by Jim Breslin
September 23, 1989
Dear Jackson Carter -
This may be a bit forward, but I’ve enclosed a photo of my daughter Clarissa for you. I just know from having seen you so many nights on the air that you and Clarissa would be a match made in heaven. Just like you, Clarissa loves the grape leaf design in the Rushmore Gold jewelry you present on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m.
Clarissa doesn’t watch the United Shopping Network as often as I do, but she thinks you are cute. She acts nonchalant about the whole thing, but because she is my daughter I can tell that she is smitten with you. (She can’t bear to watch that Calabrese guy.)
You and Clarissa have so many similar tastes. You are always talking about dressing up and going out for an elegant meal, and when you look into the camera and say, “go ahead and pick this bracelet up, you’re worth it,” I can see you are talking directly to my Clarissa.
Just like you, Clarissa loves watching sunsets, sleeping in on weekends, and eating banana walnut pancakes with extra maple syrup. And just like you, Clarissa works in retail sales, doing her best to be sure customers are happy.
Now I don’t pay any attention to my husband Earl. He says some awful things at times, and he doesn’t believe a man should be dressed up in suits, selling jewelry and figurines on television. Earl is a bit old-fashioned, and when he says things like you’re a little light in your loafers, I always defend you, because I believe you are straight and honest. Earl is just a crotchety old man, but he’s the best I could do under the circumstances and I got what I deserve. Just between you and me, I want Clarissa to do better.
Last night when I saw you selling the Karaoke machine and you sang Clarissa’s all-time favorite song, Unchained Melody, I shouted Clarissa’s name and started weeping with joy. Your voice was so beautiful, it was as if the heavens had opened up. I’m sure it was a sign from the Almighty above that you and Clarissa are destined to be together. Unfortunately, Clarissa was out, working her night shift at Walgreen’s down in Carthage, and I fumbled with the VHS tapes, trying to find a blank one so I could record your beautiful rendition, but I was afraid I’d mistakenly tape over Jake and the Fatman, which Earl had not yet watched because it was poker night with the boys.
Then last night, I had a dream that the United Shopping Network announced they were coming to do a production from our town, you know, at the Precious Moments Chapel nearby, and in my dream, you showed up at Walgreen’s, searching down each aisle until you found my Clarissa. She was replenishing the anti-fungal creams in aisle six and as soon as she saw you, she knew, she just knew! And this dream was so vivid, cable television vivid, that I thought surely this must be a sign from the great Lord above. That’s when I knew I would write you today.
Ellen Marie Marstan
Found Letter is about the relationship that sometimes develops between customers and show hosts. The story was inspired by my seventeen years working as a television producer at the home shopping network QVC. While the letter has several funny details, I think there’s also a sadness in between the lines.
Jim Breslin’s stories have appeared in Metazen, Molotov Cocktail, Turk’s Head Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Think Journal. Elephant: Short Stories and Flash Fiction was published in 2011. Jim’s novel told through stories, Shoplandia, in which Found Letter is included, was published in May 2014. He is the founder of the West Chester Story Slam, a rowdy monthly storytelling series and podcast.