The Spirit Of Christmas

By: Kurt Luchs

My dear Mr. Vanderwoude,

Thank you for your recent gift. Now once again as the holidays approach we ask you to remember the plight of the Bosnian and Serbian orphans. For many of these children there will be no Christmas — no presents, no toys, and worst of all no parents to love and protect them. We thank you for your past generosity and hope you will not forget these little ones as you enjoy the comfort and affluence of your safe, warm home during this joyous season.

Yours sincerely,

Kurt Luchs

P.S. Please accept the enclosed paper Christmas wreath, hand-constructed by seven-year-old burn victim Susie, and hang it on your tree. I trust you’ll think of the orphans whenever you look at it.

´ ´ ´

Dear Mr. Vanderwoude,

If this letter happens to cross yours in the mail, please forgive me; I know the post office is slow and unreliable during the Christmas rush. I’m sure you received my last letter and that your generous gift is already on its way to help the homeless orphans of war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina. But just in case our letter — or even yours, God forbid — might have gone astray, I’m sending this reminder to thank you for what you have already done and to ask if you can find it in your heart to do just a little bit more this Christmas.

Yours sincerely,

Kurt Luchs

P.S. The attached miniature pinecone, painted holiday green and dipped in glitter, was brought back from the former war zone in the tattered coat pocket of a little boy we call Buster. Enjoy.

´ ´ ´

Dear Mr. Vanderwoude,

I’ll admit I’m puzzled. Surely you must have received my previous letters asking you to add just a little holiday cheer to the lives of our orphaned Bosnian and Serbian boys and girls. And surely you cannot be unmoved by their tragic plight — after all, you made a significant contribution to our cause only a few months ago. Perhaps you yourself have faced unfortunate circumstances recently — a long illness, the loss of a job, or even the loss of a loved one. If so, I offer you my deepest, most heartfelt sympathy, and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future when things are going better for you.

But if you are not facing hard times, Mr. Vanderwoude, if what you suffer from is merely a hard heart…God help you, Mr. Vanderwoude.


Kurt Luchs

P.S. The enclosed sketch of the dove of peace was done by little Amalric, a paraplegic war orphan who has learned to draw by holding a piece of charcoal between his teeth. I hope it fills you with the generous spirit of Christmas.

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Mr. Vanderwoude,

As I write this, the orphans are weeping. I had to tell them that there would be no toys this Christmas, that they might not even have a roof over their heads come December 25th. “Why?” they cried. “Because a man named Richard Vanderwoude has apparently decided that your unimaginable pain doesn’t matter,” I said. “Because he has put his own selfish whims and desires above your basic needs. Because he thinks you are not worth saving.” At that point I had to restrain one of the children, Tedescu, from leaping through a plate-glass window.

How can I be so sure of your lack of charity? You see, Mr. Vanderwoude, I did a little checking around. I found that you are not sick, that none of your friends or loved ones have died recently, and that you have not only not been fired but have received a substantial raise and promotion in the past few months.

I am not enclosing a postpaid return envelope with this letter because if you do decide to melt your icy heart and send a donation (which I doubt), I think it appropriate that you should pick up the tab.


Kurt Luchs

P.S. The enclosed finger painting portrait of you (you’re the one with the fangs) is by Lisel, an eight-year-old deaf-mute. The bright object underneath you is either a holiday candle or the flames of Hell. Of course, we can’t ask Lisel, can we?

´ ´ ´

Mr. Vanderwoude,

If you think you can escape the consequences of your evil actions (or rather, inactions) you are wrong. You will pay. I will see to it personally. And I’ll have lots of help. You forget, Mr. Vanderwoude, that these are Bosnian and Serbian orphans. They have been handling firearms and explosives since they were two. They are really pissed off at the world and don’t know who to blame, but you make a very plausible target. We know where you live.

Kurt Luchs

P.S. The fiery red composition I’ve attached to this letter is the joint effort of Tommy and Tony, identical twins who have sworn a sacred blood oath (that’s their blood on the paper) not to rest until they have taken vengeance upon you. The artwork depicts your head as it would look after a losing encounter with a fragmentation grenade — a picture I hope to see someday in real life.

