The following are excerpts from an actual e-mail correspondence I recently engaged in. Only the name of my wife has been changed:

Gene Weingarten, I have an urgent and confidential business proposal to make you. I was an oil consultant based in the United Kingdom and I was able to amass a fortune worth about USD18 million. On 22nd December, I and my whole family was involved in a very bad accident. I lost my entire family and I myself fell into a coma. I eventually recovered and was discharged two weeks ago . . . I am currently living on the charity of the church. Can I count on your help? If you agree to help me, I will send you by courier the electronic card key of my vault so that you can travel to London and open my vault. For your help you will keep 25 percent of the money. William Beni

Dear Mr. Beni: I do not understand. Why do you need me? I am just an ordinary guy. I have never even been to England. My wife, Clarabelle, never lets me go anywhere because she thinks I will cheat on her. Gene Weingarten

Dear Gene Weingarten: Thank you for your response. I want to assure you there is no risk whatsoever in this transaction. If you cannot travel to London, we can arrange with a shipping company to ship it to your address. But I fear I do not know how much it will cost to ship it. So I prefer you to travel. Looking forward to your reply. William

Mr. Beni, I'd like to help you, I really would. But Clarabelle is the problem. The leash she's got me on is shorter than the antenna of a pygmy ant. She won't be traveling with me on account of a carbuncle on her foot. It's the size of a lemon. Do you think you could send her an assurance that you are not a woman and that I am not going to be doing anything funny with you, if you know what I mean? I am enclosing her e-mail address. She's a real piece of work, so be careful.

Dear Mr. Gene: Regarding your wife's issue, we are not going to meet, you are traveling to London to retrieve my money on my behalf which you have to send some money for me after retrieval so that I can come over to your Country for a better medication. With this arrangement, you both will meet me face to face at same time, clearing the doubt that I may be a woman.

Dear Mr. Beni: It doesn't matter what you tell me. Please e-mail her and just convince her that you are a guy. She thinks you are a woman. If I died and went to Heaven, she'd think God was a girl and we were doing the dirty on the clouds. Just be real sweet-like, and compliment her. She likes compliments on account of she never gets them because of her personality. Will I have to invest anything? I don't have a HUGE amount of money, just about $15,000 from an investment in an ocelot farm that worked out.

Dear Clarabelle: Here [at left, bars added] is a picture of me and that of my family and I wish this will be enough proof that I am a male.

Dear Mr. Beni: You look like nice people, but that could be a picture of anyone. Believe me, you don't know my husband. All he wants to do is get out of the house and into someone's size sevens, if you see what I am saying. Sincerely, Clarabelle Weingarten

My dear Clarabelle, I thought by sending my family pictures will convince you bearing in mind that all the people in that picture except me are dead. I look forward to meeting you some day after successful completion of the transaction and you must appologise to me hundred times for calling me a woman. All my regards, William

Dear William: Now you've done it. First, you asked Clarabelle to apologize for something. This woman wouldn't apologize if she put a fishhook in your eyeball. Then you went and suggested that calling someone a woman is an insult. Right now she is more steamed than the whole fish entree at Hong Fat's. She says I can't go, period. The only way we're going ahead with this thing, she says, is if you mail her 2,500USD. Sorry. But she's all I got, and believe me, a guy with a can the size of mine has to take what he can get. Gene Weingarten.

Days later, this arrived:

Gene Weingarten, I have an urgent and confidential business proposal to make you. I was an oil consultant . . .

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.