A Father Story: Chapter 1

Wreaking Havoc and Wrecking Saucers

A story officially begins at chapter 1, and the stats suggest that it is good to begin a story with a confession. So here I go again.

I confess I had deliberately left the plot twist out of the Prologue. My memory may not be what it used to be, but one thing I do remember about storytelling is that while it is perfectly acceptable to share the plot twist in chapter 1, it is never acceptable to do so in the Prologue.

Plot twist

I ended my Father’s Day post by mentioning my father’s love for dish soap. I didn’t know it was the plot twist then, but I know it now, as I look back with perfect hindsight.

Hindsight is always 20/20. Even an optometrist will tell you that, though they will never tell you your eyesight is 20/20. At least, that’s been my experience. Whenever I see my optometrist (and I do see him), he says, with a voracious gleam in his eye (and I can see it), “I hope you’re still a voracious reader?”

My perfect hindsight also showed me that love was the wrong word to describe what Papa felt for dish soap. It was a magnificent obsession. For a reason that will forever remain a mystery this side of eternity, he was particularly obsessed with how tea things should be washed.

After years of making everyone miserable (including himself) over the matter, Papa had the brilliant idea to buy his own saucepan, strainer, cup, and teaspoon. He initially condescended to share the family saucers, but this was extremely traumatic for the family. We used any saucer (when we dared use any saucer) with fear and trembling. Many a saucer was dropped and wrecked because the holder’s hand was trembling with fear. (Others were Furiously Dashed to the ground, but that’s a different FD story.)

broken saucer

It is a truth not so universally acknowledged in our more Feminist Days that women possess a Fine Delicacy of nerves. This sharing of saucers wreaked havoc on the nerves of the four Edwards women. Since we were Four Different personalities, we expressed it in Four Different ways.

Mummy turned to her sewing machine with a vengeance, for a vengeance. Since the machine was in their bedroom, the incessant whirring had the satisfying effect of disturbing Papa’s reading. Love may be patient and kind, but Mummy, being well-versed in Scripture, also knew that as you sew you reap.

SEW

We daughters had our own ways of dishing it out, and without dish soap. Since none of us was as scripturally inclined as Mummy, none of our ways were based on Scripture. They were effective, nonetheless.

Before I reveal what each of us did, I must tell you that there were three Edwards daughters. Each was a Favorite Daughter, I’m happy to say, but each was not equally favored. There was an ancient and firmly established favoritism hierarchy – a favoritism caste system, if you like, except that there was no fourth caste, there being only three daughters to feed, clothe, educate, and marry off.

To maintain my sisters’ privacy, and especially my own, I will refer to us as the Favorite Daughter, the Second Favorite Daughter, and the Third Favorite Daughter.

Chapter 1

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A Father Story: Prologue

The Plot Thickens

My memory is not what it used to be. Having aged two years since I wrote “The Definition of Plot,” which led to The Plot Story (since one thing always leads to another), I confess I have forgotten whether it’s good or bad to begin a story with a confession. So let me go by what I remember about you and begin with my confession.

I confess I began this story to rectify a memory lapse. It was originally just a Father’s Day post on Facebook, but since my memory is not what it used to be, I forgot to finish the post. By the time I remembered that I had forgotten, the post had been published as scheduled. That’s when the plot began to thicken.

The plot thickens

The plot should not thicken this early in the story, but this is just the backstory. The plot can thicken at any point in the backstory. In fact, if it doesn’t thicken early enough in the backstory, you won’t have a story.

When I reread the unfinished Father’s Day post that evening, I was faced with a dilemma. How to rectify my memory lapse? Should I edit the post, or should I use it as the starting point for a new story?

It was easier to write a new story. So I took the path of least resistance.

Least resistance

The Father’s Day post was about an incident that occurred in the dish soap aisle of a certain store, so I used the photo I had taken in that very aisle. Not wanting to mislead my Facebook audience, I opened with this sentence: “This story does not take place on Father’s Day, and it has little to do with dish soap.”

That sentence would be the whole truth had I remembered to finish the post and not needed to convert it into a story. But as Robert Burns so lucidly puts it, the best-laid schemes gang aft agley.

