A few years back, I started writing letters that I had no intention of ever mailing, snail or otherwise. This grew into a collection of very salty rants and unspoken melodies which I decided to put into a fine collection for all the world to marvel upon. Then, I invited my sarcastic sister to join me in this endeavor and write some of her own. After, I realized that this collection would not be complete with only our input and I started inviting other people to write letters as well. What was an exercise of the utmost fruition has turned into something very real. This fine act, turning an idea into something tangible, is one that gives me great pleasure and will likely continue to do so until I someday walk the plank.
My fledgling publishing company, Rusty Wheels Media, LLC. will be putting out the first Letters Never Meant to be Read this fall in what I hope will be a growing trend. Ideally, I would enjoy more than anything to see letters pour into my PO box from all over the world and to publish a collection twice a year. But alas, like all dreams, we must start somewhere, we must provide the spark for others to see the vision too.
This is a collection of signed or anonymous letters that span all subject matter. The writers never intended on mailing them. Some are heartfelt, some are sarcastic, some are funny, some are revenge in words, and some are rants. They could be to anyone, even a letter to yourself. They should be narrative in style, tell a story. If you have any letters, send them to me and they will be considered for the collection. You will be compensated with fame and a bit of money, or a small parcel of land in the Dakotas.
So send me your letters, ideally by Halloween to make it into the first collection, and we will see what we can do about making you famous.
Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rusty Wheels Media, LLC
PO Box 1692
Rome, GA 30162
Now that my call to the wicked is out of the way, I have provided an example below. This is a letter to my future heirs, based on an outlandish version of my future self. Most letters that I write are less skeptical, but with this one I took certain liberties. As always, I appreciate your feedback and your own letters. Happy writing!
To My Heirs,
First off, I want to apologize. In the event of my untimely death, you may find this letter wrapped in some of the newspaper that I tended to collect over the years, or in a window sill stuffed with blankets, or in a toolbox underneath the stairs next to the silver coins and those clips that I could never quite figure out how they worked or what they went with. Untimely death, what does that mean? Every death seems to be just at the right time and there is nothing any of us can do about that cold frustration, knowing you could be next. I suppose if you had a surprise death, that could be considered untimely for everyone else that is still there picking up the pieces, which is what you must be doing right now, picking up my pieces. How old should anybody live anyway? I was never much of a fatalist but I do believe that you were supposed to find this letter, so call me crazy if you must.
I wanted to apologize earlier for not allowing myself to make more money. Yes, I set the barricades, the traps, the pitfalls. I alone caused all the unfortunate circumstances. I no longer blame anybody else. At least I have that going for me. The changes that occurred over time to me, to my legacy, and eventually to you were the fault of no other, I bare that burden alone. The fact that I was likely found buried amongst my very important papers, or V.I.P.s as I like to call them, willing and able to clean up my act but without any sign of instigation, could serve as a life lesson for those about to tread. I believe wholeheartedly that making more money could have solved some of my ailments, or even made them worse, chiefly amongst them, collecting.
Where do I start? Well, sometime in the two thousands I worked for a famous bookstore in New York City. I began in the warehouse because I failed to pass the author and book test but was able to argue for a job anyway. I weaseled my way into deliveries, the way I sometimes did, even though I didn’t have a valid driver’s license. We would go around the city picking up books that were deemed unwanted, oh those precious books of my youth, how much time spent between those legs, those hopes and dreams. Gold, they were like gold and I coveted every moment, every interaction no matter how difficult the stairs and load, no matter what pain or frustration the dialogue caused.
There was one man who had an apartment which must have not seen many visitors except us book catchers, we were important and allowed to come in as guests of sorts. We were like henchmen hauling away rocks, powerful geologic wonders that our boss already surveyed. This man with few visitors created a small hallway, shoulder wide that some could walk through and the place was filthy beyond belief. The smell in the air, the mold would tinge your nose and keep with you for the whole day. There was a roach highway running through the open bathroom window which skillfully winded along the walls, the tiled floor, bathtub and into the living quarters, into oblivion. They ran the place, the real show in there and I’m sure there existed some kind of superior network that would survive any nuclear holocaust. There was a bed, yes, but not something that most would refer to as a biohazard of sorts, I’m still surprised that I did not carry anything home with me, or did I…
I never had much growing up and possessions ruled the day in media of all kinds. I remember saving up my lawn mowing money just so I could put on layaway that BB gun from Kmart. What a concept! Nowadays, I could get the gun and hold the burden of interest on the debt but I could have the satisfaction of “owning” the piece of steel and plastic early and often without the burden of afterthought, until the third or fourth bill came of course. I’m not inclined to blame the system, I’m not going to blame other people, but the system was born there, then, and it took hold of me with such brilliance that I became convinced that I needed these things in order to manage, to continue on in my oh so elusive pursuit of happiness.
