Dear Jones Family,

Picture your beautiful home on a Sunday morning. It’s cool. Crisp. Calm. Crisp. The scene is perfect, yet, all of a sudden, you feel somehow something is missing. Could it be a love lost long ago, or perhaps the dreams you discarded in exchange for respectability and a steady paycheck?

No, actually it’s your son. We took him.

Oh yes, we stormed vigorously into your backyard that day like the Viking hordes of old, and heaved your precious boy into a burlap sack, the rough fibers scratching his tousled hair. He sits now in our secret lair, alone and afraid, paging through my collection of the complete works of Chuck Palahniuk.

Choose your next move carefully, friend, for you find yourself in a chess game where the checkmates are deadly and your opponent holds all the cards. Treachery on your part will bring nothing but misfortune, for you do not wish to tangle with a man who received a B+ in Literary Horizons: Introduction to Creative Fiction.

THWACCKKK! PLLOPP! HIISSSSS! These are the sounds of your boy’s tender head being sliced from his shoulders and rolling into the unforgiving gutter.

Be not proud! I advise you to heed the words Greasy Lester McLaughlin, the local drunk in my small Southern hometown. A man married to his bottle, Lester was barely coherent. Yet, there was a certain wisdom about him.

“Garsh,” he would sputter between gulps of drink, “Naw sooner are y’all king o’er Gawd’s green earf, den y’all figgurs out dat crown ya wearin’ ain’t nuthin’ butta clump a’ muddy dand-a-lions.”

Profound words indeed—a quote that would look fine etched on a mug or pillow after I obtain my lucrative book deal. Anyway, here are our demands, laid out in sophisticated bullet points:

  • My comrades and I require the sum of $250,000–of course money is just an illusion but what can a wretch such as I do in a world such as this but scrap and scrape along in the pursuit of the holy and almighty dollar–in unmarked bills. (A classmate suggested I ask for more money during peer review, but I shall not take criticism from a lesser artist!)
  • You fling the cash into the rusted mailbox off the old highway. It’s the faded blue one with its slot hanging slightly agape, hungry for a message, a purpose.
    We return the Prodigal Son to you, wholly undamaged and unharmed, except for his innocence. But who among us can hold on to such a delicate thing for long?
  • He’ll be holding drafts of some short stories I’ve been working on. If you could get notes on those back to us by Tuesday, that would be great. Don’t be afraid to be brutally honest.

John Doe


John Doe is an author and criminal mastermind. Since enrolling in a prestigious online fiction workshop, he has written eleven unedited memoirs and a play about America. Doe currently resides in an unspecified location with his two sheepdogs, Scoop and Duffy.