His language is crystal clear, by the way, but I can’t understand why he wrote to a mouse. Weren’t there enough humans to correspond with?

mouse

But I shouldn’t mock another’s muse when my own does things like showing up in a dish soap aisle instead of a balmy tropical isle. And she picks the most prosaic moments too. It’s not like I was lost in a literary reverie. I was in fact in a hopelessly matter-of-fact frame of mind as I was comparing prices per fluid ounce.

My muse did not herald her arrival with the sound of music but with that of a high-pitched woman speaking on the phone. And what was most prosaic of all, it wasn’t a romantic conversation.

“Hi Daddy,” said my fellow shopper. “Is Mom around?”

Mom was obviously not around, because a second later my fellow shopper began telling Daddy about her upcoming camping trip. It was full of technical details like when, where, and how long, so I stopped eavesdropping and returned to comparing prices per fluid ounce. And lo! I was no longer able!

Now I was thinking of my own father. I remembered how we used to talk on the phone before he passed away in December 2009. I was engulfed with deep emotion as I recalled our last conversation. It’s the one I remember most often. I may forget how to tell a story and many other things besides, but as long as I have life and breath, that is a conversation I will never forget.
dish soap

To return to the unfinished Father’s Day post, when I remembered that I had forgotten to finish it, I was at a Sunday evening worship service, in the midst of worshiping God. Visions of heavenly glory were instantly replaced by visions of my Facebook audience seeing my garbled prose and thinking of the term “second childhood.” And “second childhood” is the kindest thing I imagined them thinking.

“Lost her touch,” thought one.

“Never had a touch,” thought another.

“She should stop wasting my time,” thought a third.

“She should stop wasting her time,” thought a fourth.

Time was I’d have engaged in some fine self-flagellation at this point. I can take the first three on the chin, but the fourth gets under my skin and touches a nerve. But since I was in the midst of worshiping God, instead of flagellating myself I prayed that what I had written would at least make sense. Praying calmed me, and I eventually returned to worshiping God.

Later, when I checked my Facebook page, I discovered that God had answered my prayer. The post did make sense. It wasn’t terribly inspiring, but at least it had no garbled sentences or typos. What’s more, it even had three likes!

Three likes

I know I make it sound like three hundred likes. But if you knew how many likes my Facebook posts normally get, you will be calling to congratulate me. You may even give this post a sympathy like, but I’m not counting on that. My memory may not be what it used to be, but when it comes to your likes, I remember what you’re like.

Prologue

 

I Be Back

I didn’t promise to be back, but sometimes I keep promises I didn’t make.

I can’t say how long I’ll be around, but I can say how it happened. I was engaged in the very prosaic task of washing dishes the other day when I remembered how I had terminated our blogger/reader relationship without saying whether or not I’ll be back. For some reason that reminded me of The Terminator. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I had decided to once more share my Collected Thoughts with you.

Better and Worse
A few things have changed since my last post. Some are better, others are worse, and the rest are both better and worse. One of these is the loss of my assistant, who is both with us and not with us. She’s with us in that she’s still alive (better), but she’s no longer with us in that she’s no longer my assistant (worse).

A new story is a good way to reopen a blogger/reader relationship. I had wanted to announce it with a sonnet, as I had once announced The Plot Story. You may recall that The Plot Story was about the life and crimes of Winkie, who had broken my heart and left me crying in the rain. If you cannot recall what The Plot Story was about, you may read it again.

Memory clinic - 'Can't recall the name of the politician you'd like to recall? Let us help you!'

Better and Verse
I miss my former assistant. Some days are better, but today isn’t one of them. I wish I could have asked her to compose another sonnet. I’d take a stab, but I’m no poet. My poetry was modest to begin with, but ever since I parodied Hamlet’s soliloquies in a Pioneer Boulevard story, it’s not even modest. Thanks to Hamlet’s revenge, I had to ask my former assistant to compose a few lines to announce The Plot Story. She’d once confessed that she writes the odd verse, and I never forget a confession like that.

My former assistant said she’d try, and her tone didn’t sound hopeful. I found that troubling because I had yet to hear her say “I’ll try.” From the time I hired her until the day she left, she had always displayed the “positive, can-do attitude” on her resume. It’s what I had hired her for, in fact. Everything else on the resume was a well-worn cliché.

