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Letter the Sixth
Letter from Diane Luray to Mavis Brinkley
December 19, 1948
I do think you are the most horrible person in the world to have played such a mean trick on my friend, Antoinette Charleton. I’m not sure what is worse: that you made the entire thing up, or that you employed such a John Out-the-Window-looking man to deliver your gifts and thus implicated me in the brouhaha.
I should introduce myself. I’m Diane Luray, a novelist, and I met our mutual friend on the second day of Christmas. The wrong Christmas, as we discovered, but a second day all the same. I haven’t known Toni long...just long enough to realize that I’m a truer friend than you, because true friends would never ever ruin a girl’s life like that. If you are still baffled: I’m the girl who was glaring savagely by the elevator buttons in your direction as you knocked down Toni’s best hopes and dreams.
You protest, you say Toni was not so cut up about it. Let me tell you the happenings from my perspective and you’ll see your error.
Act One: Nervous, pretty, foolish young girl wringing her hands under the Christmas tree and looking as if her Christmas Wish is to Belong. She sees man and steps forward. Said man cuffs her under the chin with his shoulder and leaves her still Not Belonging.
Act Two: Foolish young girl takes cup of cider, sees Green Witch in center of room, drops cider to the consternation of Germanic-countenanced man, hurries to Green Witch. Green Witch has gift in hands. Foolish young girl tries to talk to Green Witch, Green Witch presses gift into her hands. Foolish young girl opens gift, draws out five gold bangles and stands like Tragedy while Green Witch fastens them on her wrist.
Act Three: Girl implores Green Witch. Green Witch laughs (not wickedly, but guiltily) and calls to Handsome Man on other side of tree. Handsome Man defined as “Corky,” Deliverer of Green Witch’s treachery. Green Witch tries to explain motives for “well-meant” prank. Christmas Cheer is cited, followed by Giving Toni Mystery and Trying To Cheer Her Up. Foolish young girl blinks away tears and smiles bravely. Green Witch and foolish girl share Judas Kiss.
Act Four: Green Witch suggests dinner. Foolish girl shakes head no. Green Witch departs with promise to see foolish girl soon and apologizes for the ordeal. Foolish girl stands tall, bites lip, looks brave, breaks heart.
Act Five: Foolish girl views crowd with bottom lip trapped between teeth, shakes off tears, and collects me from vicinity of elevator.
In the immortal words: “it is finished.”
I took her home in a taxi as any good friend would. I told her Un-John might still come and suggested we wait a moment longer. She said she would rather build her own coffin and die than think once more about Un-John or John Out-the-Window or anyone.
You would have thought she was barely upset, Old Cat, because she will never let you see her heart again, you awful little evil cricket. But I know better. I checked on her at midnight when I could not sleep and found her asleep overtop of a half-finished letter to you: the one you read before reading this missive. I included it so you might realize the depth of your sins. Notice the words that look a little blotty. That’s from tears. Of your coaxing.
So next time you think to create a false romance for any of your little “friends,” just you remember that some of us really care and are left to clean up the spoiled little girl’s playthings when she lets them drop.
P.S. I did not ask Toni for your address. I found it in the book under her elbow. In the morning she will be furious at me for sending her letter, but I think it best you know the brave tone she tried valiantly to uphold.
P.P.S. You really are a wretched person
P.P.P.S. I have thought of a way to fix this that does not involve lies, false gifts, or ruined dreams. Leave Toni to me.
Letter from Diane Luray to Mr. John Garribault, Metro Intl. Press Club
December 19, ‘48
Dear Mr. Garribault,
Please do not be put off when I say that I am dreadfully glad your name really is John. My name is Diane Luray, and I live in the apartments across the road. Last night, my friend invited you to dinner at the Willard Hotel but received bad news while there. News which knocked her terribly, and that is why, if you came and found no sign of Antoinette Charleton, she is not to blame.
If you feel extra wrath piling like a thunderhead, might I give you the address of a person who could use a little thundering-at? Her name is Mavis Brinkley and she is a dramatis personae. By which I mean a dramatic person, not a full Cast & Crew.
