Wednesday, April 4, 2012

John Cheever Says . . .

17 July, 1947

Dear John,
I have my troubles. Mrs. Fitch French, who does my wash, has a middle-aged and crippled cat she wants Susie to have. Susie wants the cat. I don't want Susie to have the cat so on Sunday I bought three rabbits; one for Susie and one each for Irene and Jackie, the cook's children. This cost four dollars. Then I brought the rabbits home. I put them in an old duck pen where I thought they would be comfortable. Irene went around behind the duck pen to take a piss. She sat down on a hornet's nest. The hornets waited until she got to her feet, which is typical of New Hampshire, and then attacked all of us with vigor. We weren't able to get near the duck pen again until after dark. I then moved the rabbits from an old duck pen to an old turkey pen where there were fewer hornets. The next evening when Susie went to the turkey pen to feed her bunny she found that he was dead. She screamed. She cried. She was inconsolable. I buried the rabbit at the head of the garden while the gardener stood beside me and told me I was wasting my time. I should throw the rabbit into the woods for the skunks, he said. He is a communist and is so steeled against bourgeois sentimentality that he hasn't even given his horse a name. I then went to the duck pen to investigate the causes of the bunny's death and found some poison there, left for the rats by "Guts" Winternitz, my father-in-law. This poison was manufactured by the Chemical Warfare Branch of the United States Army to be fed, presumably to Russians. All of the rabbits tasted the poison, but only one of them died. Do you think this is a threat to our national security? Do you think there ought to be a shake-up in chemical warfare? . . . there's a lot of talking about filling the void in Susie's life with Mrs. Fitch French's crippled cat.

As ever,

from The Letters of John Cheever edited by Benjamin Cheever (Simon & Schuster, 1988)

No comments: