This contest business I embarked upon the other dayâ€”it was in the tail end of 5694â€”is getting absolutely beyond control. Not only have the scurrilous, poison-penwielding Nazis descended upon me like a swarm of bees upon a lone, defenseless nasturtium, but the very foundations of my family life are being threatened.
In announcing the contest last yearâ€”which was to determine the course of the Day Book in the future â€” readers may remember that I quite casually mentioned my wife.
Since that utterly innocent remark about herâ€”I said she hadn’t approved of the Day Book’s continual harping on the Nazis and anti-Semitism and quoted her brieflyâ€”there’s been a distinctly strained atmosphere in the suburban hovel I used to call home. The atmosphere has become so charged with tension, indeed, that every time I cross the threshold I feel like a condemned man must feel when he tremblingly approaches the “hot seat.”
Why, even Junior seems to have sensed the fact that something significant is in the wind. Lately he has been greeting me with a distinct chill in his voice. Like the misguided gentleman he is learning to be despite his meagre years, he has instinctively sided with the hand that gives him his cereal. Even chocolate lollypops won’t swing him to my side of the fence.
At first, I didn’t mind. It gave me an excuse to stay out late at night, playing bridge or poker with the gang. But a horrible suspicion has suddenly struck me amidships and I can’t take my old intelligent interest in either contract or stud until it has been erased. Or, better still until the sinister events that I am practically convinced are the true basis for my suspicion have been purged.
As in the case of the letter signed by “Constant Reader of Slants on Sports” (an obvious forgery, since the only “constant Reader” of that column could only be the gentleman who writes itâ€”and he couldn’t possibly have been responsible for that letter) I suspect the subtle hand of the Nazis. I am convinced the Nazis, in some psychic, underhanded manner have got to my wife, as the saying goes, and have her in their vengeful, diabolic power. A sort of Svengali-Trilby business, it must be.
It may be that I am suffering from a persecution complex brought on by writing too many Day Books. But I ask you, if on top of all this strained atmosphere stuff in your own home, you were suddenly to receive in the mail a letter signed by your own wife, which simply reeks of Nazi origin; I ask you, whether you, too, wouldn’t suspect that there was dirty work at the crossroads.
And if you didn’t suspect it, I’d simply say, Zounds! you’re simple.
Well, I have received such a letter from my wife. And the only reason I am inclined to forgive her for it and treat the matter as if it had never happened is as I have indicated, because I am convinced that she is acting under some sort of insidious, mesmeric influence emanating from Berlin.
If the reader should doubt that the letter is undeniably and incontrovertibly a Nazified creation, let him reflect on those parts where Mrs. H. W. as she signs herself, suggests that the Day Books of the future attack gefilte fish, potato pancakes, motzoth balls, cheese cakes. If that isn’t the strongest sort of circumstantial evidence of my charge, then I don’t know circumstantial evidence. The letter:
Dear H. W.:
“I am an ardent reader of your Day Book. Ardent, perhaps, because I fear that look which comes into your eyes when you ‘nonchalantly” ask if I have read the Day Book about Oscar Ostrich, Rudolph Hess, or that goodly exponent of free speech, and I must answer in the negative. Then, again, sometimes I hang on your words with the greatest of ease, like the man on the flying trapeze.
“Wednesday I read your column about your wife-Day Book-trouble. It sounds like a challenge. So out comes the portable. And the dictionary too. (The wife of a columnist must use a few big words, perhaps a few that she hardly understands herself, to keep up the reputation of the H. W. family).
“Shall we forget the truculent Nazis, you ask? No, dear, by all means not entirely. Suppose you use them once a week to vent all your bitterness and hate and indigestion and wrath and indignation upon. With all that out of your system you won’t complain about my cooking, or lack of it. Pray keep that pet peeve.
“Well, then, what other subjects are there about which to rant or to wax ironical. To commend or to satirize, you ask?
“Do you remember the other night when you sat beside me at Loew’s Paradise on one of our infrequent visits from the suburbs to the White Way of the Bronx? Do you remember how you snarled and sneered and grimaced (and whatever else you do when you can’t complain out loud) when that community song number was on? The words that were thrown upon the screen took every form of poetic license for the sake of rhyme without reason. You called them putrid. Why not damn or praise the members of tin-pan alley for a while? Why not dig into Jewish music and folk-songs and see what you can bring out? Why not go into the fields of art, or stay out of them if you prefer?
“By the way, did you ever take up Jewish cookery? How about that diabolic concoction that is harder to digest than raw beef hides, gefilte fish. We all love it, but think what it does to the alimentary canal. Potato pancakes, motzoth balls, cheese cakes. They could stand a few attacks, after attacking the gastronomic facilities of the Israelites for so many decades.
“Suppose you go after cosmetics a bit. You’ve had your say in private against those artifices, long before the Nazis thought of pointing their fingers at them. Tell the world how you feel about them.
“Talk about babies. You have one. He ought to furnish you unlimited material. If other columnists can talk about their children, why can’t you. Heywood Broun does. Talk about tennis. F. P. A. used to cover his column as well as the court with tennis comment.
“Why don’t you start some uplift movement. Uplift anything you want…. And what about education? You can do anything you want with that. Write about careers for men and careers for women, which the students can’t follow after spending years in becoming experts in chosen fields. Send Jewish youth back to the farms, call them away from the farmsâ€”
“I don’t know why I got into this Day Book controversy anyway. The Nazis brought me into it. I guess it’s in my blood too. You see, she’s conscious there’s something elseâ€”Ed. I can’t seem to leave them out of this letter. Anyway I wish I hadn’t criticized your Day Book subjects. Now you’ve got me thinking, and you know that’s bad for me.
“It’s time for you to say, as Junior would say after his wants have been taken care of: “Go upstairs and cook Momie, I ride on my bike.” Write about whatever you want. Only ignore those nasty Nazis. Isn’t that just what they’d want us to do, though?â€”Ed. Some people suffer more from neglect than damnation.
“And so I leave you to your Day Bookingâ€”
“And I’ll return to my daily cooking.
Mrs. H. W.