All this aside, please do not think badly of Miss Charleton. She’s the best person I know and if she had not received the bad news, would have made your life brighter than the White House Christmas tree.
If you would like to discuss the matter further, please do not hesitate to put a call through to 629B. I am a novelist. I am always at home.
Letter from Antoinette Charleton to Mavis Brinkley
December 19, 1948
I never meant to write you again after last letter. I did not mean to send last letter at all but Diane, trying to be useful, did it for me. I suppose it was the best thing after all. I had not got to the part where I tried to express all I felt after meeting you last night and Diane’s action kept me from the ennui of trying to describe the indescribable.
Picture an oblivious lamb who steps into Hell and Damnation and you’ll begin to understand.
I only wish I had not been so very lamblike about this. How could I have believed there was really a John Out-the-Window? Such things are all right in theory but I ought to have known it would not happen in real life. And how specific each gift turned out to be...you took it all directly from my letters. Can I sue for plagiarism? It might make me feel better.
The worst of it is that I acted upon my belief and invited Un-John to dinner and, presumably, stood him up. I can’t abide that thought, for whatever figment of your imagination John Out-the-Window is, Un-John is very real. I have kept my curtains drawn. I’m not man enough to watch him through another bout of writer’s block and try to withstand the allure of the dear little chalk bottle.
Oh Mavis. Possibly equal with my sense of humiliation and loneliness is the idea that the gifts will cease. Am I so childish? On the subject of gifts, you behaved impeccably. I ought to have known a man could not have been that clever and perfect in his bestowals. Perhaps you have given me something after all, Mavis: the cynicism is strong with me.
I suppose all there is left to say is
MAVIS. Notice the uphill jog of my pen-stroke at the end of the former line. That was the fault of Diane Luray pounding upon my door like a battering ram. I opened the door to a banshee throwing herself upon me with a wild hug.
“He’s a DARLING,” she cried.
“John Out-the-Window! A perfect, perfect darling!”
I informed her that you, Mavis, are by no means a darling.
“Not that Old Cat, dear Toni. The real John Out-the-Window. Look!”
Into my hands Diane pressed a fat envelope. I turned it over. Thick paper with my name carved deep into the weave in black ink.
“It’s from him. I am certain this time.”
“If Mavis is trying another--”
“No. Mavis' lackey didn't deliver it. It was the real John Out-the-Window.” She danced to the drapes and dragged them open.
“Stop being a beetle. Open it.”
I flipped open the lid of the envelope and took from it a heavy sheet of paper, tri-folded.
“Dear Miss Charleton,
I have it from a reliable source that you received bad news last night and that is why you were not at the Willard Inter-Continental. I am sorry the news was bad. I am not entirely certain who you are or why you invited me, but I did come. Curiosity will be my downfall. The Willard is beautiful this time of year and I am sorry our meeting was thwarted. I am also sorry your circumstances are in an uproar. Preston, a fellow in the next office over, is playing a record with “The Twelve Days of Christmas” sung by a man with a nasal condition. I believe it is the only number on the record and the needle seems to be stuck at “six geese a’laying.” I am not sure if you can imagine how fraying it is to one’s nerves. Enclosed is a drawing of the six geese. They have writer’s block and that is why their eyes are crossed. I have writer’s block too and that is why I am drawing ridiculous caricatures when I ought to be working on this piece.
Journalism is dull and the idea of the Mystery Girl Who Stood Me Up has much more promise than the price of eggs in China, a subject which my editor truly did assign me. I hope this note has cheered you up somewhat and that we may meet properly some day.
Yours Over-fed with Six Christmas Geese,
MAVIS. MAVIS. MAVIS. I take back everything I felt last night. Not about you, but about Un-John. I will cherish this letter till the day I die and thank you for your perversity of spirit that allowed me to meet Diane Luray and begin noticing my Window-People. I will not write again unless there is something absolutely vital to tell.
You behaved rather badly.
P.S. He is so good at drawing geese.