Snarling Charles & the Case of the Purloined Letter

(With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe)

The geese were flying south and the geezers were gathering outdoors.

It was late October in Lexington, a season that normally chased flocks and folks towards shelter. But this was a spectacular unseasonably warm sunny morning. It had been predicted days before by the Gospel According to the Weather Channel. Thus, these codgers had arranged to assemble for one more chinwag before winter drove them indoors and Covid drove them apart. As Snarling Charles passed through the gate, the host’s fire pit, fountain, and grill were roaring, and the house pup was busy establishing Trumpian relationships trading nebulous promises of affection and loyalty for immediate material riches such as surreptitious scraps of edibles.

A jolly time seemed in the offing.

Heightened celebration was in the air.

Charles had received a phone call from his wife on his drive to this convening of convivial complainers. She had gleefully given him the news that CNN had just called the election for Biden. Charles had harboured (spelling is correct – Charles being the anglophile that he was, the “u” was ubiquitous) hopes that he could break the news to his colleagues, but alas, TV is faster than Lexington’s rambling lanes. The champagne was already flowing and the burgers were sizzling when he arrived at the gate. The pup was entertaining her own notions of a canine American dream…with mustard.

After hopeful toasts to the eminent end of a national nightmare, the usual litany of personal medical updates ensued, and was capped with the group’s retelling of theatre horror stories which had been burnished and improved since their last recounting.

Then someone remarked to Charles that they had noticed his latest “Letter to the Editor” in the local paper a few days before.

Charles, who had melted his snarl to a mere smirk in the glow of champagne, charred beef, and good companions, immediately snapped to attention. One eyebrow and one lip corner reached for the heavens; “Oh really? I didn’t see that.”

Charles was a writer.

Charles was a successful writer, and more importantly, a good writer.

People who speak French well, speak French whenever possible.

People who swim well, spend as much time in the water as they can.

People who write well…

Charles was a lousy poker player (that snarl…). He didn’t play poker very often.

He wrote well. You guess how he spent his time.

One of his most effective writing outlets was writing Letters to the Editor. They were sometimes pithy. They were sometimes pissy. But they were always strongly stated and well-written; rants perhaps, but rants with vocabulary, grammar, and panache.

This particular letter had been about standing ovations in the local theatres.

Now…

…in a nation where white lawyers and their wives are standing barefoot in the lawns of their mansions brandishing guns at people of color, and…

…a quarter of a million people have died from a virus in eight months, and…

…wildfires are consuming California, and…

…people in Flint, Michigan cannot safely drink the water from their faucets…

…we might have more pressing issues than surplus, unearned standing ovations in the local theatre.

But for Snarling Charles, this was one more thing that needed to be addressed and it was something to which he could bring some expertise.

Good for him.

As he put it in his letter;

“The automatic leaping to their feet of audiences in our town for any and every stage production, regardless of quality does a disservice to the labours of our best performers.”

He was proud he had written it. He was happy to hear it had been published. He was sorry he had missed it.

When he returned home, he indulged in a little more celebratory sparkling wine with his missus, walked the good dog Nigel, and delved in the past few days of the local paper until he found his missive.

Sure enough, there it was, just like he wrote it…sort of;

“The automatic leaping to their feet of audiences in our town for any and every stage production, regardless of quality does a disservice to the labors of our best performers.”

“Labors?”

Where’s my bloody “u”?

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