The morning after I made the request, my former assistant came up with something immediately upon waking up. At a time of day when I cannot write anything, let alone the odd verse, my assistant actually wrote a sonnet! 

The fickle Dame Fortune is on my side for once, because I can actually reuse the old sonnet to announce the new story. I don’t even have to change the date.

 COMING SOON!!!

The day before the Fourth of July,
A new story with a high
And noble theme will appear
On the blog you hold so dear.
Collected Thoughts is its name,
And the address remains the same:
consonantbooks.wordpress.com—
It’s where great stories are published from!

We wish all hope and peace and joy
To every girl and every boy,
And also to their mom and dad.
As for those who have had
A difficult month of June:
Cheer up, July Third is COMING SOON!!!

A Portrait of the Author

The Plot Story: Chapter 5

Not-so-wee Chapter

If you thought my woes had ended with the punfriendly Miss Puniverse from Pune, you were wrong. Once Pundora’s box is punlocked, woes are punfortunately punstoppable.

Numerous emails have arrived from the continent of Europe, mostly commending me for how I conducted myself during the breakup. The most notable commendations come from Lisbon, Portugal (saying I have the dignity of Magellan); Athens, Greece (saying I have the integrity of Odysseus); Tirana, Albania (saying I have the nobility of Mother Teresa); and Stockholm, Sweden (saying I deserve the Nobel Prize for nobility).

A nice person in Nice, France, says Winkie has an existential problem and something must be done about it immédiatement. He can’t be guillotined now it’s a capital offence, but he should be put in the Bastille so he’s not a menace to society. (The Singaporean version was that Winkie should be fined, since he can’t be caned.)

Of the two emails from Italy, one comes from the place I most want to visit: Florence. The writer is a wealthy dowager who very graciously invites me to stay in her villa and bask under the Tuscan sun for as long as I wish. The only condition is that I must eat pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because that’s all she eats.

The dowager has apparently not read “Insult to Injuria Formae,” where I say I’ve said ciao to pasta, but I nevertheless appreciate her offer. It almost makes up for her compatriot’s email, which comes from a man in Rome who did something I’d describe as the most unkindest cut if it weren’t bad grammar. I’m still too shaken to speak about it, but I’m thankful that the cut has at least left me alive. Perhaps it’s because the Ides of March are come and gone.

*****

Several writers have shared (many at considerable length) their own breakup stories. If I were handing out prizes, the one from Vladivostok, Russia, would win hands down. It makes my breakup with Winkie look about as romantic as an Everly Brothers number. The story is one of doomed love, and in the end the writer’s lover kills herself by jumping in front of a train. Now why hasn’t he thought of making this into a book or movie?

Speaking of movies, several Bollywood directors have written asking for the film rights. One says his best scriptwriter is already working on a script titled Winky aur Pinky. He tells me it’s a love story with a happy ending. Does Bollywood have any other kind?

I’m guessing there’ll be the bare minimum of dialogue, delivered by people wearing the bare minimum. There’ll be tons of blood and gore (done with paint, because the public can see through ketchup). And of course, there’ll be singing and dancing galore (but not to or of Everly Brothers numbers). All I need to do is sign the dotted line and I’ll be richer by one crore eleven lakhs. I desperately need one crore eleven lakhs, but not desperately enough to be called Pinky. What’s more, I object to the liberties they have taken with Winkie’s name.

*****

While on the subject of love, I might as well tell you about the email from Santiago, Chile. Santiago (for that’s also the writer’s name) has offered to take Winkie’s place. His letter was written in Spanish – perhaps he thought I knew the language, having lived in LA for so long, but I only know “No hablo español.” I also know that “muchas gracias” means “thanks much,” and seeing it at the beginning and end of his email I assumed that he was writing to thank me for my definition of plot. Naturally, I wanted to read it in its entirety.

I copy-and-pasted Santiago’s letter into the online translator and it turned out to be a passionate declaration of love – passionate being the operative word. Truth be told, the letter was replete with a certain kind of content. Knowing how you detest that sort of stuff, I won’t repeat it.