Seeing that man’s apartment in my early twenties changed me somehow. I don’t remember the man, what he looked like or how he talked, but I remember his possessions and I remember his roaches and their network. The second touch was when I got kicked out of the Mexican family’s home on 139th and Riverside in West Harlem and I moved to the barber shop owner’s place further East and North a ways. I didn’t really get kicked out; I kicked myself out, a financial and social move which allowed me to stay with my girlfriend unencumbered. I essentially moved my things into storage because my new roommate forbade me from staying there or opening the casket thing in my room, under where my bed would go which must have contained drugs sold in his barber shop. His name was Ricky, he had perfect hair and mustache, he was Dominican and I remember the time when I actually used his barber shop, my beard was trimmed so nice and shined, I should have maintained that look forever. He never said I couldn’t stay there but my girlfriend at the time feared for me and I always stayed at her place further downtown for company. I always had a calling, just never the right one.
The friends I could get, four of them, carried all of my belongings from that fifth story walkup. We trekked up the thirteen blocks and over at least three avenues. It was just far enough that it made the journey a hardship, even for young men, but just close enough and at a weird angle that the subway didn’t make any sense. I could have been rid of all of those things, those possessions, difficult to believe that I still have any of them now. That lamp, that Jason mask, those snowboard goggles… I remember two of my friends carrying my mattress on their heads, stopping and starting, we must have looked crazy marching all that way. That same mattress I would never again sleep on, that bed that would sit on that drug coffin could have just been burned into nothing, could have been left for a homeless guy along the way, just kicked to the curb for the taking. I didn’t need any of those things, whatever they were, but I employed my friends to carry them all that way. I even cut into my measly salary just so I could go and check on my possessions from time to time. I never stayed in that apartment, never even hung out there or cooked a meal once.
Like everybody else during my time, I likely spent half of my salary on things. I want to use a better word to describe them, but that is all they were. Cars, trucks, gadgets, plastic dreams for the kids, tools, everything needed to exist in modern suburbia. My meager salaries squandered over the years with dreams that tickled the same parts of my brain as the BB gun. I fantasized over the smallest object and how it would improve my life considerably, later forgotten and eventually thrown away or kept forever in abandonment.
This persisted with new houses, at least to us, as we tried to keep up with the fast movement of our time. I was quick to sell items too, finding a kind of enjoyment of rare finds of books, art, rare furniture and old cars. I would have surely turned a profit but while I made something out of nothing, I was also paying debt with high interest on those items of my time. The modern marvels of my day were all unhinged and put right in front of your face with no care at all, you needed this or that, and, you were going to pay.
The mini-malls that stripped the lands of green speckled every commute to nowhere. This caused a psychological hindrance in my mind but I do not blame others for my own misfortune. The consumerism caused by my surroundings was a product of my own weakness. Flashy signs and lights garbled my brain into a kind of trance during long traffic lights with nothing else to look at. After a while, I had a hard time just staying home and chilling out. I always had to be somewhere, doing something which meant buying something, either service or product, and that meant money down the drain.
After I got some of my act together, I bought my first house in earnest. I used my smooth tongue to strike a deal that most risk takers would envy but the majority of sane people would avoid. I bought a hoarders house, a pack rat’s palace at a bargain in a good location, and proceeded to tear through another man’s life.
