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Christie, Nancy

Nancy Christie

As writer bios go, Nancy Christie’s life story isn’t very interesting. She still lives in the same Ohio town where she was born, has resided in the same house for more than thirty years, and thus far has failed to use her passport for any overseas travel. She leaves it to her fictional characters to have all the excitement—whether they want it or not. These include those whose tales she told in her fiction collection, TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER AND OTHER STORIES (Pixel Hall Press, 2014) as well as in her other short stories that have appeared in literary magazines such as Talking River, Wild Violet, EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal, Fiction 365, Full of Crow, Red Fez and Xtreme. She is currently working on a second fiction collection, and several novels as well as a book for writers.

When she is not engaged in playing “let’s pretend,” (or, in writer-speak, writing fiction), she hosts the monthly Monday Night Writers group, coordinates “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day (an annual celebration of short stories and those who write them), and blogs about writing at One on One, Focus on Fiction and The Writer’s Place—links to all

To Whom It May Concern

Nancy Christie

September/October 2016

“Dear Sir…”

Hmmm, that didn’t exactly strike the right note. There was certainly nothing “dear” in how she felt about the person to whom this letter was directed. Instead, she was disappointed, unhappy, frustrated. No, not even any of those adjectives were accurate. The bottom line was that she was angry—very, very angry. She had paid good money—money she had set aside from the insurance check she had gotten when George died—and now it turns out she may have been tricked, fooled, duped even by the salesman because this was definitely not the quality she had expected nor had shelled out thousands of dollars for.

“To whom it may concern”—now that sounded slightly better, more formal, almost as though the letter might be sent to more than one place or even used in a court of law. Not that she knew anything about suing people, but she watched enough judge shows on television to know that lawsuits were a way of life for a lot of people and sometimes they even won. Besides, it was time that American consumers stood up for their rights and forced companies to deliver on their promises and honor their guarantees and stop using inflated marketing claims topromote their goods.

That was what she was going to do—stand up for her rights and demand that they give her all her money’s worth.

Now, where was she? Oh, yes: “To whom it may concern…”

What should she write next? Maybe a brief summary—just hit the main points and don’t be long-winded. George always complained that she went into too much detail, that by the time she stopped talking, no one remembered what her point was. She didn’t agree with him—sometimes you needed all those details to make your point—but in this case, he might be right. Besides, she didn’t have a paper and pen handy so she had to remember all the sentences until she could get somewhere to put it all down.

And her memory just wasn’t what it used to be. Why, just last week (Or was it last month? Well, never mind—when it happened didn’t matter as much as what had happened!) she had driven to the grocery store to buy a few items. But then, after she had picked through the carts that were lined up, trying to find one that didn’t have wobbly wheels or trash bits left behind by previous users, she couldn’t remember why she was there in the first place.

Did she need milk? Bread? Butter? And where was her grocery list anyway?

Frustrated, she left the cart in the frozen food aisle and went back out to the parking lot. But once there, she couldn’t find her car. Anywhere. It wasn’t in the handicap section where she usually parked it, and wasn’t near the entrance or exit doors or even under a parking lot lamp. She finally had to set off her car alarm to locate it.

Frustrating, that’s what it was. All those aggravating, unsettling things that happen as one gets older. But even if she was well into the Medicare stage, she still knew what was what, and what she had a right to expect from manufacturers and retailers and service providers.

“To whom it may concern: I am writing this letter to complain about the quality of the merchandise I had purchased from Dominick Brothers on —” Now, let’s see, when did she buy it? George died on June 19 just a little more than two years ago. Or has it already been three years since he passed?

She did remember that it was summer time, because it was hot — so unbearably hot that it was almost a relief to get inside the showroom. Of course, there it was freezing cold. Must have been near 68 degrees, and she was glad she had brought her sweater. She didn’t want toget sick. Doctor visits were so expensive and medicine wasn’t cheap either. They probably kept it that cold so people would hurry up and make a decision and sign the papers that resulted in a big commission for the sales staff.

Anyway, she had an idea what color and style she wanted and knew how much she wanted to spend but somehow—and she was usually so good about not being talked into things!—she ended up paying more.

“Feel the material,” the dark-suited salesman had said, running his hand lightly over the blue tufted cloth. “It’s so soft and smooth. And the padding” here he pressed down, and she saw how it gave just enough to adjust to the body’s weight but not so much that it wouldn’t provide support, “I can promise you, ma’am, with this type of padding a body would feel so comfortable indeed. Like being in a bed.”

