It’s possible you didn’t know about me. I could forgive you that. There are 2,999 other people in this town, after all, and of course a person could not be expected to know each and every one.
It’s true, that dessert you so enjoyed at the potluck last Thursday: It was mine. And when you asked your friend, she told you, “Oh, that’s Pearl Jenkins Dessert.” It has another name, when other people try to make it. 7-Layer Dessert or some such thing. But none of them know how to properly whisk that instant pudding. So when I make it, it has its own name. I understand, really, that you didn’t remember. That dessert can make a man forget.
When you asked who planted the flowers in front of the courthouse memorial statue, your friend told you that Pearl Jenkins did. But still, the name didn’t stick.
And when your coworker got married last week, and the groom nodded toward a lady in an elegant lavender chiffon dress and said, “We’d have never gotten together if not for Pearl Jenkins,” you still didn’t catch on.
But as I said. I’m not the only person in town.
You may not know me, yet. But I can promise you this: You need me. I can help you. I want to help you. I got a call yesterday from Mr. Warren Willoughby of The Dennison Gazette. (Please, tell me you at least read the hometown paper? Of course I don’t want to presume, though certain other matters of import seem to have escaped your notice. Surely you must have many pressing things to keep track of in your pretty little head. Not to worry, dear.) Mr. Willoughby has asked me to write a new column for the paper: Ask Pearl.
He said I gave advice to my good friends so freely that it would just make sense to let other people benefit too. So, starting next week, I’ll be answering your questions right on page 8 of the paper. Can you imagine? All those long lessons my Daddy taught me, I’ll be able to pass on to folks just like you who seem so … smart … but just haven’t been able to quite get it together yet.
Mr. Willoughby gave me an e-mail address, which really seems a bit ridiculous when you could just send me a postcard from the Post Office. He said everyone would want to talk to me on the In-ter-net. So far, I just keep getting a screen that says SERVER NOT FOUND which is also quite silly to me. I always tip 20 percent. At the least. Unless you’re one of those penny-pinchers with a reputation for tipping poorly, your server should be back at your table promptly. I’ll have to see if my friends Mr. Phillips or Ms. Julian can help me out.
If you’d rather not mail me a postcard (you don’t even need my address; the postmaster knows where I live even if you have never heard of me), send me an e-mail from your computer. You can ask me questions about anything — gardens, bridge, pool, etiquette, even a recipe (except for 7-layer dessert; you won’t be able to do it right anyway so I don’t know why you’d try). I’d love to give you advice about books or relationships too, and then I can even have my friend Mr. Murphy help out. (Please do not bother to ask me to help you with your computer though. Mr. Willoughby didn’t think that was good idea.)
You need a little Pearl Jenkins in your business. Trust me (and e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ll see you in the funny papers!
Photo by Max Eccli, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Pearl Jenkins.
You Really Can Ask Pearl
To ask Pearl Jenkins for a bit of heartfelt advice, you really can email to ask. Just use the address she’s provided above: email@example.com. All questions will be considered, though time, space, and fit may determine whether an answer is published.
By turns thoughtful and hilarious (even, inexplicably, both at the same time), this deeply Midwestern book quietly unfolds a vision for how to navigate in a world where we can’t always resolve things.
As much as the characters (like Pearl Jenkins) have a relationship with poetry and story (and they do), it is also a profound book about naming both the things that have held us back and the things we want, to move us forward—about choosing life. While it plays at the level of a few characters’ personal journeys, it is ultimately a novel for our time.
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