By contributing writer John Peugeot
Recently de-classified in late October, what follows is a special report containing the unabridged correspondence between two prison inmates—separated by barriers of language, culture, and an entire Ocean—and the unusual bond forged between them.
Dear Ms. Stewart:
My aides tell me you too have been unfairly removed from power by the United States. I did not believe this at first because you are a woman, but in a country of infidels I guess much can happen. I saw a picture of you. You look like a strong and generous leader. Although, if you will permit me suggestion, I think people would respect you more if you held shotgun occasionally. Also, in Iraq, black army fatigues inspire fear, pink not as much.
I am confident that very soon we both will regain our power and slaughter those who have betrayed us. May a slow death find those responsible for your hardships. God is great!
Yours in Revenge,
P.S. I also hear you are good cook. What can I do to make bread and water taste better?
Dear Mr. Hussein,
I appreciate your kind words and suggestions. In the United States—much like your country if I’m not mistaken—women are often treated less humanely than men, despite all of our glorious talk of equality and freedom. Here in America, I inspire fear in these men by being a successful woman. That is why I continue to wear pink. On Wall Street, it is the equivalent of army fatigues.
I am humbled by your compliments. As for the meal suggestions, I’ve worked out a bread-based bruschetta, but you’re going to have to get a hold of a few things. First, you’ll need an heirloom tomato—no romas or grapes. Next, you’ll need extra virgin olive oil and some salt. Balsamic vinegar would be nice, but we can skirt around it with a dash of sugar. You’ll also need basil. Lots of basil.
For preparation: Wait until bread has hardened and crumble it into small pieces over a bowl. Dice tomato and basil finely and add to bread mixture. Stir together tomato, basil and bread crumbs while slowly adding extra virgin olive oil. When thoroughly blended, sprinkle salt and sugar to taste. Viola! A heart-warming and simple dish.
Best of luck,
I had some trouble locating some of the items listed in your very delicious-sounding recipe. I was wondering if some substitutions could be made.
Firstly, I could find no oil (yes, I do see how this is funny!). However, cellmate of mine down the hall has Vaseline. I know this to be a petroleum product also. Can I interchange? Also, I asked prison guard about the possibility of getting hold of sugar and salt as well as heirloom tomatoes. He laughed and laughed and called another guard over and they both laughed and laughed until I told them I knew where a whole lot of weapons caches were. They both stopped laughing and ran and got their boss. They gave me 3 tomatoes and a tin of salt as well as several packets of Splenda (what is this?). I forgot to ask for basil, but I have a few more tricks up my sleeve.
I thank you so much for your help so far and want to know if there is anything with which I can repay you (although I am short of finance as of now). Also, what is good way to eliminate Vaseline stains from a prison uniform?
Yours in hatred of the Infidels,
I’m saddened by the difficulties you are having in locating some of the bruschetta’s key ingredients. I’m sending along a care package with a few indispensable spices and a set of top-quality kitchen knives. These things can do absolutely everything, from an exact julienne to cutting through metal bars. You’ll adore their versatility.
Here in New York, while imprisoned unjustly, I’m still allowed the freedom to express myself through cuisine and craft and I’m shocked and outraged that you have not been granted the same fundamental right. Perhaps you should communicate your anger and resentment through the beauty and power of poetry. I think you have a wonderful ear for language and a keen ability to convey passion.
As for recompense, I think the camaraderie we share, as well as the knowledge that I could, in some small way, alleviate some of your troubles is more than adequate compensation. You cannot set a price to wonderful friends, Saddam. Also, Splenda, known as sucralose, is an artificial sweetener and I would strongly advise against using Vaseline as a substitute for olive oil, I think it might be unhealthy.
Best of luck,
Dear, Dear Martha (it is okay that I call you Martha?)
A little too late for the Vaseline warning! I spent 14 hours “praying to the porcelain God” as my guard says. Also I “shit my brains out” (not sure if that’s right) continually for 2 days. The bruschetta was very tasty though. Thank you for the tips and advice. As for the care package, I was informed that I am not allowed access to mail or especially to kitchen knives, as they believe I might use them for purposes other than a julienne cut. I am very bummed out.
