Illustration by Andres Garzon
April 7th, 1958
Dear Mr. Arthur Brenner,
My name is Elizabeth Wellington. I’m writing to inquire about a matter that is both entirely critical and absolutely none of my business. I have mistakenly received a bill bearing your name for a purchase of 68 tartes aux bleuets from Lefort’s Bakery in Saguenay, Quebec. I want to be sure you are to pay for and receive your order in a timely manner, but I am ashamed to admit it was not my main incentive to write—and this is where the “absolutely none of my business” part comes in—I am curious to know what a single person could do with 68 blueberry pies. I’ve had good pie in my lifetime, but I cannot fathom eating nearly 70 of them myself. That was the other thing that intrigued me: why 68? Why not round it up to an even 70? Are you on a budget? Where would one store this much pie?
I have far too much time on my hands. I am a twenty-three-year old English literature graduate, and I have recently returned to the small Vancouver suburb where I spent my childhood. I had hoped to return to a horde of publishers looking to print my work. Instead, I was greeted by my house cat Gerald who was twelve pounds fatter, and my mother, insistent I learn a “real” skill. She likes to say that it’s never too late to get a woman in the kitchen—as you can see, my future is promising. That is, if I don’t go mad first.
I apologize for my nosiness. Please know that you are merely humouring a pathetically eager woman who could once list every work by Oscar Wilde, but whose apron-wrapped soul now wastes away in a casserole dish.
I hope to hear back from you.
June 29th, 1958
Dear Mr. Brenner,
I am going to assume by your silence that you are either:
a. Too busy consuming the monumental number of pies you purchased, or
b. Feel it unworthy of your time to respond to such a foolish girl.
Out of respect for my own sanity, I shall go with the former.
I woke up this morning with salt encrusting the corners of my lips, and that’s usually how I know summer has arrived. When I was a little girl, my mother allowed my brother and I to venture down to Kitsilano Beach to search for seashells in the evenings. She would allow an extra slice of rhubarb cake to the child bearing the most impressive seashell. It was always me, until I turned twelve, and she told me that boys wouldn’t care for a girl with the eating habits of a starving wolf.
Sometimes I still feel like that—a starving wolf, that is. And not for rhubarb cake anymore. It feels as though there’s so much to know and so little space in my brain to know it all, to absorb it. Do you ever feel that way, Mr. Brenner?
I’ve been thinking a lot about your pie predicament, and since I have yet to hear back, I have drawn what I consider to be a very solid conclusion. I believe that you are a young man who spent his own childhood summers with his family in the east by the St. Lawrence River. Perhaps you have your own shell story to tell? You have a large family: there are seven or so of you . . . my regards to your poor mother. You’re a family of all boys, I bet. Boys with identical upward-curve noses, sand-coloured hair, and matching red-and-white swim trunks. I imagine you spent the days part human, part fish, your fingertips wrinkled, and your skin slowly deepening like golden pastry crust. At the end of the day, you would make a stop by Lefort’s Bakery for their world-renowned tarte aux bleuets, where M. Lefort himself would package up the pie and throw in a few Linzer cookies for good measure. Once you arrived home, you would eat the pie straight from the box, the blueberry filling warm from the sun, staining your teeth a deep purple.
I imagine you grew up to be a businessman, a “mover and shaker” of sorts, the youngest CEO of some expansive, faceless corporation that you’ve managed to take under your wing. You are a bachelor with far too much expendable income, so when you received notice that Lefort’s was going under you did not hesitate to chip in in order to preserve this piece of your childhood. Perhaps exactly the price of 68 pies was all it took to bring the company out of bankruptcy, which would account for this seemingly random number.
I’m sure the city of Saguenay thanks you greatly for your benevolence.
August 5th, 1958
Dear Mr. Brenner,
I have finally conceded that I shall most likely never receive a response to these letters, but alas! I am writing yet another one. When my mother saw me with my pen and paper at the kitchen table this morning, she asked me who I could possibly be writing to. I was slightly miffed that she assumed I had so few acquaintances that I hadn’t a single person to whom I could write, but I suppose I cannot really refute it as I am here, scratching out another pitiful plea for an explanation.
I told my mother it was a boyfriend, and then felt a terrible guilt seize me when her face lit up and she said: “Oh, I’m just thrilled. You’re going to make a fine housewife.”
I believe I have figured out the true reason behind your order of 68 pies. I’d thought it was an effort to save the bakery, but now I’m sure it must be something more. You are not a bachelor, as I once believed; you have been seeing a sparkly-eyed woman with colourful trousers and a knack for crochet, and after a year, you finally decided to marry her. It couldn’t be a run-of-the-mill marriage proposal, of course. Not for her, the girl who makes the world feel just a little bit sunnier. Perhaps blueberry pie is her favourite dessert, the dessert she made you share with her on your very first outing together. Maybe you met on June the 8th, and you felt the day should be commemorated by a plethora of tart. And then, surrounded by the pastries, you knelt down on one knee and asked for her hand. A lump gathered in your throat, but you tried to swallow it away as you thought about the rest of your life with her.
She said yes, of course. Nothing says I love you like the sickly-sweet insides oozing from a pie.
I wish the very best for you and your future wife. A lifetime of happiness and sweets, and all the lovely things.
May 6th, 2018
Dear Ms. Elizabeth Wellington,
I apologize for the slight delay in response, and I hope you are well. My name is Gérard Larouche, and I am the administrative executive of Arthur Brenner Furnishing Co., supplier of all your furniture needs based out of La Malbaie, Quebec. As we are moving distribution centers, I was clearing through a few boxes of paperwork, and came across your letters. The former admin must have kept your letters out of amusement, so they have been sitting here in this office for the last 60 years.
This may be a disappointment to you (although time heals all, as they say), but I’m afraid the Arthur Brenner you wrote to does not, in fact, exist. A.B.F. Co. was established in 1938 by Ronald Arthur and Edwin Brenner, a businessman and carpenter from Montreal, respectively. From what I am told, they started the company as a small passion project, and eventually became one of the top-selling furniture companies in Eastern Canada.
As for the blueberry pie, I had to do a little bit of digging to figure that one out: after calling the former admin, and reviewing some archived orders, it appears that in order to celebrate their 20th anniversary, the company ordered pie from a bakery in Saguenay. Though the intention for the original order was for six blueberry pies to be delivered, a clerical error was made, and the number became 68 on the final bill.
I hope this finally answers any questions you may have had, and if you are in need of any furnishings, we would be happy to offer you ten percent off your first purchase.
Gérard Larouche, Arthur Brenner
249 Rue Montréal, Unité #3
La Malbaie, Québec
SABRINA FIELDING is currently studying education and French at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She is a writer for the Queen’s chapter of Her Campus and has had her short stories published in the on-campus magazine, Ultraviolet.
Copyright © 2019 by Sabrina Fielding. All rights reserved.