble he keeps getting into. When the parents tell him, you can see that they're nearly breaking his heart, but he acts excited because he doesn't want to disappoint them. So the father drives him off to this school in this great big car with a chauffer, and he says something like this to the kid, "I want to be proud of you, son, and I don't want you to let me down. You will receive the finest education that a young lad ever had." The kid has a tear in his eye, and all he says is, "I will, Father, I will make you proud." You can just imagine at this point that all the women in the audience are bawling away because they love this kind of thing. They like sad stories like this because they know they'll have a happy ending. So, the kid walks into the place, a great big room with other kids dressed up like soldiers because this is a military school. And right away they start in on him, yelling at him and pushing him and making him salute before they even teach him how to salute. I mean, all the kids at this place are sociopaths, of else they just got stuck there by parents who didn't know what else to do with them, of some of them are there because they're orphans. So, you got a really great mix of the kids, with one half about to kill the other. This new kid is entirely lost. Then one day he sees a bunch of the bullies playing football and they throw the ball at him because they think he's a sissy and couldn't possibly catch it. Well, not only does he catch it but he kicks the thing a fucking mile, way over their heads, and they just stand there in disbelief. Then they all like the kid, and the audience wants to believe that everything is going to work out. But one day he finds these other kids violating the school's honor code and he has to tell on them of else he'll also be violating the code, and the code is a great big deal at this place. So he goes to this white-haired guy who runs the school to tell him. The old guy looks wise and tells the kid that everything will be just fine and that he did the right thing. The boy thinks about his father and how proud he'd be of him. But the next day some of the kids who violated this sacred code are missing from morning breakfast in the dining hall, and everyone seems to know that this boy had squealed on them, and this violates another kind of code of keeping a secret. But two of the kids aren't expelled from the place because their fathers have all this money and you know that even that wise old guy isn't going to cross them of else the school will have to close. Well, one thing leads to another, but the audience still really knows that there's going to be a happy ending of some kind even though they have to pretend they don't know this. But that's where there's a twist in my movie. The boy winds up getting gang-banged up the ass by these other kids, and then he gets put in some kind of mental institution. You see him in these restraints tied to his bed, and his father is standing next to him, looking at him as though he's angry, or at least very disappointed. Let's just say he doesn't look too happy. Then you overhear some doctors or nurses talking outside the ward where they keep the people who are completely out of their minds. And what you get out of what they're saying is that everyone blames this kid for making up lies about these other boys because he's queer and was always trying to do unnatural things with these kids, and so they all get off scot-free. Do you think that The Archives would be interested in this?

EDITOR: I'm sure "The Archives" would love to do this movie, if it published movies, but there really isn't much of a market for "published movies." I am afraid that I don't quite understand what you are talking about or what you want. I might suggest, however, that your ending could receive a rather negative audience reaction. This is just a wild guess on my part.

DEAR EDITOR: I have almost finished writing a book on the subject of happiness, but from reading your books, I have a suspicion that the subject of "happiness" may not be something right up your alley. Have you ever noticed how depressing The Dalkey's books are? Well, enough of my opinions about your books. With proper editing and some help with the ending, I think that this could be a perfect fit with The Dalkey. But I will be the first one to admit that the ending needs work. I can't figure out a conclusion. The last chapter is entitled: "Happiness: A Sustainable Human Endeavor or a Fleeting Moment?" For the life of me, I don't have an answer, and right now I feel a bit lost.