*****

Contrary to what you may be thinking, the email from Santiago in Santiago was not my favorite. It wasn’t even my second favorite. That comes from my favorite place: Wigtown, Scotland.

The writer is one Mrs. M. C. Duff, who thanks me for being such a nice wee lassie and mentioning Robbie Burns in “The Definition of Plot.” Mrs. M. C. Duff is a new reader. She found my blog by searching for “gang aft a-gley wordpress,” and it thrilled her wee heart that I’d said Robbie Burns had put it lucidly (everyone else calls it gibberish).

Thanks to Robbie Burns, Mrs. M. C. Duff has read everything I’ve published – on my blog, that is. She hasn’t yet read my book but promises to check it out when it’s available at her library. I’d ask her to buy Pioneer Boulevard on Amazon or at one of Wigtown’s many bookstores, but I won’t. Paying for what I write will ruin her track record, and I’d never want to ruin the track record of anyone who said wee Winkie was a naughty lad to make such a nice wee lassie cry.

After reading everything I’ve published on my blog, Mrs. M. C. Duff visited the About page, through which she found the About page of my website. There she discovered that her wee town is my favorite place, so she has invited me over for a wee cuppa. She says if I will bring the tea, milk, and sugar, she’ll provide the water. Which, all things considered, is pretty generous.

*****

My favorite email comes from a penguin reader in Antarctica, who signs off as Major Ursa Le Guin (I’m guessing that’s a penguin name). He says my post “How I Became A Writer” was “pretty warm,” which I take is the Cold Continent’s equivalent of pretty cool. Not knowing that I dislike politics, Maj. Le Guin has sent me his treatise on Antarctican politics, The Boiling Plot.

Despite my distaste for politics, The Boiling Plot was an absorbing read, but I can’t discuss it with you because the major has asked me not to discuss it with the hoi polloi. (Actually, he used a far more insulting term for you, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.) If you want to know what’s in The Boiling Plot, you’ll just have to write your own plot story and hope that Maj. Le Guin finds it interesting enough to contact you.

The Plot Story: Chapter 4

A Brief History

Since I had mentioned Britain and her former colonies in the previous chapter, “What Joe Stretch Taught Me,” and since the former colony I know best is India, it follows that I give you a brief history of British Indian history. (If you don’t like history, or if you don’t like brief history, you may skip the next paragraph.)

In the year 1600, around the time Hamlet first asked who would fardels bear and other rhetorical questions, the good Queen Bess, fed up with the rowdiness in her realm, decided it was time to spice up her subjects’ diet and also add a little something to their water. So she granted a Royal Charter to the future East India Company (the Charter being a grocery list for spices and tea) and bid them set sail at once. Set sail at once did the future East India Company, bearing the royal grocery list – and the rest, as they say, is British Indian history.

When British Indian history ended in 1947, British English was replaced by what has come to be known as Indian English – a variety notorious (among other things) for its obsession with puns. Having been subjected to Indian English since childhood, I wasn’t surprised, when the emails started pouring in from India, that they all contained a pun or two (many, many more). Some were smutty, but most were nutty.

For instance, someone in Shillong suggests I change my blog’s name to Collected Plots. Someone in Gandhinagar suggests I change my book’s name to Pioneer Bollyvard. And someone whose city shall remain unnamed suggests I change my name to something so absurd, it will remain unnamed.

*****

A lady from Pune, the city where I grew up, thanks me for inspiring her to write Punjabier Boulevard, a collection of stories set in Pune’s Punjabi community. Then she goes on to say that I was not punny enough for a Puneite in the Winkie section of “The Definition of Plot.” Let me say the rest in her words:

It left me punderwhelmed (and that’s a punderstatement). Maybe my standards are punrealistically high, but I’m not Miss Puniverse for nothing. I won the title by punlocking Pundora’s box in the initial rounds, and then punequivocally pundermining the two punner-ups in the final. In response to the last question – “What’s the pun reason you deserve the crown?” – I punflinchingly punleashed the knockout pun: “Because I punderstand that puneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

According to Miss Puniverse, I should have described the breakup and my subsequent breakdown as follows, to make it punique:

Winkie told me he had kissed “Cathy’s Crown” and it was time to “Break Up Little Susie.” I wanted to “Talk Right Back” and say I’m Sharon, “Don’t Shame Me” like this, but we were at the station so I “Let It Be” and did my “Crying in the Train.” Throughout the journey I kept saying I don’t “Love Flirts,” and the other passengers stared as if I was “So Mad.” I “Dislike Strangers” – especially strange men called Winkie. My “Ex-Love Is Strange” and I’m “So Mad” at him that “All I Have to Do Is Scream.” I’d take out a morcha screaming “Hai Hai Love,” but the police will do a laathi charge and I’ll end up with an “Ebony Eye.” You may be “Devoted to Yuvraj,” but I want a Rajkumar. And I can wait for him, I’m in no hurry. My motto is “Why Hurry.”

Miss Puniverse says that like me, she also obtained her pundergraduate degree from Fergusson College and her master’s from Pune Puniversity. She looks forward to meeting me – in Pune or in the Punited States – and concludes with what she’ll pundoubtedly call the pun line:

Punfaithfully,

Punita Pundole, Pune’s Punctilious Pundit

I can’t tell if Punita Pundole is a pun name or not. Both are actual Indian names, so maybe it puns in the family. Either way, she can keep her Miss Puniverse crown. Had I described the breakup as she suggests, “The Definition of Plot” wouldn’t even have got that one like.

I’m not punaware that my quoting and punquoting “Pune’s Punctilious Pundit” means this chapter is punlikely to get even one like . . . But at least that way it can’t get a punlike. So all in all, the puniverse is not punfair.

The Plot Story: Chapter 3

Joe Stretch Taught Me

Five of the six former colonies mentioned in chapter 1 and chapter 2 belonged to Britain (Mali being the only one with a French connection). Since I was born in one former British colony and am a citizen of another, it’s time to bring in the Mother Country.

Among the flood of emails I’ve received from England, one is from a novelist/creative writing tutor from Manchester. It’s a bittersweet-sour email, and he begins with the bittersweet bit. It’s rather unfortunate that I was treated in such a rubbish manner, he says. Winkie sounds like a rather horrid bloke and should jolly well be sent to Coventry.

In the sour bit, the novelist/tutor criticizes my definition of plot. Plot, he says, is not defined as one thing leading to another. Rather, according to a writer whose name escapes him in a book whose title escapes him, plot is “a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality.” Surely Keele could have taught me that?

I can read between the lines. The novelist/tutor may be trying to display professional courtesy by not naming names, but I know that by “Keele” he means Joe Stretch. I don’t mind if anyone disses Keele (I do it all the time myself), but I mind very much if someone disses Joe Stretch. Joe Stretch may not have taught me that plot is “a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality,” but I already knew that before joining Keele (having read Aspects of the Novel by E. M. Forster years before). Joe Stretch taught me a whole lot that I didn’t know before joining Keele – and what Joe Stretch taught me has taken me a lot farther than the definition of plot ever could.

I realize I am using “what Joe Stretch taught me” as a shortcut, like the writer in Guntur was using “one thing led to another” before he read “The Definition of Plot.” I do it not because I want to keep what Joe Stretch taught me to myself, but because I lack the time and space to spell it all out. If the world wants to know what Joe Stretch taught me, the world can read Pioneer Boulevard.

I plan to write this novelist/tutor in Manchester a stinker. Among other things, I’ll tell him that if he had wanted to correct me, he should have done so without dragging Joe Stretch into it. Because Joe Stretch is only responsible for what Joe Stretch taught me, not what he could have taught me.

*****

Only two other emails from the Mother Country stand out. Given how many Everly Brothers numbers were mentioned in “The Definition of Plot,” it’s not surprising that both these emails are about songs.

The first is from a singer/songwriter in Liverpool who says that reading about my breakup inspired him to compose a song, the lyrics of which were included in his email. The second stanza begins: “Last Bank Holiday, love was such an easy game to play.”

I appreciate the Liverpudlian’s talents as a songwriter almost as much as I appreciate his kindness, but his reading skills leave a lot to be desired. He clearly hasn’t read “The Definition of Plot.” I never said love was an easy game to play. No one who subscribes to this definition of love would ever call love a game, let alone an easy one.

