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Dear Miss Proudlove
About the Author: Matthew Fries has been writing for over twenty-five years. At the time of this writing his lifetime earnings total: some copies of literary magazines, 145 dollars (Canadian), and a Thug-lit T-shirt … yet, despite the writing on the wall, he persists. Watch for his demonic comedy "The Sick Box," soon to be published by Montreal publisher Czykmate (2021).

Dear Miss Proudlove,

First off, I want to offer you my sincerest apologies. This is all a giant misunderstanding. I can explain everything:

What happened to me that night at the 7-11 was a misunderstanding that spun out of control. Okay, I was drunk. I'll admit that. But I wasn't blackout drunk! And it was (after all) Robbie Burns day.    

I have this persistent rash, you see, and my jeans were chafing badly. So, before I went into the 7-11 to grab a late-night snack, I snuck behind the dumpster to attend to my rash. It was really stinging. As I lifted my leg to apply my zinc cream (I always carry my zinc cream with me) I heard some giggling. Some teenage punks must have spotted me from the street. They ran at me and shoved me to the ground. There was a struggle. I kicked at them, but they overpowered me. When I stood up, I saw them running away, waving my pants in the air, and laughing like a bunch of damn fools.

That’s how I told it in court, and that’s how it happened. I don't really care what the security camera footage says. The cameras didn't show what happened behind the dumpsters. Really, when you think about it, I am the victim here. Why didn't the cops go after those punks who assaulted me and stole my property? That is what I would like to know. 

I needed a pair of pants or I was going to catch frostbite. It was plenty cold out, but I am sure you remember that. I knew the guy in the 7-11 well enough. I figured he might have some old work pants he could loan me. I tried to be casual about it. I said, "Hi," and I grabbed a bag of dill pickle chips off the shelf. Then I went to the counter and started eating them.

What was the big deal? I came in there every day. He knew I was good for the money. I want to know how a bag of chips that never even left the store becomes a charge for theft under a thousand?

I explained to him that I was assaulted, and I asked him to lend me a pair of pants. I said I would bring them back, but he acted like he didn't even know me. He wouldn't look at me.

"How are you going to pay for those chips?" he kept saying.

All those people care about is money.

"Listen, buddy. You know me," I said. "Just give me a pair of pants."

It's all on the security footage. You've seen it, I am sure. I wasn't aggressive, or threatening. I was trying to get home.

Then, a really nice-looking lady walked in. You. Ana Proudlove, as I learned. Actually, forget, "really nice looking." An angel. A stunning beauty. You really are, you know. With milky white skin, an adorable button nose, and full red lips. I remember everything. It's as if it is all happening before me right now.

You paused when you saw me without my pants, staring right at my private parts, your jaw almost touching the floor. Then you screamed, "Oh my GOD!" and ran out.

That was not what I had intended.

I ran after you, trying to apologize, and as you peeled out of the parking lot in that little vintage Citroën (that's a really cool car, by the way), I yelled, "Happy Robbie Burns day!"

I swear to you the word "boner" never crossed my lips. I don't know how that story ever made its way into court.

It's not fair.

I wish the security cameras had sound. Then, I could prove it to you. 

I am not a pervert, just a man with a rash.

The cops showed up shortly afterwards. The guy in the store must have called them.

It was all a big misunderstanding. I got a fine, and eighty hours of community service at Saint Vincent De Paul.

And so began phase two of our misunderstanding. I have so much to apologize for. I really hope you can see how everything went sideways for me. I hope you can forgive me, and we can move on from this. I do think that in time we could become very close friends. Maybe even something more.

I don't know if you have ever been to Saint Vincent De Paul's. I kind of doubt it. You don't seem like the type. Saint Vincent De Paul's is a second-hand store that smells of urine and mildew and is run by some religious old bags who also smell of urine and mildew. My job was to sort through the donations and stock the shelves.

The old bags said they would teach me to use the price gun once they could "trust me."

I think it was a Friday when I found the real gun. I remember it was cool out, so I had my jean jacket on.

This story appears in our AUG2021 Issue
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