EDITOR: I regret to say that "The Dalkey" already has three such manuscripts ("manuscripts" may be too exalted a word to describe these objects that sit next to my desk here) under consideration that will "soon" get passed on to our editors. If you authors out there knew how long these things sit here unopened, you'd probably kill me; some have been here for years. In any event, these manuscripts may prove utterly useless to you. The last chapter of the first book is entitled "Happiness: Fat Chance!" The title itself indicates what the author will conclude: "One has about as much chance of gaining happiness as winning the lottery without having bought a ticket." That's the final line of the book, and perhaps not much more need be said. The second book's last chapter is entitled "Why We Always Choose Unhappiness" This book is slightly more optimistic about what it calls the "sustainability issue," bur rather grimly concludes that humans, ultimately, feel more comfortable with the familiarity of unhappiness. The author attaches in an appendix the results of a questionnaire that she sent to 103 neighbors, somehow deciding that this number of people would provide a fair sampling representative of the population or mankind as a whole. Maybe she's right, maybe she's not, but she wound up with some interesting results. 41% of respondents said that, at least once in their lives, they had been happy, though this condition didn't last for long. 45% said that they had never experienced anything resembling "a state of happiness" 9% said that they had experienced at least a few fleeting moments of happiness but wished they hadn't because they then had to retreat into their usual state of, to quote one, "unfulfilled expectations, a sense of dreariness and inadequacy, and repeated disappointments." 19% (I realize that the percentages are well over a hundred, as oftentimes happens when scholars from Illinois State University at Le Roy compose such studies) said that they had no interest in this subject one way or the other, and returned the rest of the questionnaire blank. 4% said that they were on the verge of suicide (the most common excuse for not wanting to participate in this survey), and so one might conclude for oneself what they would have said. 34% wrote in random comments rather than answering the questions, and there is no point in trying to summarize these. Only half a percent of respondents checked the box that said, "I live a rather intense life that repeatedly places me in a state of happiness, though not always." The last manuscript is entitled, simply, "Happiness." Although it gives the appearance of yet another sociological study, there is something about the style and tone that suggests it might be a work of fiction, or some rather strange combinatory piece of writing that will not conform easily to any preconceived genre. Or it may be that the author was experiencing what is commonly called "mental problems." There is, for instance, only one line in the last chapter, and this reads (to me at least) like a Delphic oracle: "Are the stars out tonight?" I realize, even if the author didn't, that this might be of little use to most people if they are looking to a book for answers. Here we have the only book that appears to argue on behalf of the possibility of happiness but it ends with a "conclusion" (a single sentence, and a question at that) that defies explanation.

DEAR EDITOR: My girlfriend and I saw a movie this week about people falling in love and then having all kinds of problems, but suddenly out of nowhere comes a happy ending. About the only way this movie could have a happy ending, as far as I am concerned, is if they all just jumped out of a window. You have some old guy who marries a young woman, and of course she starts sleeping around with other guys. Then some born-again woman decides to change her life and winds up in between the sheets with every guy who's got a cock handy. And this woman's husband, another born-again, discovers he's gay and finds a perfect guy who's just been abandoned by his wife, or whatever you call such people in this kind of relationship (actually, you call them really fucked-up). And then out of nowhere comes this happy ending. Well, me and my girlfriend leave the theater, this new one that this rich Irish guy put up in his Arts Center here in LeeRoi, and I tell her what I think and what a completely phony ending the thing has. Well, now the fun really starts. She says that this is what life is like, you just don't know what's going to come next, it's all just chance. And then she says, "Look at your messed up life, isn't that all just chance, even our meeting each other, wasn't that just chance?" And I'm thinking, "What the hell does my life have to do with this stupid movie?" Well, I don't say this to her because she has this really out-of-control temper and I don't need it that night. But you can tell that a fight is in the air. She always does this kind of thing. No matter what I say, she says the opposite. If all the people in the movie had turned into apes or something, she would have been saying that this is just like life and pointed at my life as an example. That's the way her mind works. So, I'd like your opinion.

