Sunday, December 16, 2007

From: The Correspondence of Snook (The Elder)

From Ms. Esmerelda Pinch, B.A., B.Ed.

Dear Mr. Snook,

Happy Holidays, old schoolteacher of mine! I hope that Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or whichever religious festival you have chosen to celebrate this year finds you, your partner and dependents, well.

You'll notice from the postmark that I'm living in the U.K. now! (I cherish a fantasy that you'll come to think of me as one of your beloved Brits soon!) And, indeed, I've become a teacher too--at a wonderfully challenging comprehensive school in London's East End! How proud it must make you to learn that a former student of yours chose to follow in the footsteps of her dear old "Sweat Circles" Snook ... Though, likely it'll reassure you to know that I'm not following in your footsteps exactly. I like to think that we've progressed just a little since your day.

Speaking of progress, you will have read about the lamentable condition your generation has left the planet in--of the prospect of sea levels rising 800, perhaps even 900 feet, threatening the extinction of our indigenous coastal communities--and it is for this reason that, rather than continue to perpetuate the cycle of consumerist enviro-violence that brought us to this pass, I have decided to make charitable donations to worthy causes on behalf of all my friends and family. Seeing as you're still stuck over the pond (in what my partner likes to call 'the West's trailer park') it took some doing familiarizing myself with the organizations on offer there. But I think I have found a suitable beneficiary for you. Indeed, I'm rather jealous that we don't have something similar here. It combines all the virtues of an activist agenda with a robust political mechanism; it's called the Green Party of Canada. Have you heard of it? It's all the rage apparently amongst voting Liberals. In any case, I have made a donation of £2 to this Green Party, in your name. And, yes, you're very welcome. Know that the satisfaction of having given it is thanks enough for me.

Anyways, I'll leave it at that, I guess, and just wish you all the best of the season again--recognizing, of course, that it is not necessary that you should expect any more of this season than you should of any of the others.


Esmerelda Pinch

P.S. I wonder if you're still smoking that stinky old pipe? It was a very quaint affectation, to be sure, but perhaps you didn't know of the risks associated with second-hand smoke? I've enclosed a pamphlet, just in case. We must begin to think of the health of future generations after all.


To Cough O'Hoone, Esq.

Dearest Cough,

Just received the strangest card from that little tick, Esmerelda Pinch. Do you remember her? The one with the clumpy hair and the unfortunate complexion? I have nothing but miserable memories of the girl myself--that fuss she kicked-up over a perfectly respectable grade I gave her on her final exam, and how her father threatened legal action--and yet she sends me this Christmas card, pretending all the familiarity of a fellow Boggle enthusiast!

Of course, I say Christmas card, but I mean one of these anything-but-Christmas cards. It's a phenomenon that has always amused me, as I know it has you; the insistence on the part of such people that holidays in general are the cause of their once yearly output of greetings in the form of ambivalently worded and, often, tastelessly decorated bits of cardstock. I've always wanted to ask one of them why they don't then send cards (that explicitly ignore the given occasion, of course) on any of our other statutory holidays. I have half a mind this year to send all of them greetings and well-wishing that should arrive precisely on their birthdays, but which don't specify why I should've ever bothered doing such a thing.

But back to Esmersmella. Did you know that she openly refers to me as "Sweat Circles" in her letter? What is wrong with this generation that they're so utterly incapable of recognizing the difference between a playfully respectful nickname and an out-and-out insult? And, anyway, you had given me to believe that "Sweat Circles" had been your nickname amongst the rabble! Are we to take it from this that our students were so deficient of imagination that they could only think of the one hopeless slander with which to paint us all? I don't know about you but I'm beginning to think that my life as an educator was a wasted one.

But again, to my point: in the newly-minted tradition of sending one's friends the gift of one's own political agenda, the girl informs me in her card that she has made a donation to the Green Party in my name. My question for you: is this actually possible? I was under a strong impression until now that such was more in the nature of being an illegality. The absence of a tax-receipt to prove her claim suggests to me that my surmise is correct and that she did no such thing. But I can't help thinking that this could just as easily be put down to the miserliness of the sort of person who thinks that two British pounds qualifies as charity.

Yours eagerly awaiting confirmation that I still live in the free world,



To Esmerelda Pinch, B.A., B.El.

My Dear Esmerelda,

A Merry Christmas to you too! And what a charming card! Two fruit flies in bowler hats holding hands was just the thing to break up the monotony of all those Nativity scenes, Journeying Magi and Archangels on our mantelpiece. God bless us, every one!

It is very nice to hear that you've moved to England, of course, but I think there might be a bit of confusion re. my apparent love of "Brits." "Brits," as I understand the term, are a class of Englishmen who have acquiesced to the wholesale dismantling of their society and culture--an undertaking for which, I'm afraid, I have no sympathy. But it might interest you to know that the term was coined some time ago by the Americans as part of their ritual of degrading their former sires. While I suspect that you have no affinity for historical Great Britain, it occurs to me that you might be persuaded to drop the pejorative if you recognized that by doing so you will be stemming a bit the oft criticized 'cultural hegemony' of the mighty and terrible U.S. of A. ... Yes, I fear that any Englishman willfully using this term "Brit" is as likely as not to be George W. Bush in a wig and doing an Estuary accent. (Which, of course, isn't very difficult for an American.)

And, yes, I am most grateful of your generous gift of a donation to Canada's burgeoning political force, the Green Party. You'll remember my commitment to the spirit of democracy, and how often I have lamented its betrayal by the letter--so I'm always happy at the prospect of a greater diversity of representation available to the Canadian public. Of course, I'm often upbraided for this encouragement of the lunatic, one-issue fringe. But the more the merrier, say I! There may be less chaff to sort from three bushels of wheat, but there's less wheat, too, as compared to four bushels.

I was so inspired by your gesture that I couldn't resist returning the favour--in spite of your commendably selfless insistence that I refrain. I have, therefore, made a donation of five dollars, in your name, to the British National Party. I confess that I know very little about this organization, save that it too is considered a political underdog, but I simply could not resist the cherub-face of its chairperson, one Nick Griffin ... As you say, Esmerelda my dear, no thanks are necessary. Knowing how this gift must make you feel is reward enough for me.

As regards your postscript: I'm embarrassed to say that I am still smoking my pipe. Though, the twenty page glossy on the effects of environmental tobacco smoke was unnecessary. Once in a while a clammy draft from the outside world does penetrate the thick, fragrant blue fog of my sexagenarian solitude, and it wouldn't be the first, second, or even third time that I've been pestered by this particular breeze. You suggest that I need to consider future generations. But I tell you that I do, and it seems only to have an opposite effect! Take this dinner party I went to the other night: I excused myself from the gathering--with the kind permission of my host, of course--to go out on the front porch to have a smoke. No sooner was I bundled up for the -10 degree weather and shivering away on the stoop, than I found myself being closely observed through the window by a young man of, say, six years. Try as I might to shoo him from his perch, the lad refused to be dissuaded, and stared, wrapt--sometimes laughing, sometimes clapping--as I shot jets from my nose, and blew near-perfect smoke rings to the silent, one-clouded heavens.

Unfortunately for these future generations you mention, they seem to be under the impression that my smoking's a kind of magic. And I suppose that I am so far gone in the throes of my addiction that I'm inclined to agree.

Yours from the well-nibbled bit of his faithful old briar,

Sweat Circles