´ ´ ´

O Ricky boy,

You’ve really done it now, mister. I heard the cops coming up the stairs and managed to hide in an air vent while they ransacked my office. After they left I took the few weapons they had missed, stuffed my remaining files into a briefcase, and then torched the place.

So now you know there are no orphans — Bosnian, Serbian, or Martian. But that doesn’t let you off the hook, Rick. Not by a long shot. If there had been any orphans, they would have been just as hungry and hopeless as my letters made out, and you’d be just as guilty. Oh no, Vanderwoude, you aren’t out of the woods yet. Because no matter where you go or how much police protection they give your worthless ass, I’ll find you, I’ll hunt you down like a dog and show you ethnic cleansing like you’ve never seen before.

If I were you I’d start drinking gallon jugs of double espresso right now and make plans to never, ever go to sleep again. Better install rearview mirrors on your glasses, too. Wherever you are, I’ll be right behind you.

Kurt Luchs

P.S. Enclosed is an artist’s rendering of the place I’d most like to visit on this earth: your grave.


Boy, Intercepted

By: Robert Sudduth

As I write this, I’m convinced that I have pinkeye. To me, this is as horrific a thought as sitting through a screening of an Olsen twins movie. The numerous Internet sites that I’ve been to so far say that pinkeye isn’t life-threatening, a myth that I am certain my death will debunk. “What a horrible ending,” they’ll sniffle at my funeral. “To think that poor boy spent his last few days on this earth looking like he took 32 consecutive bong hits.” Maybe this is karma. I’ve had a couple of friends who’ve had pinkeye in their lives, and I have done nothing except shun them until they recover. I’d rather mud-wrestle with a leper than sit next to someone with one or, say, two pink eyes. I think it looks downright awful. This is the usual procedure for me when something in or on my body decides it doesn’t want to function properly. I’ve been a hypochondriac since I came backwards out of my mother. I used to think that it was my way of telling the world to kiss my ass, but now I’m beginning to understand that it was a defense mechanism against the millions of germs floating around in the delivery room.

When I was little, I convinced my family than I had every imaginable form of cancer. My leg fell asleep, and I was sure it was a melanoma. I felt a lump in my breast once. “It’s gotta be the big one,” I wept. One can imagine the terror in my eyes if a microwave was ever turned on in my presence. After my first semester at college, I came home devastated. The beer at school was fine — it was just that I was dying. I remember embracing my parents at the airport, looking into their unknowing eyes. What these two people didn’t know was that their youngest son, their fourth born, was dying of testicular cancer. I don’t think that most people can relate to this, but being an 18-year-old boy and speaking openly about your nuts to your mother can be a frightening experience. The doctor, of course, diagnosed my malignant lump as a vein, and I was left sitting in my room wondering if I had truly gone off the deep end. It was bad enough that I was making myself scared, but now I was getting my family involved with my balls. Getting sick is a fact of life. I see people do it every day. They get a cough, go to the doctor, and get medicine. Several days later, if it’s just a minor bug, they’re better. No sweat. This same practice doesn’t work for me. I get a cough, look up “cough” on the Internet, pull up 5,268,983 articles, and sift through every one, concentrating on the deadliest diseases. It may turn out that my cough is simply a minuscule bacterial infection, but I will convince myself that it is actually a precursor to a terminal lung condition, and I subsequently begin thinking about my will. Who’s going to get my credit-card bills? Where can I find a good home for my stuffed orange monkey? In the fifth grade, I was sick for four days. On Friday, I came back and a boy named Clarke said that everyone thought I was dead. I vowed never to be sick again. It didn’t work.

Several months ago, I had the stomach flu. It was easily the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. On the first day of its onset, I was bedridden, but I had to let the maintenance man into my apartment to fix my sink. As melodramatic as Halle Berry on Oscar night, I let him in, pointed him to the bathroom, and fell down on the floor. I couldn’t stand up. I thought I was going to bite it then and there, that my spirit was going to rue the fact that the last person to see me alive was Hector the Sink Man. I couldn’t think of anything more pathetic. Luck would have it that I had the strength to crawl back to my bed as a confused Hector watched. He asked me if I needed anything, and I said no, staring comatose at The People’s Court on TV.

