As a boy, I loved Rocky and Bullwinkle, which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s discussed the current Russian scandal with me, a man who assumes Boris Badenov is an historical figure (to my mind, “Shut up your mouth!” is a great rejoinder to almost anything). I also believe a dimwitted moose and a smart-aleck squirrel have repeatedly saved America—after Bullwinkle has transformed a rabbit into a lion and pulled it out of his hat—from Boris, Natasha and Fearless Leader.
Where have you gone, Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose? We need you.
Likewise, fairy tales are best when fractured, Dudley Do-Right is the prototypical Canadian Mountie, and I believe in my heart of hearts, in Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine. Most of all, though, I love the interstitial bit where Rocky and Bullwinkle are on a boat and Rocky holds a piece of paper with gibberish on it and declares it “Fan mail from some flounder.”
I was thinking of that when I got the following email from a new reader:
I just discovered Tiny White Box after the story on ‘Chronicle.’ It sounds as though your life has been a series of funny ups and even funnier downs. My favorite ‘column’ so far is ‘Sally Piper Had a Peck of Unplanned Pregnancies,” because it seemed to balance the joy of adoption with the sadness of being released for adoption. Have you thought of writing a book on adoption?”
Because I’m always looking for a way to turn simple courtesy into a column, here’s my response to Bethany.
Thank you for your too-kind words! As for an adoption book, I did spend some time putting together a non-fiction proposal for a book tentatively to have been called, ‘Who’d Give Steve Jobs Away?’ Although my agent at the time got some bites, no money was ever offered, so the book itself never got written. Instead, the only stuff I’ve published on adoption is in these columns. I’ll try to write some more if you promise to dive into them and just keep swimming. Best, Keith”
Bethany, whatever else she may be, is not a fish. She is not a flounder sending me fan mail. She will have no idea why a man is responding to her serious question about adoption with a final line drawn from Finding Nemo. Bethany, I’m sorry sometimes to be who I am, but I’ve come to accept it, and hope you will, too
I get a number of emails (firstname.lastname@example.org) each week from readers, and try to respond in a timely manner. Many of them are asking for specific information (“You said your first car was a ’68 Chevy Malibu. I had one of those, too. Mine was red. What color was yours? Your Friend, James”) that can be answered simply (“James: Blue.”) If I were to send that as a stand-alone response, I’d never hear from James again. Leaving aside the question of whether James or I would be sadder at losing a nascent friendship, I instead say, “Dear James, Thanks so much for writing! It means a lot to me when I get feedback from readers. BLUE. Do write again. Best, Keith.” So much kinder, that latter answer. Or at least so much wordier.
When you write me, know I’ll do my best to get back to you right away. I’ll do my best to respond with good sense and kindness. I’ll do my best to write you a thoughtful note demonstrating sense and kindness. My best, which may not be all that good. Feel free to follow up with a Boris Badenov quote:
“Keith, please, shut up your mouth.”