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Home: The Toast

Illustration by John Leavitt

Welcome, new members of the Cold War Reenactment Society (henceforth known as the ‘Tradesmen Benevolence Society’ or simply ‘The Society’). As Director, it warms my heart to know that so many are dedicated to upholding the tradition of honest analog espionage. No computer program or data breach could possibly compete with the authentic satisfaction that accompanies a lovingly planted bug or the elegant jab of an umbrella-tip full of ricin. It feels so good to know there is a real person opening, reading, and then resealing your mail — that there’s a real pair of eyes behind those binoculars and dark, drawn curtains. Expect no drones here, only flesh-and-blood, morally compromised people devoted to doing whatever it takes to do whatever it is we do here.

First let us deal with the practicalities. Your tweed jackets, tortoiseshell glasses, and tan trench coats are provided, but Society members are expected to provide their own heavy glass ashtrays and drinking problems. First assignments will be given after a short evaluation and bowler hat-fitting period. Secret families across town may be established upon request.

Please indicate if you are being blackmailed into spying for The Other Side via the enclosed necktie color chart. Double agents are encouraged to become triple agents. Quadruple agents will be mocked.

The Society includes three ranks of specialization. THIEF kit members will receive a crowbar, wire cutters, a black turtleneck, a ball-peen hammer, sanitary gloves, and a cassette tape cued up to to “The Girl From Ipanema.” FIGHTER kit members will receive duct tape, torn bedsheets, a lighter, five gallons of gasoline, one canvas sack, one dozen oranges, and a Walkman containing “The Other Side” by The Doors. WIZARD kit members will receive a graphing calculator, a transistor radio, a terminal connected to ARPANET, a short-sleeved dress shirt, and The Best of YES on vinyl.

Members wishing to specialize in asset acquisition and running will be given makeovers, a free fashion consultation, a weeklong improv workshop that includes a lecture from a “How to Win Friends and Influence People” guru, and a copy of “Kinsey Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” Members wishing to specialize in Administration have already been contacted at their respective Yale clubs.

For general advice on assignments, please consult the following supplementary materials: ‘So Your Gay Lover is Defecting,’ ‘Recruiting at Oxbridge: Wingtip Tips,’ ‘Advanced Redacting,’ and ‘101 Uses for a Windowless Room.’ These can all be found inside hollowed-out books titled NORWEGIAN MARITIME TAX LAW 1880-1887 located in friendly used bookstores.

In addition to our annual ‘We’re Not So Different, You And I’ meet-up with The Other Side, The Society hosts many recreational activities, including Wig Making Classes, Accent Acquisition, Honeypot Potluck, and Group Contemplation of the Grim Mathematics of Mutually Assured Destruction (21+).

Society members with small children are encouraged to get them involved by introducing the Shredded Document Jigsaw Puzzle game and re-casting ‘Hide and go Seek’ as ‘Front and Follow.’ Junior Society Members can practice their skills by observing and reporting on their friend’s parents. Remember: It’s never too early to get them used to using dead drops.

Society meetings will take place in movie theater balconies, alleyways near embassies, empty VFW halls, and when you’re least expecting it. Transcripts of previous meetings may be requested via cryptic messages in the classified section of your major daily newspaper. Please have a P.O. box under an assumed name for deliveries, or just have your oblivious spouse pick them up unknowingly.

If you need to contact the Society directly, merely flick the light in your upper-story bathroom twice or begin speaking into any public pay phone; an unmarked black van will be with you shortly. Members are advised not to use actual radio stations for communication. No one wants a repeat of the Mykonos incident.

Members are also encouraged to peruse alternate funding streams for the Society, such as goods transporting, people moving, and community narcotics outreach.

A request for a full copy of the Society Rule Book may be requested and then denied. Remember, whether you’re playing for your Crown, your Country, or your Party, it’s not about winning. It’s about making sure our off-the-books budget never decreases.

Good luck. We’re all rooting for you and/or plotting against you,

-D.

P.S.: Congratulations on successfully decoding this letter. It has been treated with a contact poison already working its way into your bloodstream. The antidote will be given at the next Society meeting.

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John Leavitt is a cartoonist, writer, director, and illustrator, His cartoons and illustrations have appeared in: The New Yorker, The Chronicle Review, The New York Press, The Common Review, The Journal Of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Narrative Magazine and elsewhere. He has worked with Molly Crabapple to produce posters for The Electronic Frontier Foundation and others.

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