EDITOR: I don't know what to say except to offer an "opinion" that there may be a difference, slight though it may be, between chance occurrences and utterly destructive, utterly insane, utterly chaotic, utterly self-indulgent, and utterly whimsical human behavior. There may, I think, be an ever-so-slight difference between the two that perhaps you will want to consider, if only for a moment, in relation to your discussion with your girlfriend. As Professor La Mode has put it in a newly arrived manuscript: "The human race has distinguished itself as being the only living substance that is possessed of the capacity to inspect itself, reach certain analytic conclusions about its own behavior, and be able to consider this behavior as it affects others in the species, including oneself. And yet, despite this capacity, the species seems to be divided--and rather unequally so--between those whose concern (what one might consider to be 'values') is to know themselves and thereby face hard choices and attempt to act in what some call a 'moral manner,' and then those who draw upon many of the same faculties to act irresponsibly and then justify these acts in whatever way will benefit them at the moment, regardless of the potential or real consequences for those around them, even those they insist they love. Unfortunately, one might conclude, this may create, and in fact does create, conditions resembling an enormous pile of maggots devouring what once was a thing of beauty. Such people, the vast majority of the species, then evolve life-views to support such behavior, such as fate, unpredictability, life-as-a-series of discrete 'happenings,' and 'how could one possibly have known?' The latter views are the equivalent of driving a car at high speed with one's eyes closed and then acting dismayed, shocked, crushed, and overwhelmed at the consequences; all reactions that, not surprisingly, turn the inevitable tragedy into a personal one, being visited not upon the victims but upon the perpetrator, now suffering terrible pain as a result of seeing all those bodies strewn across the road, saying, 'How could this possibly have been predicted!'" You may find that Professor La Mode has rather extreme views on this subject and is invoking a moralistic system that is both old-fashioned and highly judgmental.

DEAR EDITOR: Were you not to have written a story for me?

EDITOR: Yes. Those were crazy times in which anything seemed possible. On a perfect autumn day we sat looking out over fields made yellow by the sunlight. The endless planes of corn and soy would soon be harvested, turning everything gray for winter. This was when we had first fallen in love. Peace had descended from the sky and we were protected, as sometimes happens. We were in love. I said, Can you see the enemy marshalling on the horizon? You said, What? I said, This dispensation won't last, it never does. You seemed not sure whether to laugh or cry. You said, Why are you saying this? I thought, So that we might be prepared? I said, There is always a test, and then betrayal. Your eyes filled up with tears as they often did. You said, I won't betray you. I had thought, This is what lovers always say. It was a late Sunday afternoon, the sun was falling, we were happy. I told you a story about a man walking up the back steps and seeing his wife crying at the kitchen window. You said, Your stories always make me sad. I said, That's because they're about what could have been, and so the woman forever stands at the kitchen window crying, not knowing what to say to the enemy coming up the back steps with his arms filled with groceries or children. Seasons passed, and one day I knew that all of this would soon end, and then I would have the ending for the story I had been trying to write. Gray, dirty fields arose in the distance, a winter sky giving little light. all had become gray. I could see you walking as if on the horizon, as though moving towards you-didn't-know-where. I had wanted to call to you. Bur we both knew that there was nothing that either of us could do. You had been frightened by the troops and what they would think of you if they knew what you had been up to, and so you lied and said you didn't know me. I had grown tired of hiding behind pillars in train stations, as if in some spy movie, where one can never determine who has been loyal to whom and who, amid the lies and deceptions, has been consorting with the enemy down some darkened, hushed street at night. You would say, But I didn't betray you. I would think, Yes you did, but I never blamed you. You did what you had to do. You did what was in you to do. I had lived in a world of possibilities. Things had become sad because there were no possibilities left to us. We would now stare at each other from across coffin tops. Nothing was possible except to say how we would end and become each other's memory. I had wanted to write for you another kind of story that would first make you cry and then make you safe. I had thought that this was possible. You said, The end? I had thought, But there is no end to this grief. I said, Yes, the end. You began to weep. I had thought, And so why aren't you stopping this from happening? You again rode off, smiling amid your tears, a bright October day, a chill in the air. You had learned how to do this, but I had not. Smoke was once more rising from some village in the distance. As usual, complete devastation. The women would soon again give themselves to lust, for what else was there to do? Time would pass. Winter, autumn, spring. Winter, autumn, spring. The past would become a memory of the past that would be a memory of the past. And even that would soon begin to fade into some remote sky, so that one day the past would feel as though it belonged to someone else. Scattered stories, anecdotes, which would get confused with other stories and anecdotes. You have gone into the past. I did not know you.
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Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2010
Words:5725
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