The Old Boys Club

Dear Jonathan,

I am pleased to inform you that your application to Pickman College has been accepted, following a rigorous review by our selection committee.

Dear Jonathan,

I am pleased to inform you that your application to Pickman College has been accepted, following a rigorous review by our selection committee. I have every expectation that you will excel at our school. I am sure your family is very proud of you.

An information package will be mailed to you in the coming weeks, which should answer most, if not all, of your questions concerning life at the College, our curriculum, and other matters.

Many influential men in business, government, and academia spent their formative years at Pickman College; you will be in distinguished company. I look forward to meeting you in September.

Sincerely,

Edwin J. Marsh
Headmaster

illustration by Paul Jackson

FROM: Headmaster@pickman.on.ca
TO: judie.lichtmann@fergusonmassey.com
DATE: Sept 15 2010 11:23
SUBJ: Your recent email

Dear Ms. Lichtmann,

Thank you for your recent email. It is a pleasure dealing with parents who care so much about the well-being of their children.

Jonathan is adjusting as well to life at Pickman as can be expected for a young man who has never been away from home before. He has been in no trouble to speak of, so there is no need to worry on that account.

We are well aware of the difficulties Jonathan faced in his previous school. Unlike the beleaguered public education system, our resources are considerable. Our boys are generally a studious lot, but on the rare occasions where problem behaviours arise, we are always able to address them well before they get out of hand. By the time you see him at our Hallowe’en Festival, I am sure you will note many positive changes.

Sincerely,

Edwin Marsh

P.S. Based on the recommendation of Mr. Phipps, our physical education instructor, Jonathan will be placed in our special outdoor education program, which combines our regular academic program with an added weekend wilderness component. As a young man from a heavily urbanized environment, he will benefit immensely. There will be no extra cost to you.


FROM: Headmaster@pickman.on.ca
TO: judie.lichtmann@fergusonmassey.com
DATE: Oct 21 2010 15:43 pm
SUBJ: RE: course readings

Dear Ms. Lichtmann,

Thank you for the kind note praising the work of our instructors. I take personal pride in guiding boys like Jonathan — who were ill-served by the public system — in achieving their potential. I am confident he will be in the top third of his class by the end of the year.

In answer to your question, Pickman College goes far beyond the core curriculum as mandated by the Ministry of Education. We feel that young minds are further broadened when they explore key literary and philosophical concepts through non-traditional works. That is why our fourth-year course in Political Theory, for example, looks at the role of the state through the lenses of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Marx, as well as more recondite thinkers.

Bearing that in mind, I can assure you that The King in Yellow is a real literary work, if a lesser-known one, as are The Rending of Reality and the Livre d’Ivon, and that Jonathan will benefit greatly from having read them in addition to works by Shakespeare and modern writers and poets.

Sincerely,

Edwin Marsh


FROM: Headmaster@pickman.on.ca
TO: judie.lichtmann@fergusonmassey.com
DATE: Nov 1 2010 16:59
SUBJ: Response to your call

Dear Ms. Lichtmann,

I have just listened to your telephone message. I appreciate your candour.

First off, I assure you that the staff at Pickman College meant no disrespect to any holiday traditions, and we certainly do not force any particular religious viewpoint on our students. Since its founding in 1805 by United Empire Loyalists from the former Massachusetts colony, the College has striven to distance itself from divisive religious and political debates. For this very reason, the founding Trustees established traditions that were unique to the school, and not associated with any established faith. Those traditions have been built up by successive generations of students and teachers over the ensuing 200-plus years, to the extent that there are many elements of our celebrations that might seem odd to outsiders. If you look at schools such as Oxford, Cambridge, or even your local Upper Canada College, you will find similar strong traditions.

The Hallowe’en Festival you attended should be considered part theatrical retelling of the founding of the College, and part male bonding. No one was harmed during the production, and I believe the boys can be forgiven a few outbursts of exuberance, given how much time they spent practising their roles. Jonathan seemed to be in high spirits, as well he should, given that the role of the Altar Bearer is normally given to a second or third year student. A number of parents came up to me afterwards to compliment his wonderful performance.