Another thing I didn’t say is that Winkie and I broke up “last Bank Holiday.” We don’t have anything of the sort in America. Every national holiday in this country has a specially designated name, from Martin Luther King Jr. Day to The Day After Thanksgiving.

It wasn’t always this way, but they had to do it because people were staying home on Martin Luther King Sr.’s birthday and the day before Thanksgiving. And there were those who had carried this holiday-making spirit a little too far by instituting Vice Presidents’ Day, Memo Day, Dependence Day, and The Day After Labor Day. And until something was done about it, the most patriotic ones even wore red, white, and blue, sang the national anthem, and lit fireworks on the Twenty-Fourth of July.

Incidentally, it wasn’t the federal government (aka the Feral Gent) that quenched the holiday-making spirit. At least, not of its own volition. The Feral Gent pays its employees with taxpayer dollars, and as long as there are taxpayers with taxpayer dollars, the Feral Gent could care less if its employees took five days off a week. In fact, the Feral Gent was in the process of instituting Holiday-Making Day when corporate America (aka Co Ca) threw a monkey wrench.

Co Ca knew its employees waste enough company time watching one Cute Child video after another at their desk, and Co Ca wasn’t going to pay for them to do this at home as well. So Co Ca lobbied to quench the holiday-making spirit, and because Co Ca funds zillions of taxpayer dollars, the Feral Gent quenched the spirit pronto.

*****

But let’s return to the Mother Country, which has neither taxpayer dollars nor monkey wrenches to boast of. The other noteworthy email from the land of Shakespeare is from a poet/playwright in Stratford, who is “heartily sorry” for what Winkie put me through. He says it’s a wonder I didn’t go mad and start singing about flowers and distributing them to royal bystanders before being drowned in a brook. (This brook-drowning affair sounds familiar. I have a feeling he’s lifted it from somewhere. Maybe Holinshed?)

After reading about the breakup, this poet/playwright was also inspired to compose me a song. It’s called “Hey Ebony, Ebony.”

Cry no more, lady, cry no more
That man was a deceiver ever;
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one [girl]* constant never.
Then cry no more,
But let him go
And be you lithe and bony**
Converting all your songs of woe
Into Hey ebony, ebony.

* I’ve changed his “thing” to “girl.” I don’t know which century he’s living in, but in the twenty-first it’s politically incorrect to call a girl a thing.

** I considered changing his “lithe and bony” to “blithe and bonny,” which is not discriminatory to girls who are not lithe and bony, but I realized it would be violating his rights. He has a right to like girls who are lithe and bony, for who would fardels bear?

The Plot Story: Chapter 2

The Prodigal Godson

So I couldn’t sue Winkie for psychological damage because I’m insanely sane. On the contrary, according to an email I received following “The Definition of Plot,” Winkie is the insane one. The email comes from a lady in Katherine, Australia, who says Winkie was insane to leave me for a clown, and commends me for displaying such dignity, nobility, and integrity.

Had she left it at nobility, I’d have left it there too, but the inclusion of that third quality compels me to make a confession. Winkie didn’t say he’d fallen for “Cathy’s Clown.” I called her that out of spite. Her name was Catherine – or so he told me. Who knows, maybe it was “Lucille” and Winkie was ashamed of the association with the screwball Lucille Ball. Or perhaps, knowing that I consider rhyme sublime, he thought I would call her Lucy-goosey. Either way, in future I’ll try to be more charitable to Cathy/Lucy-goosey.

*****

A man from Wellington, New Zealand, not to be outdone by an Aussie, commends me for displaying such dignity, nobility, integrity, and sagacity. But unlike the lady from Katherine, he doesn’t refer to either Winkie’s sanity (such as it is) or my successor (“Cathy’s Clown”). Instead, he says the breakup story would have been far more interesting had I related how the Duke of Wellington had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.

I couldn’t fathom how Winkie and I were related to the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon. Not right away, anyway. At first I thought the allusion was to Napoleon’s (apocryphal) palindrome, “Able was I ere I saw Elba.” Maybe the man from Wellington wanted to subject me to reverse psychology – but then it struck me that there’s no such subject. There’s only psychology. So I dismissed that hypothesis and turned to the subject I prefer: history, which I read as a minor for my BA and which I still read for pleasure.