I have always had a great love of poetry and I’m very glad you reminded me of both its power and beauty. I wrote one this afternoon and would love to share it with you. Also I am sending along a signed picture of me since I do not know whether you have one yet. Let me know what you think of photo and poem.
He rode upon trusted horse,
A brilliant general holding his course
As well as shotgun for display of force
Curse the infidels! Curse the Americas!
A fiery death beset you all!
May the World unearth your unholy flaws
And tie rubber bands to your pinching claws.
I could kill for some lobster!
It’s true. I am very hungry.
Yours in Beauty and Power,
I am deeply moved by your poem. I think there is a lot of passion and positive imagery there. The horse, to me, seemed to symbolize fate’s arrow toward your inevitable bucking from power. I also loved the slant rhyme of Americas and flaws. Terrific job! I know a few friends over at the New Yorker and, if you don’t mind, I’d love to show this to them.
I received your picture as well and, I must say, I did not realize you were such a handsome man. Who, if you don’t mind me prying, took these headshots? The reason I ask is that I’m thinking about having mine done and these look very professional. I especially like the one of you in the “thinker” pose—very brooding and risky. Also, you look dashing in flannel. I think the cross-pattern really sets off the olive texture of your skin.
I looked at your resume on the back and was shocked to see that you lent your voice to several animated characters (and won 3 Abdullahs!). How did you like doing voice-over work? Why haven’t you tried something on camera?
Until next time,
How I thank you for the kind words and thoughtful insights! It feels as though no one has ever seen so clearly into my soul! My horse, Bronson, did indeed buck me. I had cousin Nassir put him down. A horse must not fling his master. There is an order to things.
Despite my overwhelming confidence in State processions, slaughters and military courts, I find that, on camera, I lose much of my charisma. I begin to feel awkward and weak. Voiceovers, however, allow me to perform free from those constraints. I hope one day to overcome my fears and accept a meatier, on-camera role. I’ve been working heavily on my commitment issues.
Marco Baldi took my headshots. He is very talented but very expensive. He also made me feel extremely comfortable in front of camera. I could envision my true self emerging. Also, he offers group discounts (my brothers and I went together). Everybody in the industry claims he’s the best. Directors in Bagdad will not accept headshots from anybody but Marco. I have his number still if you would like.
Yours in Arts and Revenge,
Thanks so much for the information! I’ve heard terrific things about Mr. Baldi. Who did your mug shots? I had Annie Leibowitz shoot mine—she’s an absolute genius with dim, non-natural lighting. How is the poetry going?
I wish I could write more but I’m leaving prison today, so I’m busy tidying up all those loose ends and saying goodbyes to the girls. I hope the international police force is treating you well and you got those Vaseline stains out of your uniform. I look forward to watching highlights of your trial—just remember to relax and trust your instincts in front of the camera, think of a pleasant childhood moment or a great victory. I will write you from the outside.
Your dear, dear Friend,
P.S. I showed some of the girls that headshot of yours. I think you have some new fans!
My Dearest Martha,
I am so glad to hear that you broke out of prison and are now able to construct plans of revenge against the traitors and snakes that usurped your power and placed you in the bowels of the Earth. Blood tastes sweetest in the mouths of the avenged!
I wrote a poem to commemorate your great victory today.
Stewart stewards her flock—
With careful touch, they walk
Toward cliff’s edge where sheep spot
Their Graves’ lot!
Death to traitors of Martha!
Death to betrayers of Beauty and Power!
Let the Death-cries of anguish ring like Bells!
Let the Blood flow sweetly like a River of Punishment,
To the Ocean of Vengeances!
The vittles of conspirators she tosses
Into wonderful Salad of Revenge.
Good luck to you, dear Martha!
Yours in Cuisine and Crafts,
P.S. Tell the girls my number is 0053-2601-7999-0032-14.
P.P.S. I generally like my women “buxom.”