I’ve looked at my eye in the mirror about 159 times. It seems like it might be just bloodshot…I’m not stoned, though, and if I were, both of my eyes would be bloodshot, wouldn’t they? It’s definitely pinkeye.

The only person who is more paranoid than me is my friend from college, Meg. We met as students in the London exchange program; she lived upstairs from my roommate, Andrew, and I. Meg is one of those people that carry 14 bottles of pills in her purse at all times. These are just her primary medications. She also has secondary medications, which she, if given a list of symptoms, can prescribe to you without a doctor’s note. Anytime I couldn’t find Andrew, I knew he was upstairs with Meg, eating pills and drinking wine, making up stories about how his pancreas hurt. If you look up “obsessive-compulsive disorder” in any psychology textbook, Meg’s picture is there, eyes wide open, checking under her tongue for bacteria. She told me once that her mother gave her plates that separated her food. These are the types of plates that you might find a 3-year-old eating off of. Meg got them as a Christmas gift because she doesn’t like her corn to touch her snow peas. If that happens, it might set off some type of nuclear enzyme reaction that will eventually lead to her slow, painful death. I’ve put 18 drops of Visine in my eyes, even though the directions say to use only one or two. If I had Meg’s big purse within reach, I could get something to make my eye turn white again.

I’m going to go ahead and call an ambulance to save time.

If you’ve ever seen Girl, Interrupted, you will know, as I do, two distinct things: (1) Winona Ryder is possibly the most deserving recipient of the Razzie Award for Best Actress Cast as a Robot; and (2) if you think long and hard enough, you can make yourself insane. In regards to body malfunction, this is definitely the protocol for me. It’s true — the pinkness could possibly be attributed to minor eye irritation. But what’s more probable is that I have pinkeye, and soon I’ll have pink eyes, and eventually my whole body will become pink and I’ll look like a giant pink crayon, and then I’ll just roll over and die.


My Co-Worker Christy Brown

By: Michael Fowler

From the private papers of Seamus O’Casey, Revenue Calculator, Department of Fishing, County Dublin, Dublin City, Ireland, 1980.

Dearest Tess,

I’m feeling terrifically inadequate at work. After the mucker Niall Murphy was told to vacate the cubicle beside mine for misappropriation of funds and smarting off to his superiors, who fills the empty cell but his nibs Christy Brown. Aye, the great Dublin author himself, with his know-all, do-all left foot.

Now I do have some sympathy for the man. His first toe-typed book My Left Foot has gone out of print, and his second tap-danced masterpiece Down All the Days limped off the Irish Independent’s bestseller list many months ago. I haven’t seen the poor sod hawking his tomes on TV documentaries for quite some time. I understand there’re other works as well, poems and whatnot, that didn’t catch on despite being his very own “footnotes.” I’m not too clear on this, since I haven’t read a word of any of it.

But that, it seems to me, is the literary biz: fickle as a female leprechaun. One minute, you and your darling tootsie are on everyone’s lips and the royalties are flowing your way like the River Liffey, and the next, you’re forced to take a government job to support your family of 15. And don’t tell me he sired all those brats with his left foot. Foreplay, maybe, but not the main course.

It wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose, if Brown and I shared any camaraderie on the job or went together to the pub for a pint after our labour. But the man ignores everyone, is quiet as a clam and sorely lacks inefficiency. If I lean back in my chair and crane my neck, I can see his bare foot multitasking away in his workspace. The savvy appendage charts fishing grounds on his computer, dials up fleets on his phone, tallies on his calculator the tons of haddock and cod caught, greets sea captains in the office and in general races to win the regatta while the rest of him appears to be in a stupor. Then at five his wife or nurse comes along, pulls a sock over the size 9 breadwinner, and wheels the man home. The lady doesn’t speak either, not so much as good evening. In the morning I don’t see her at all, since the Brown foot, itching to get to work, always arrives ahead of me.

For the better part of a month now, it’s been like this. I’m left in the wake of such productivity that I flounder and drown. A man who can only use his left foot is going to get the top performance evaluation in my area, along with the largest bonus. The foot may even fill the next supervisory opening. And there’s little I can do about it. My entire 20 years in this office, I haven’t seen a day at work like Brown’s left foot sees every day. My only hope is that the writer will think of another best-seller and clear the hell out. Here’s to the bitch of his inspiration! May she soon work wonders on the likes of my co-worker Christy Brown!

