My Dearest Hollingsworth,

What can I say? Congratulations old fellow on a capstone to a brilliant career. A thousand apologies for missing your publication party last month at the Faculty Club. Helen had a dreadfully aching molar that night that needed attending to, thus we found ourselves scrambling for a dentist at the last minute, the dismal results which of course were preordained by virtue of our location in a small Amish hamlet named Curdsburg, Pennsylvania. The Amish it seems have no urgent care clinics as they rely on folk remedies and the power of prayer. In the end a kindly doctor was found and the offending molar was plucked as if by a magician. As there were no ATM’s nearby, it took a bit of searching to locate a farmer willing to barter one of Helen’s almost finished Faroe Island cable knit sweaters for the several dozen eggs needed to pay his fee. By then we realized we would never make your party. I look forward to reading your book, and I do hope you will forgive me for being a Kindle unlimited subscriber. I know we authors make a lot of noise about that demon empire still a penny is a penny you know. My best to William as always.



Dear Applethorp,

It’s a shame you missed the party. Your absence was never noticed, if that makes you feel any better. Bill decorated in a Great Gatsby theme— the Baz Luhrman version — and even managed to twist Leo’s arm into making a surprise appearance. I hardly see Bill this summer as he spends most of his time running parties for A-listers in the Hamptons, styling photo shoots for Conde Nast, and surfing off Montauk. Anyway, the book is a great success, no thanks to your review, by the way. Of course we have not always seen eye to eye but really, “the Artful Codger?” Harsh. I’m okay with a little shade but why throw the entire forest?

As for Helen, I am glad her toothache was cured although one would think with 80 proof blood who feels any pain? So I congratulate her on her newfound sobriety. But seriously, Chappie, why not make the drive to Sag Harbor next weekend and we can bury the hatchet over a few pints of grog while sailing. As a Tesla owner, I’d love to test drive your Prius Plug-in. Besides, my publisher owns a boat designed by Frank Gehry. It looks nothing like a seaworthy craft and it is so damn shiny that eclipse eyewear is a must, but once aboard a simple glance fore and aft will confirm you are indeed on the deep blue sea with all the comforts of a five star hotel. Just send me the dates you are available and I will set the whole thing up.



Dear Ollie,

Helen and I are wondering if we should cancel next weekend’s sail in light of William’s terrible accident. We had heard talk about Great White Sharks in the Sound but thought that was just page six rubbish in the Post to keep the riffraff off the Hampton Jitney. We sent flowers of course and would have attended the viewing although we assumed it was closed-casket, and a rather small one at that — just one leg and all. Thank God he was using that safety strap on the board or there would be nothing. We must ever be mindful of small gifts, don’t you think?



Dear Chappie,

I am canceling, however not out of any deference to propriety but because the Frank Gehry boat was mistaken by the Coast Guard for an untethered garbage scow and was blown out of the water. It seems I will be shopping for a new publisher for my next book. As for William, apparently he was fucking every pool boy on the East End judging by the attendance at his funeral, leg or no leg. Oh Freddie, you were right, I am the Artful Codger. A supreme fake, mutton dressing as lamb. This is what I get for fooling around with boys. I need a change of scenery. Do you have room at your inn?

Warmest Regards,


Dear Ollie,

Helen and I would love to host you. We recently renovated the room over the garage and as long as you don’t mind sharing it, hostel style, with half a dozen Airbnb guests, we’ll happily discount the rack rate. That’s a joke of course. Sadly, we can’t afford to discount. If you remember, when I was passed over for The Foggy Bottom Literary Prize by this untenured upstart named Hollingsworth, my career stalled a bit. Now, I know this sounds like sour grapes but I assure you I am just speaking hard truths. My salary has not risen in over a decade, and my workload has increased to the point where I no longer have time to write and publish anything. It was never my life’s goal to be the definitive expert on Competitive Grouse Racing, and yet here I am. I only wrote the damn thing as a lark — no pun intended — and now fate has consigned me to be the saddest of literary spectacles, a one-hit wonder. And you have to stretch the definition of “hit” pretty far to include “You and Your Prize-Winning Racing Grouse.”

But seriously, do come! The guests are an odd mix of Eastern European goatherders and hipsters from Williamsburg, and for the life of us we can’t tell them apart. In fact we’ve developed a drinking game around it. I doubt you frequent Trader Joe’s but they have this wonderful wine call Three Buck Chuck. It helps ease the pain, of abscessed molars and writing careers.

Looking forward to seeing you,


Dear Chappie Darling,

You amaze me with your tenacity! And here I am having my pity party, table for one. You are right — I have been fortunate and I am whining, while here you are, by all measure an utter and abject failure, yet you keep on ticking like the Timex Bunny. Yes I have been drinking. I still miss Bill. I had his leg stuffed. He had such gorgeous calves and it seemed a waste to bury a leg, you know? I mean, every day I read the news on my iPad about migrants moving in, and they need space too! So I’m thinking — why not clear out the headstones of all our graveyards, and set them up as refugee camps? I am surprised no one has put forth this idea, but you know what cowards politicians are. Afraid of the Headstone Lobby and the Stone Carvers Union. Remember when life was simpler? Because I don’t. But it was, apparently. Okay — you convinced me. I do need a change of scenery, and mixing with the hoi polloi might be just the ticket. I’ll arrive on the sixteenth. Do I need to book online or is this sufficient?

Your dearest friend,


Dear Mr. Hollingsworth,

I regret to inform you that we have cancelled your booking for the upcoming weekend. My husband, as you may have read, sadly took his life last weekend. We are all in shock, although being closest to him I can attest he was in decline ever since Congress passed the ban on Grouse Racing. He bravely fought back his demons, but in the end he went out his way, with the Applethorp family blunderbuss that graced our living room above the mantel. A gentleman until the end, he made sure his head was well back in the hearth to minimize damage to my Stafford Dog collection. That says a lot about Chappie.

I wish you good luck.


Helen Applethorp.

© 2018 James Brunel