You should know that the older boys are coming to accept Jonathan, despite his having been an outsider at the beginning of term. His enthusiasm for our traditions will go a long way towards building deep friendships with the other boys.

Sincerely,

Edwin Marsh


FROM: Headmaster@pickman.on.ca
TO: judie.lichtmann@fergusonmassey.com
DATE: Dec 21 2010 13:02
SUBJ: RE: Jons acting strange

Dear Ms. Lichtmann,

As always, it is a pleasure to hear from you. It is good to know that Jonathan made it home for the holidays in advance of the winter storm.

While I am happy to note that you approve of the changes in Jonathan’s dress and deportment, I feel a little explanation is in order. As mentioned in the information package that was sent to you this summer, Pickman College is a private school in the classic tradition — we emphasize physical and mental growth, as well as discipline, professionalism and a respect for tradition that can indeed come off as conformity. Our program is strict, but those who persevere often go on to achieve singular greatness in their fields. Wearing a jacket and tie, even when outside of class, has become second nature to your son.

I must also remind you that, with a student body of less than 300 living on a campus more than 50 kilometres away from any major urban centre, our college is largely a self-contained world. This home visit is Jonathan’s first time away from his adoptive community in more than three months, and you should not be surprised if he wants to spend a little time to himself for the first day or two.

I am afraid I have no answer to your question about the disappearance of the birthmark on Jonathan’s left arm. I consulted our physician, who examines every student upon admission to the College, and he has no record of there ever having been such a mark.

Best wishes for the holiday season,

Edwin Marsh


FROM: Headmaster@pickman.on.ca
TO: judie.lichtmann@fergusonmassey.com
DATE: Jan 2 2011 08:45
SUBJ: FWD: Ms L please see these pics

Ms. Lichtmann,

Thank you for notifying me of this latest development. I gave it my full attention immediately.

I care not to speculate as to why young Mr. Pirzada would claim he saw Jonathan torturing a homeless man to death in the park on New Year’s Eve. The camera phone pictures attached are impenetrably blurry and frankly could be of anything. I suggest that you weigh this outlandish claim against the observed behaviour of the mature young man your son is rapidly becoming.

I understand that Jonathan and Mr. Pirzada were once close. But, despite their having some shared minor entanglements with the law, it is clear from your son’s file that he was anything but a budding criminal. Whatever the cause of Mr. Pirzada’s accusations — I hesitate to suggest envy — they are clearly fabrications.

In closing, thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Sincerely,

Edwin Marsh


FROM: Headmaster@pickman.on.ca
TO: judie.lichtmann@fergusonmassey.com
DATE: Jan 22 2011 11:48
SUBJ: RE: The book of eibon

Dear Ms. Lichtmann,

Thank you for sharing with me your research on the Book of Eibon. I can see now where Jonathan gets his resourcefulness.

In response to your direct question, there is nothing diabolical about the literature our students read, and the Book of Eibon is most definitely not a work of witchcraft. The early 20th-century source you consulted is, unfortunately, based on a rather bad 16th-century translation by Michael Stewart of the original 14th-century French. Stewart’s translation was written at a time when anything that even remotely questioned official church doctrine was branded as heresy, and thus he left a good deal out — and I suspect he added material reflecting his prejudices. The author of your book, an obscure writer with no notable academic credentials, was therefore using shoddy source material. The College is fortunate enough to have a digitized copy of the original manuscript, and Jonathan’s instructor is fluent in Middle French.

As for your general comments about our school and its teachings, I can only reiterate what I told you when you last raised this matter. Our school’s only official doctrine is to help our pupils cast aside their veils of ignorance, and behold the true world so that they can prosper in it. In fact, several Pickman alumni who went on to prominence by way of various Ivy League universities have been quite taken by Jonathan on recent visits to the campus. They have expressed interest in helping him gain admission to these schools, and perhaps even membership in the most exclusive social clubs therein, when the time comes. You are of course welcome to withdraw your son from Pickman College at any time, but I hope you will carefully consider the impact that decision would have on Jonathan’s future opportunities.

