I belong to the Penticton Writers and Publishers group, and each month we are assigned a writing challenge. Recently we were handed out copies of an actual letter written in 1936 which bears an uncanny resemblance to a great many spam letters circulating through email cyberspace these days. The challenge was “What would you do with this if you had received it?” Herewith is the original letter, and my response!
Spammed – Ho! Ho! Ho!
Puebla, Pue. october 31, 1936
Mr. F. Dangerfield
Due to a person who knows you and who has spoken very highly about you, I have made up my mind to entrust a matter of such a delicate nature to your good self on which depends the future of my dear daughter as well as my very existence.
I am in prison and sentenced for failure and I beg you to inform me whether you are willing to help me save a sum of $185.000.00 dollars which I possess in Bank Bills inside of a trunk that is deposited at a Customhouse of North America.
To accomplish this it is necessary for you to come over here and pay the expenses incurred in connection with my prosecution, so the embargo on my suitcases can be lifted, one of which Suit-cases contains a baggage check that was given to me on checking my trunk for North America containing the sum above said.
By way of compensation, I would give you the third part of the sum said.
Fearing that this letter should not reach you, I shall not sign my own name until I receive your reply and I shall then entrust to you all my secret. For the time being I am only signing “L”
For serious reasons which I will explain to you, Send Air Mail or Wire. I beg you to please be absolutely discrete.
Due to the fact that I am in charge of the instruction of the inmates of this Prison, I am able to write as I do, entirely at liberty.
I cannot receive your reply to this at this Prison, but in case you accept my proposition, you can send a telegram or Air Mail letter to a person of my confidence who will safely deliver it to me, just and only in the following words, as our code of understanding:
Puebla, Pue. Mexico
“Send News” Dangerfield
And now… my response
15 December 2009
As you may notice from my return address, and today’s date, your Christmas Wish List of 1936 went a little astray. Your friend was of course correct to speak highly of me, but he should have informed you that all letters sent to me outside of the summer months should be mailed directly to my main residence at the North Pole.
Unfortunately, although your letter written at the end of October arrived at my then-summer-cottage in Winnipeg, it was already the depths of winter at that location, and Winnipeg’s infamous winter winds must have blown it out of the mailbox and under the house, for it was found just this past summer when the cottage was being demolished to make way for a new high-rise. Sadly, downtown Winnipeg has, over the years, spread out into the countryside, and overtaken cottage country. Needless to say, I have found myself a new summer abode, and this one is much closer to home, thanks to global warming.
Now, to your letter. You will be pleased to learn that your dear daughter, being a good child, and choosing not to walk in her father’s footsteps, has had a fortuitous life, as I honored her own Christmas Wish List letter, which she wisely sent to my North Pole address. She asked for a child’s toy oven, a supply of cake mixes, and a dozen light bulbs, and with these simple beginnings, she is now the CEO of a famous multinational bakery chain.
Sadly, as for yourself, you ought to know that, as Santa, I know when you’ve been sleeping, I know when you’re awake, I know when you’ve been bad or good… and unfortunately for yourself, you’ve been BAD! Your “hidden curriculum” instruction given to your jail mates outside classroom hours sadly had more of an effect on them than your official instruction which gave you access to the typewriter you used to send me your letter. Furthermore, your atrocious spelling is an affront to my sensibilities, and your assumption that I don’t know the truth about you is totally outrageous.
You may be disappointed to learn that your so-called person of confidence spent the rest of his days doing all he could to discover the location of your stash. Fortunately for you – and for myself – he passed away without reaching his goal. At any rate, he certainly never intended to safely deliver anything to you.
I am perfectly aware that 74 years have passed, you are now 103 years of age, and your final moments on earth are soon coming to an end, there in your cell. Absolutely discretely, as you requested, I have made some inquiries, and have discovered that your trunk, having sat these many years gathering dust, has been set aside by the government for an upcoming auction of unclaimed items.
As I am rather popular, a certain government agent in charge of such auctions, who has received some rather nice toys from me in the past, has kindly agreed to simply give me the trunk. You will be happy to know that I have discretely not told him what is in it. The trunk’s contents will be a great help to me, as my elves have unfortunately formed a union, and I direly need extra funds to pay them for their toy-building efforts.
Obviously neither you nor your daughter has need of the funds any longer, so I shall gratefully accept them all. And since you have been so kind as to provide me with this windfall, I would be happy to actually put a small gift or two in your stocking this year. However, as it is only 10 days until Christmas, please send your list by email to email@example.com . I no longer accept wired requests due to advances in technology, and too many airlines are failing in these tough economic times to trust important letters to airmail.
A merry Christmas to you! Ho ho ho!
Date December 2009