The agreement was not in his favor. The handshake and signed contract included an ambitious timeframe really when it came to his precious items and their inevitable removal by my ownership. Should he not be able to cherry pick the things he wanted in the allotted time, it would all be mine to do as I saw fit. Within the same timeframe, I was trying to remodel the house, serve as my own general contractor of sorts and I found things and squirrelled them away for my own profit and use. The man was not what I would call a pizza box hoarder, as I liked to say, but the offspring of a Great Depression and a Great War long forgotten. He, or his aging mother would see things on TV, buy ten, open one and use none, over and over. Tools, refrigerators, trinkets, Chinese wonders and late-night offerings of riches all filled that old brick ranch. Like the previously mentioned apartment with the roaches, there was a hallway throughout the place, shoulder wide with aisles of forgotten usefulness.
I tore through that house with no regard. Instead of using a scalpel, a careful surgeon, I was a bloody butcher with cleaver in one hand, machete in the other and I threw and gave away half of the man’s worth with no care for his sickness. I opened the back yard for strangers who hauled away junk to me: old windows to remodeled trailers, jeep parts, bicycles, and the occasional useful hose or forgotten couch. I had my friends make piles as they went through and I would inspect what they took before they left. I should have charged twenty five a head. The old man started collecting clothes and shoes for veterans, or so he said, which most never made it to their destination, their new owners. They never made it past the makeshift clothes hangers, with all the elastic gone, shoes dry rotted.
Even though I extended our agreement by thirty days, the old man still could not get all of the things that he wanted out of that house and would often be seen cursing, picking through one of the six thirty yard dumpsters I had hauled away. His daughter privately thanked me for my efforts and patience. I cleaned up her inevitable mess. You, dear heir, are apparently not so lucky. I was the best man for the job at the time, my mind was not riddled with such a great hold on possessions, not like him anyway, and the proceeds went right back into making the house a livable palace.
New everything, the place was real cherry when I was done, most of the remodel brought to us by gold and silver found in the basement, rare but still cheap items sold on eBay, and the exchange of items for labor. I could have made more, been shrewder even, but I was in a race with the old man and his daily van loads of junk. He would even come get buckets of dirt, something he worked hard on over the years, that good, mulchy soil.
I remember when I started with the back half-bath in my big remodel project, the old man declared to me that all the guns, gold and jewelry was out of the house. I found that later to not be true in the slightest way. He had not a clue what accumulated in the rooms and large basement over the years. The ability to inventory mocked his aging brain until I reminded him of items he once longed for, wanted again, as I threw them in the many dumpsters without the slightest care. But there was something in his sickness, in his yearning that I too couldn’t entirely slip away from. I was made to, on several occasions, hold in my hand such items, weigh their significance on my soul, and cast them out into oblivion as a matter of course. Oh, how I wish I could do it all again, another chance to save those things for a bigger profit later, or make use of them, point to them to my guests and tell a story. Wait, that was it, that was how it started, take note.
Why newspapers? Why are there so many newspapers around you? Sure, I figured you would ask about the fire hazard. You are now likely standing there, ready to light a match and run. There was an old lady when I was growing up who lived in a small bungalow down the street from my dad’s house. She too had a shoulder width isle and towering stacks of newspapers, of history, of time. Why? I always wondered that, even when I began, forty one years ago to be exact. I started doing it because, as you well know, I was a writer and I saved clippings for story ideas. Police beats, outlandish claims, even want ads all filled my brain with notions of the real and unreal. Clippings became sections, sections became whole newspapers, those became stacks and stacks of…Well, you get the idea. The other rare items and gold I built as a fortress of solitude. Didn’t notice me at those family reunions or the Christmas dinners, did you? Well, that’s because I was here, with my things.
Have fun with the money, no really, have fun, make good memories. Be careful as you go through, as you hold things up to the light and weigh the consequences of keeping or no. My best advice that I could give now would be to light that match and run, be sure the insurance policy is well in place and just chalk it up to excess. The gold and silver will survive the blaze, some of the rare items too, maybe even that clock on the wall…here we go again. The possibilities on such items, such rarities are endless. I encourage you to simply cash out. The burden of those items, of that time and worry spent is far too great. If you are able to sell off all of these things, for that’s all they are, do cash in on the gold and the heirlooms, please do not buy other things with the proceeds. This is my fair and stable warning. You have the inevitable chance of catching something here, probably already did. Your best shot now is to sell everything, mine and yours together. Cast away your worries, all that you own, and lie yourself on a beach somewhere with the knowing that you avoided a plague.