It sounded good and the price was really not very much more than what she had budgeted, and it was so cold and nearly lunchtime. So she signed the papers and wrote her check and went back to her stifling apartment, not sure which she preferred: the freezer-cold temperature of the showroom or the suffocating oven heat of her one-bedroom home. Some people in her building had window air conditioner units but she couldn’t afford one of those—not with all the household bills and an income reduced now that George was gone.

And even if she could, how would she get the unit up all those flights and then into the window? It wasn’t like there was anyone around tohelp her. She was on her own.

The date—well, she could look that up later. The papers were in the file, just behind the folder with her birth certificate and copy of her marriage license and George’s three remaining certified death certificates. Their marriage hadn’t been perfect—and was anyone’s really?Or was that just what people claimed once the spouse was gone?—but overall George had been a good husband. And she missed him when he died. His presence gave a framework to her life—someone to cook for and clean up after and complain to and about. Now the apartment was so empty.

But there was no point in dwelling on what couldn’t be changed. No, she would do better to keep her focus on the matter at hand, which was her complete and total dissatisfaction with this very expensive purchase.

And it was expensive—probably more than she should have spent. Maybe she shouldn’t have paid so much money. After all, it wasn’t like she had a lot of money saved up. And you never know how long you might live—why, she might have another five years in her before it was her time to go! But after all, it was a necessary purchase, not something frivolous. And so she opted to use that money—money that could have been put into her account at Bankers Savings and Trust—and buy what she needed to buy.

And that’s what made this all so much more aggravating. Every time she thought about how much it had cost, her blood boiled.

“I bought this model on the advice of your salesman and I have to tell you that it is not as comfortable and soft as he claimed it would be.”

And here, just to prove her point—if only to herself—she tried to shift her body a bit. But it was so unforgiving that she couldn’t adjust herself even just a little. And it was hard—her back would be very sore and stiff when she got up.

How long had she been lying here? Funny, she couldn’t remember when she laid down or even why. She wasn’t one to take a nap in the middle of the day. Maybe she’d been sick. She remembered a few years ago when she had the flu — So much for the flu vaccine! She got sick anyway!—and her fever was so high that she got confused and groggy. George found her in the kitchen trying to make breakfast but she hadn’t plugged in the toaster. And when he told her to go back to bed, she went instead into the front room and laid down on the couch and slept there, convinced that she was in her bedroom.

Maybe that’s what was wrong. Maybe she was sick again—not that she felt unwell but sometimes you didn’t know you were sick until it hit you really hard. You thought you might just be tired or had indigestion.

That’s what George had told her, that he had a stomach ache. “Something didn’t agree with me,” he had said when she found him in the bathroom, where he was waiting for the two fizzing tablets to completely dissolve in the glass of water so he could drink the antacid.

Now she regretted dismissing his complaint. She had told him there was nothing wrong with the meal, rushing him to finish the drink so she could use the toilet. He did as she said, and the next morning she found him dead in bed.

Heart attack, the doctor told her. Nothing she could have done, he added, explaining that a major blockage in his left descending aorta was the cause. “‘The widow-maker’ they call it,” he said. Funny name, she remembered thinking at the time.

“Did he have any symptoms?” he had asked, but she shook her head. What was the point in saying he was sick to his stomach the night before? Nothing could make a difference now.

Unlike in this situation, when saying something could make a difference. They might let her pick another one or give her all her money back. That’s what she would demand, she decided.

“I feel that since it hasn’t even been used, I should get my money back. Very sincerely yours, Elizabeth Wilson” using her full name instead of “Betty” which was how she usually introduced herself to people.

That should do it. It made her point, set out her demand and that, as they say, was that. Now, all she needed to do was write it down, get the address of the company and mail it. She’d do it first thing tomorrow after she got up and had her tea and toast. It was too late now. It must be night time—that would explain why it was so dark.

Funny, though, usually by now the small table lamp in the front room would be on. The timer was set to turn it on after supper and off after the evening news. But it wasn’t working. Or maybe the light bulb was burned out.

Even some moonlight would be something but the sky must be covered with clouds because there was no light at all—not from the moon, not from the stars, not even from the streetlamp outside.

When did it get so dark? And stuffy, too? It was stifling in here. Maybe she should open a window.

But she was so tired and so stiff after lying here all this time that she just couldn’t bring herself to get up.

Never mind. She’d deal with it tomorrow.