Letters to the Summer Tenants
The lament of a self-martyred landlord.
Oh say, I don't want to be intrusive, but if your guests do get into another knife fight or whatever, it's really easy to get the blood splatters out of the white frilled curtains if you wash them in cold water right away. (You can just throw them in the washing machine, if the kids' sandy clothes haven't stripped the gears yet.)
All the best, etc.
Sept. 3, 1997
I just thought I'd drop another line to remind you for next year that the cottage is made of wood. The shingles, the tongue-in-groove paneling, the polished-pine floors are all old wood. That means they burn very easily. So: Do not lean the pleated shade on the bedside lamp against the bulb while it is lighted. As you have no doubt noticed after two such experiments in consecutive years, when you do that, the shade melts and finally burns. Left long enough, the burning shade will set the house on fire. I assume you leave the house when you conduct these little trials, but there is always the chance that someone else may have lingered.
By the way, if you think of it next year, don't let the kids remove the front legs of the pedestal sink in the east bathroom and fill them with Q-Tips—children are so imaginative these days! And if they must do it, try not to discard the peculiar bolt fittings, so that I can put them back—they don't make that kind of sink anymore, so parts are hard to find. Ditto the handles on the bureau drawers. I know they are old and can come unscrewed. But the nut will always fall inside the drawer, so all you have to do is thread it back on the screw and then tighten it. Well, I suppose that's a bother on a vacation, but wouldn't it be just as easy to put the whole thing inside the drawer as in the wastebasket? Speaking of screwing—no, no, I'm not concerned about the mattresses—but did anyone ever show you how to replace a light bulb? There are lots of brand new ones in the sideboard in the dining room, and I would have thought you'd find it inconvenient to read or wash dishes in the dark.
And, speaking of washing dishes in the dark, the Italian cook you brought with you this year must be a great chef. Of course, great cooks don't usually make great cleaners. But not to worry, I'll get the grease off the pots and pans before we close the house for the winter. What a good thing, though, that I happened to look under the cast iron stove while searching for the corkscrew. Otherwise I'd never have found the six bags of garlic and onions. They'll help fill up the composter, which is really very empty after such a busy season—I guess you didn't have time to mind all those recycling rules posted at the town hall.
Well, have a great winter.
P.S.: The mail just came. How thoughtful of you to have paid the rent a whole year in advance. And the timing couldn't be better, as I've just got the bills for the taxes and insurance and the chapel and library and conservation society appeals and the down payment on the roof re-shingling. I always tell myself how lucky I am to have such wonderful guests as tenants.
Jodie T. Allen is the senior editor at the Pew Research Center.
Illustration by Michael Sloan.