Jane Fonda and the guppy syndrome

By , David Holahan is a free-lance writer.

I received another letter today from Jane Fonda. It was pretty thick, too. I also got one from Archibald Cox; you remember him - he's the distinguished gentleman Richard Nixon fired during Watergate. Ed Asner writes frequently. That's only a smattering of the famous and beautiful people whose missives compete for space in my tiny RFD mailbox.

So how are Jane, Archie, and Ed doing? Search me. I don't know them and they don't know me. If I walked up to Jane Fonda and said, ''Yo, Jane, thanks for the letters,'' she'd probably have me arrested.

About six months ago, in a spasm of guilt and generosity, I made a donation - television announcer had been very persuasive. A five-spot would save 5,000 guppies from imminent doom.

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Ever since, I have been getting letters asking me to save much larger things: like Burma, the Alps, and Western civilization. At first, I was flattered, even titillated. Golly, a letter from Jane Fonda. It read something like. . ., ''Dear David, on behalf of 5,000 squiggly little fingerlings, let me send my warmest, wettest, thanks. But there is still more work to be done. . . . '' I was impressed with her sincerity - and her typing, which was flawless. But something was funny about her John Hancock - it wouldn't smear even when I rubbed it with a moist finger.

It was a nice-enough letter, if a tad on the formal side. There wasn't any idle gossip about what she and Tom (her husband) were up to, or what her next movie would be. She didn't even recommend any exercises for me. My guppies, it appeared, weren't out of the woods yet. Another fiver was needed to keep them treading water a few days longer.

It took a few dozen letters for me to catch on. If I could save the guppies, surely I could give the New York Philharmonic a hand. One entreaty was entitled ''Save Man-Eating Leopards, Win Valuable Prizes.'' And on and on. I wanted to help, I really did, but I just didn't have the money to do it all. As it was, I had to borrow some to buy a bigger mailbox.

It's been months now, and Jane is still writing faithfully - only she's taken to addressing me as ''Devid'' for some reason. I feel awful about the whole thing.

If nothing else, I suppose I'm helping to save the US Postal Service.

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