Cordially,

Edwin Marsh

P.S. I let Jonathan know about the recent death of Mr. Pirzada. While he was saddened by his former friend’s passing, he accepted it with maturity, and said he understood how a life lived so recklessly could only end in tragedy. I spared him the details, as recounted so tastelessly by the Toronto Star. I hope the police find the wild animal soon.


FROM: Headmaster@pickman.on.ca
TO: judie.lichtmann@fergusonmassey.com
DATE: Mar 29 2011 23:20
SUBJ: [blank]

Ms. Lichtmann,

I must admit to being taken aback by the tone of your email.

First, as I have explained to you several times, Pickman College is not tied to any church, and we do not push any particular religious doctrine on our students. If we promote any viewpoint at all, it is one of encouraging curiosity about the world, and ensuring our students become what they are meant to be. This Mark Tilsley who contacted you is very likely the same man I expelled in 1987 for selling answers to the final exams. I have since visited his website and would suggest you consider what his motives might be for spreading such fanciful lies.

We have provided a supportive learning environment in which Jonathan is flourishing as never before, as you well know. That he seems different to you in appearance, mannerisms and speech is because he has lived away from home for seven months, surrounded by people from outside of his traditional peer group, and is being challenged daily to grow in new ways. I would suspect the prolonged separation from your son has cast these changes into sharp relief.

Finally, your son was most certainly not “abducted” during March Break; he elected to remain at the College. Our information package clearly states that students may undertake special directed studies in the spring and fall. You gave your consent when you signed your son’s registration forms.

I have little to say in response to your remarks about what allegedly happened during your attempt to visit the College, unannounced, on the night of February 23rd. The sky was clear and the driveway was well-lit. In that context, it is difficult to believe that you saw “a black rippling thing the size of an elephant” crouching by the main gates. Such a thing would have left enormous tracks, which would have excited a great deal of local interest.

Based on the foregoing, and the general character of our recent interactions, it would be best if we discussed matters in person. I believe there have been many misunderstandings. If, after our discussion, you still feel the same way, you may withdraw Jonathan at no penalty, and I will prepare a letter of recommendation for him.

Please let me know if this is agreeable to you.

Sincerely,

Edwin Marsh


FROM: Headmaster@pickman.on.ca
TO: judie.lichtmann@fergusonmassey.com
DATE: Apr 6 2011 10:08 am
SUBJ: RE: Thank you

Dear Ms. Lichtmann,

Thank you for the kind note. It was delightful meeting with you over lunch in our Faculty Dining Room, despite the unfortunate accident. I am happy that we were able to clear the air.

Now that we come to see eye-to-eye regarding Jonathan’s education, I am pleased to tell you more about the planned field trip this summer. As I mentioned to you, Jonathan has been selected to accompany our anthropology instructor to New England, where he will assist in retrieving and cataloguing artifacts for eventual display in our library. He will take the Second Oath while he is there, and the temple will benefit from a fresh bloodline. The College will, of course, cover all of his expenses while he is away. Please ensure that Jonathan’s passport is in order. It would be a shame if he were to miss out on an opportunity like this.

I fully expect Jonathan will surpass all of our expectations, and he will almost certainly be in good enough health to return to his studies in September.

In closing, I am passing along our college physician’s recommendation that you rest as much as possible. He said that the headaches and dizzy spells will fade quickly, and advised that you should not be alarmed about any memory loss. I trust you will be feeling better soon.

Sincerely,

Edwin Marsh

P.S. I am inclined to agree with you that Mr. Tilsley’s death was unfortunate, but not unexpected. Given the quality and content of his writings, one must wonder about his mental state, and the kind of audience he attracted. Nevertheless, the reporter exercised poor judgment in speculating how Mr. Tilsley’s “twisted and mummified” remains could have been stuffed into his twelve-inch wide chimney. I must write to the Toronto Star in protest; young minds should not be exposed to such sensationalism.

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