The Battle of Waterloo had been fought on June 18, 1815, and June 18 is my friend Lorraine’s birthday. Posting my wish to Lorraine on Facebook had led to my posting “The Definition of Plot” here. And since the definition of plot is “one thing led to another,” the man in Wellington had suggested the Duke of Wellington and Waterloo. I was all set to accept this hypothesis, but I remembered that Lorraine lives in Australia, and the man in Wellington had already revealed his attitude to Aussies by his “sagacity.” He could care less about Lorraine’s birthday, even if it does coincide with the Battle of Waterloo.

I had my Eureka moment while scratching my head in the shower the other day. The water reminded me of “Crying in the Rain,” one of the Everly Brothers numbers mentioned in “The Definition of Plot,” and it hit me that my crying had reminded the man in Wellington of water (hence Waterloo), and the rain, of wellingtons (hence the Duke). As I stepped out of the shower (in what state, I needn’t state), I realized the dude’s a genius! The breakup story really would have been more interesting had I related how the Duke of Wellington had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.

From now on, I will run every story by the Dude of Wellington before publishing it. He’s shown me that for everyone who writes a story, there’s always someone who can write it better.

*****

Mostly, though, the emails from Oz and NZ are from Indian immigrants, all claiming to have gone to school or college with me. I’ve received numerous obviously Photoshopped images to validate this claim. One picture looks uncannily authentic, and it might have had me fooled except I never went to St. Mary’s Patna.

An Anand in Sydney, who claims to have played Othello to my Desdemona at Fergusson College, asks if I remember how he’d said “Put out the light,” and the lights went out that very moment. When they came back on two hours later, only the cast and crew were left in the Amphitheatre, so we didn’t bother with “and then put out the light” and the rest of it.

As an editor I like to encourage aspiring writers, so I’m willing to publicly declare that this person may be the next Laurence Sterne, he’s done such a fine job at writing a cock-and-bull story. Even so, I don’t like that he thinks I’m as gullible as Othello. The only Anand I know in Sydney played Petruchio to my Katherina, and I have related what happened on that occasion in “My Favorite Summer Haunt.”

*****

Believe it or not, someone in Australia even claims to be my older sister! She writes to say that if I don’t behave myself and stop mentioning sexual content, she’ll tell Mummy and Papa. That sounds like older-sisterly thing to say so I’m sure she’s someone’s older sister, just not mine.

For one thing, my Mummy is a doctor who, by delivering countless babies and producing three of her own, has done her bit for India’s population. Sexual content doesn’t faze her one bit. As for my Papa, he shuffled off this mortal coil in 2009, and in his immortal state is enjoying pleasures far more glorious than any this world could afford – sexual content included. Of course, were he still with us, he’d have told me to come home at once so he could give me two tight slaps.

*****

The letters from Canada are also mostly from Indian immigrants, all peeved that I wrote a book on the Indian community of LA rather than that of Brampton. And I’ve heard from more “relatives.” Someone in British Columbia who describes herself as “a retired teacher and tireless quilter” claims to be my aunt and godmother, and a student in Ontario claims that I’m his aunt and godmother! He says I forgot to send him a birthday gift four years straight and now wants everything lump sum, with interest.

The teacher is clearly a cheater (my aunt would never use quilts to bribe me to visit her), but I’m not so sure about the student. Forgotten birthdays are the sort of thing my godson would remember, and I’d hate to have forgotten even one, let alone four. He made me an aunt and, as I mention in “My Favorite Inscriptions,” gave me my favorite name. So I’ll do some investigating. If it turns out that I forgot, I’ll write my godson a check, whether he sent that email or not. And if I find out that he sent it as a prank, I’ll tell him to come to LA at once so I can give him two tight slaps.

When he gets here, I’ll do what the Prodigal Son’s father did when he appeared in the distance. I’ll run to him and fling my arms around his neck and say all is forgiven. Then I’ll kill the fatted calf and throw a party. And since my godson doesn’t have an older brother to throw a spanner in the works (or, for that matter, a monkey wrench), a good time will be had by all.