(Writing 101, Day Fourteen: To Whom It May Concern
Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What jumps out at you? Start there, and try a twist: write in the form of a letter.)
(The book sitting right beside me is The Gecko and Sticky, by Stephen Gilpin. It is a book aimed at junior/junior high boys. It’s hilarious. The sentence I took from it will be in bold italics.)
Dearest Uncle Alwon,
I am of all women the most unhappy! Please, if there is any mercy in your heart for me, rescue me from this dreadful place! Why you ever thought I could be happy here I will never understand!
Let me tell you about Chepstow Castle. It is immense. It is dark, and damp, and full of wind and foul odors. The walls have the grime of 200 years ago, and none of the walls are graced with the beautiful tapestries of your castle, my home. The lord of the castle is cheap and stingy. He doles out coal for personal fires as if each piece were pure diamond. He is my husband, or at least he soon will be, and I am terrified of the day when I will say my voiws with him. He is as cold and as bleak as his castle, with nothing of beauty to make him attractive to me –or to anyone else!
The other day, Dear Uncle, I was in need of the privy. I am not allowed a pot in my chamber; I am required to use the nook carved out of the castle wall that sits high above the river. Uncle, it is very cold here. The wind is unrelenting. There is nothing of warmth or comfort in that dreadful closet, and I was ill. I needed it almost constantly that day,
It is difficult for me to speak of such personal matters, but I want you to understand how difficult my life is here. It is as if my lord wants to see how I will tolerate hardship. He is as relentless as the wind. When I went to beg him a pot for my chamber, he gazed at me unspeaking for several moments. Then he said, “If I allow you a pot, you will be responsible to empty it yourself whenever you use it. I cannot spare a maid for such work when the privy is available.”
So I used the privy. As I walked in, facing the seats, I could see that the dark, lazy river that ran through the countryside was a collection of many things, but mostly water and waste. All the villages upriver used it for cleaning, cooking, watering their animals, and emptying their night waste. At this point,nearing the end of its journey to the sea, it was murky, full of tree limbs, a bloated animal carcas here and there, and many other pieces of flotsam. I shivered, thinking how the castle made use of the very same water for cooking and drinking.
No wonder I am so often ill.
Uncle, I beg you. Send your men for me, take me home, save me from this wretched place. It may be the biggest castle in this country, but it has no welcome for such as I. I fear that once I produce a male heir, I will die.
In dire need, I remain
Your respectful Niece,