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Fiction #88
(published Mid-year, 2002)
The Love Letters of Jack Warren and Devon March, part 2
gathered by Riley Hoffman and Morgan Johnson

Editor's note:

This is the second installment of love letters delivered to us by two of our field agents.

They were found inscribed on the very last pages of library books. These books were part of bequests from the estates of J. Warren and D. March, respectively.

Our field agents are currently taking time out from their busy knife-fighting and escrimba lessons to locate more letters.

Hi Dave-o, Frito:

So Riley has a friend at the library, right? This friend looked into the books we found the letters in, and it seems they were part of some bequests made ages ago. We greased a few palms and scratched a couple backs and now we have a list of the bequested (bequeathed?) books. Found a few more letters, but it looks like a bunch of the books were stolen or sold or transferred to other branches or, even, checked out.

We're gonna keep looking into this; track down as many as we can, and see if we can find anything out about these Jack and Devon jokers.I'm getting pretty good at the escrimba, too.




This is:

A hand-written message, on crinkly sun-dried paper. It has been rolled up very narrow and pushed into the belly of a green glass bottle. The bottle has been corked, and the cork has been covered with a messy glob of white wax. No water will spoil this message. The bottle is gently placed in a stream, in a river, in an ocean. And unseen currents whisk it away to you.

This is also:

A neon reflection in a street puddle that you catch out of the corner of your eye. The message is warbled by the ripples on the puddle, and it is reversed by its reflection. But in its reversal and warbling the message becomes true.

This also happens to be:

A random pattern of tea leaves stuck at the bottom of your ceramic mug. You love the mug; you've had it a long time. It has traveled with you and the handle is work lop-sided from use. The pattern of leaves looks random, but you swear you see words there. Words beckoning to you, whispering things that you already know somehow.

But actually it also is:

A painting on a cloud high above your head. The cloud has been straining to keep its shape. It dearly wants to impress you. The cloud breathes deeply and holds itself together, waiting and waiting for you to look up and see its form, its shape, its message.

Or maybe it actually is:

A new tattoo on well-worn flesh; or is that an old tattoo on new, pink flesh?

But really I think it may be:

The subtitles to a film that no one will ever see. They've wandered off, split town. The subtitles want more from life than to be pinned to this odd little foreign film. The subtitles are hitching cross-town, cross-country. The projectionist at the theater had been dozing, he hadn't seen them step out and step away. The subtitles have something to tell you, though. They're crossing the world to find you. They can't speak, of course, so instead they will usurp your ordinary programming on TV with their own special message.

I really am pretty sure that this actually is:

The blueprints to a device that is quite improbable and maybe definitely impossible. What does the machine do? Who made the blueprints?

But I really do know what all of this is. All of it. I know. What it is, is:

Too good to be true.

But also too true to be imagined.




I have a team of highly-trained monkeys—please, hear me out.

I have a team of highly trained monkeys who take dictation for me. They sit at tiny, monkey-sized desks and wear dark blue suits. The monkeys, of course, have no footwear: they need their toes to type.

My monkeys are all sizes and colors and species: it is important to choose the proper primate for every job.Chimpanzees are excellent at long hand, while orang-utans can collate like no one's business.

I employ a special gorilla, though—not a monkey, I know, but an ape (but we all must make exceptions and he did so well in the interview). My gorilla has a special talent, as do all of employees. He can carve stone as easy as you or I could make a jack-o-lantern.

My Cousins, as I like to call them, all specialize in outdated and archaic communication. I have a bonobo who has mastered smoke signals, a howler monkey who can do calligraphy and a spider monkey who does cuneiform.

I have employed my ape today, my prime primate, to carve into stone a message to you. He selected a lovely and rare rust red marble. He has spent all morning carving this message; there has been not one mistake. When my ape is done, my lemur will use his delicate fingers to press gold leaf into the crevices of the letters.

What will you say when this message is delivered? When an austere and tuxedoed Orang strides up to your desk and gently places this carven image, this permanence before you? The monkey will not smile; they are trained too well. He will look at you with soulful brown eyes and gently shake his head when you try to tip him. He will stand there in your office, before your desk like a petitioner and wait until you read the epistle.

My Orang will watch your reaction, noting every nuance of your character. (So when I press him with queries, "Did her eyebrows raise? Did she smile? Was it a sly smile as befits the Mona Lisa or was it more of a toothy grin?" he will be able to answer.)

After you have read it, and you glance up at the Orang. Where did he come from? What is he waiting for? I hope he isn't a gift... Once you have glanced up, the monkey will howl a low mournful, plaintive Aooo and leap out the window into the nearest tree. And, still tuxedoed, swing through the air with the greatest of ease.

My monkey army is strong and dedicated. They will do anything for me. But in the end all that I employ them for is to carve, write, etch, scribe and paint correspondence to you. My monkey army is your monkey army.




I have been travelling these past weeks, in the deserts and oases of Egypt. I read your messages like omens, find them bobbing with that distinctive glass-and-water sound at my feet in our streamside camp at dawn, see them in the sky and in my dreams, in the ritual markings of the nomads, in the arc of birds in flight over the wide waving sands.

My assistant, who was once my page and has since been promoted for her varied skills, scowls at me, probably wondering if the sun has turned my head, or hers perhaps. She doesn't understand how I know where you are, what you are doing. She doesn't see that everything on this earth, whether stretch of wind-whispering sands or drip-patter of raining trees, speaks to me in your voice.

This journey took form in my mind when I learned that she (my assistant) was a native to these sand-oceans and elusive jungles, having been raised by missionary parents here for ten years. The morning she told me, from her perch atop my bookcase, as she deftly whittled a light wooden boat for her smallest brother, I kissed her dangling feet and began making plans at once.

You see, knowing that your monkey army lacked a hieroglyphist, I had long wished to find one for you. Here was my chance.

She (the monkey I found, who accompanies this letter with appropriate gravity) has been living for uncounted years in the oldest tree of the nameless forest south-southwest of the convergence of the White and Blue Niles. She retired there after performing admirably for decades the role of scribe to the Prince of that province. Now, having become many times a grandmother, she wishes to return to work. I trust you will find her far more than competent.

In addition to her superb hiero-hand, she knows every legend of her homeland that has ever been told or written. She will write you tales of lovers lost in the sands, quests undertaken for vicious and beautiful queens, gods who walked the earth with crowns of stars on their animal heads, duels that lasted for seven years, eldest sons who betrayed their parents, and treasures consumed by the land.

I have asked her to paint her first message; I hope you don't mind. It is on the strip of papyrus she carries in the ancient wooden box with her writing tools, and reads:

This is a dream more true than life.


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The Next Fiction piece (from Issue #89):

The Love Letters of Jack Warren and Devon March, part 3
gathered by Riley Hoffman and Morgan Johnson

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The Love Letters of Jack Warren and Devon March, part 1
gathered by Riley Hoffman and Morgan Johnson

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The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was
collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Perilous Play, part 2
by Louisa May Alcott

Perilous Play, part 1
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