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Jack Pendarvis

The Astonishing Gentleman

I find that I have reached the age of forty-five without encountering a female suitable for marriage. Given the fact that no male of the C________ family has lived past the age of fifty-nine, I am faced with the absolute improbability that I shall ever meet said "dream woman," have her bear my offspring, and then live to influence said offspring’s principles in the awkward years leading up to the responsibilities of adulthood. A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi!

That being the case, thanks are in order to the staff of the Bluebird Medical Center, which has been most accommodating in processing my donation of sperm. It is my firm expectation that said staff will be equally accepting of this donation, a donation of words if you will, which, if you are reading, should mark the happy circumstance of your twenty-first birthday, O! Offspring of mine! Remaining (quite willfully) ignorant of the mechanics involved, I am not sure how many of you infants may be produced from my modicum of sperm. If you have received the letter marked "100" (please check the upper right hand corner of this page), please do me the kind service of contacting the Bluebird Medical Center in Tempe, Arizona and inquiring if more copies are needed for their files. If such is the case, please hasten to the nearest copy shop and oblige the good people of the Bluebird Medical Center with 100 more copies of this letter. Please, also, though it may seem laborious, hand number each letter "101"-"200" and mark through the first incident of the number "100" in the present paragraph, changing it to a "200." This will be the only favor asked of you by your father, ab ovo usque ad mala!

Adjust other enumeration as logic dictates.

Now to the meat of this message: data fata secutus! Doomed as I am never to know you, my lambikin, my duckling, I have thought to give some small account of my extraordinary personality and life, in the hopes that it may comfort you in re: your genes, and with the added, and more urgent, hope that you will give serious thought to following the code of conduct exemplified by my remarkable sojourn upon this planet. Please bear in mind that I, in keeping with the rules set forth by the Bluebird Medical Center, am not at liberty to divulge any detail which might ensnare my sacred anonymity upon the bloody thorns of specificity. Despite that moratorium upon discovery, it is my wish that through this missive you may indeed dis-cover (note my playful wordsmithery, for example) that which is essential about your humble sire. I feel quite certain that even a generalized sketching of said life will provide ample fodder for your elucidation, illumination, education, and exemplar.

Already, no doubt, you have guessed at my genteel upbringing and high attainment of knowledge. Fortuna meliores sequitur! This I could no more disguise for the sake of anonymity than the strutting peacock douse his tail in pitch!

Try to understand the urgency with which I grasp at just the right tale, the perfect illustration of my character—the one gift, apart from life itself, that I can hope to pass on to you, O! Offspring of mine! It gnaws at me, you know: What must your mother be like? The sort of woman, apparently, who sees nothing wrong with walking into a brick building and asking to be filled to brimming with the spunk of a stranger. May I, therefore, judge her? Why not, then, judge Mother herself, yes, even my own dam, whose noble belly was plumped with child by the clumsy gruntings of a stubby, hamfisted Caliban! Nil sine magno vita labore dedit mortalibus!

So I was at this dinner party last weekend and the conversation came around to television. I waited for a lull and said quietly, almost sotto voce, "I never watch television."

You can imagine the stir that resulted! People are not used to hearing such courageous honesty spoken aloud at a dinner party, or indeed at any kind of social gathering. For someone to say, with evident satisfaction, "I never watch television," well, it is nothing short of astounding in our sordid, failing world.

Someone made a feeble attempt at praising this or that insignificant so-called masterpiece on "cable" television, or perhaps it was publicly funded television. In any case, I remarked with the same cool demeanor, "I do not have access to ‘cable’ television in my home."

Esse quam videri bonus malebat!

The guests tumbled headlong from their chairs to hear such blasphemy! Surely it was one of the most wonderful statements that had ever touched their ears. My lack of interest in television amazed them, and with good reason. I could see that the ladies in particular were stricken with something like religious ecstasy upon hearing the unthinkable: That a man could appear among them of such rarity and refinement as to state at a social function that he did not appreciate television. To be sure, I might have mated easily that very night, had I not happened to be reserving my seed with some fervor, for deposit in the coffers of the Bluebird Medical Center.

Now hearken, O! Offspring of mine, to the enviable result of such unshaken honesty. Soon it came to pass that a goodly number of the other guests, some of whom I would even categorize as middlebrow, began to offer their own opinions of the lowliness of television! Can you imagine the seismic importance of what I am describing? A roomful of guests at a dinner party actually began to complain that there was nothing "on the air" (a ludicrous example of television terminology, as I suppose, for in what real sense may an object be said to rest upon the air?) worth watching!

Even then I had to laugh, inwardly, at the implication that middlebrows could ever hope to match your sire’s ferocity of indifference to television!

God, I am so fucking fantastic!

Pardon, if you can, the vulgarity, but given the urgent nature of this communication, this, the one bond between us, I feel that total spontaneity and honesty are of the first rank. How I suffer in the knowledge that yours will be the greatest joy in our exchange. We may not, in fact, even call it a true exchange, as I will never know your response, never shiver giddily as you reveal your own budding lack of interest in television.

One guest offered, stammering with some apparent shame, that he had at one time worked for a television "network." He had finally resigned his post, he explained, to work on a book of aphoristic haiku.

We toasted him with relish!

One smirker, however, one uncombed guttersnipe whom I had earlier observed impaling an entire green bean on his fork, spoke up and said that he currently worked in television, that he saw, indeed, nothing "wrong with it."

Right away the weaker ones of the gathering began to equivocate, avowing that indeed some television, in the proper doses, was harmless enough. There was mention made again, I believe, of publicly funded television programming. I could sense, though, that one and all looked to your sire for the final word on the subject.

In a way I admired my adversary, for in his own perverse simulacrum of reality perhaps there was some honor in his sick and fiendish loyalty. Here, then, the very type of the terrorists who have vexed our nation!

I could not, however, condone such foolery, however ignorantly plied. Fixing the television worker with the cold gray eyes it is my sincere wish that you shall inherit, I declaimed in measured but bell-like tones, "O curae hominum! O quantum est in rebus inane!"

You may well imagine the plethora of huzzahs that greeted the aptness of your sire’s erudition! Your imagination will, indeed, furnish the scene much better than might this humble pen. Suffice it to say I was carried aloft upon the shoulders of my marveling comrades. As for the unfortunate young man who had sullied his very soul in demoniacal commerce with the beast called "television" (the word itself a corrupted bastard of Greek and Latin!), one may only hope that my wisdom pierced his heart, no doubt crusted almost past penetration as that organ was by the evil medium that had possessed his expiring anima. I avow without malice that should I again meet said tortured creature six years from now in some dull parking lot, and should he say to me upon that occasion, "I no longer work for television," I would have no qualms in embracing him as a brother!

That splendid magnanimity, I trust, is your inheritance as well.

It comforts me to think that some small, prismatic aura of the glory bestowed upon me that night by the stunning depth of my disinterest in television clung to me ephemerally somehow as I jerked off into the Dixie cup that would one day bring forth your blessed existence.

Satis diu vel natura vixi, vel gloria!



Jack Pendarvis is from Bayou La Batre, Alabama. He wrote the theme song for Cartoon Network's Popeye Show and the score for the feature film Dropping Out.

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