Meanwhile, I can’t stand another minute of being upstaged by a hoof, Tess, and that is why I quit my job today. If you require me before sundown, I’ll be at O’Malley’s under a pint or two.

Your loving husband,



Dear Lettie

By: David Jaggard

Spanish Crown Prince Felipe is set to marry former television presenter Letizia Ortiz this morning…Long one of Europe’s most eligible royals, Felipe chose as his bride a 31-year-old divorcee who was a rising star for Spain’s most popular news broadcaster before saying yes to a proposal that means becoming queen of Spain some day.

— Reuters, Sat 22 May, 2004

Madrid, March 12, 2004

Dear Lettie,

Please don’t flip out — I know I’m late with the alimony and I apologize. I owe you four months, so here’s one check for the entire amount. Sorry for the delay, but I was out of the country — I’ve been in Afghanistan researching a documentary since before Christmas and there was no way to get word to you. Then when I finally got a week off to come back to Madrid, this funny thing happened: I ran into Antonio in the airport and he asks me what I think about you getting married again! Well of course I didn’t know anything about it, but when I pressed him for details he got this weird, sort of embarrassed look on his face and mumbled something about how he figured I’d know by now. So what’s the deal? In any case it’ll let me off the hook in terms of alimony, so I guess I should be happy, right?

Still, I know how impulsive you can be and I can’t help but wonder if you’re sure you’re doing the right thing here. For starters, I hope this guy you’re supposedly in love with knows what he’s getting into. He better be in really good financial shape if he thinks he’s going to be able to afford your spending habits. Does he know how much you blow on clothes every month? Does he know that he’s going to have to practically shower you with jewelry? Does he know that you’re going to need practically a goddamn palace just to store all your goddamn coats and dresses and shoes? I hope for your sake he’s got a good, stable job. With the economy like it is now, he could get laid off at any time, and then where would you be? Have you even thought about that?

Also, does he know how much you love giving orders and being waited on hand and foot? I’ll bet you’ve been hiding that little side of your personality so far. Boy, is he in for a surprise. Hey — tell him about how I used to call you “your highness” and “your majesty.” He’ll probably get a big laugh out of that one.

Another thing: I don’t know how well you think you know this dude, but have you really checked out his background? You can’t be too careful, you know. A lot of guys these days say they’re some kind of big important bigshot, like a business executive or film producer or a way-distant relation to some aristocrat or something, just to impress women and get them into bed. What if your fiancé turns out to be some kind of pretender? You better know for sure that your Prince Charming is who and what he says he is or you could get royally screwed. I’m not kidding!

So I suppose now that you’re such a megastar newscaster you’re going to want a big fancy formal wedding that you can turn into a media circus. It’d be just like you, wanting to see your picture in the tabloids all dolled up in a designer gown, parading around in front of hundreds of people like you’re some kind of freaking princess or something. But just one thing, OK? When you get desperate to pad out the guest list, don’t even think about inviting me. I know how you’d make it sound like some kind of noble cause and everything, but you can just count me out.

Hey, whoa, I’m sorry — I’m getting kind of carried away. But it’s only because I still care about you. Really, Lettie, I do. Sometimes I even think about us getting back together. Crazy I know, but hey — it wasn’t all bad, was it? Yeah, I can be a jerk sometimes, but you never know — maybe your new guy will turn out to be a king-sized pain in the ass. And admit it: you can act like a real infanta sometimes too. But deep down I’m basically a good person — you know that. Just think about it for a while. Take a step back and reflect. Keep your options open. It’s never too late to back out with this whozis, whoever he is — Antonio says he isn’t even sure what his full name is, this nobody that nobody ever heard of. And if you ever want to call me, just to talk or whatever, I’ll be there.

Please, Lettie, do this one last thing for me, for old times’ sake. Before you jump into something and make some rash decision that you might regret later, stop and consider: what’s this other guy got that I haven’t got? Just think about it, is all I’m saying.