The novelist fluttered back into what is popularly thought of as consciousness. He wondered why he was lying on the floor of a whimsical tea shop. A moment thereafter, sixteen ounces of iced tea splashed into his face.
The novelist spluttered. “Glowf,” he remarked. “Blug.”
The sock monkey peered down at him. “Are you all right?”
The novelist scrabbled to his feet. “Glog,” he said. “Glubbe blup—whaa?”
The sock monkey scrunched his forehead worriedly. “I must have got the dose wrong.” He quickly dashed another quart of iced tea with lemon over the novelist.
“I say!” said the novelist.
The sock monkey trotted back around the desk in satisfaction. “Good, glad to hear you say it. Now, what kind of tea were you wanting to buy?”
The novelist looked around muzzily. “This is a rather odd shop.”
“Isn’t it?” said the sock monkey cheerfully. “Always stay ahead of the competition, that’s what I say. Some day, constructing the interior of tea shops entirely with plants that repel vampires and butterflies will be very fashionable. Then I’ll redecorate.”
The novelist ducked under a swaying cluster of garlic. “Er, do you mind explaining why I was on the floor.”
“I don’t know, mate,” said the sock monkey. “You came in to buy a bit of tea, and passed away immediately thereafter.”
The novelist jumped, cracking his head sharply against a rafter. “I what?”
“Fainted. That’s why I dosed you with iced tea, wonderful stuff that is.”
“Oh,” said the novelist suddenly.
“Well, of course it is,” the sock monkey said. “When you’re out on the floor among the stinkweed, nothing revives you more than a dose of iced tea to the face.”
“No—not that,” the novelist said. “You’re the—Scriptwriter.” He laughed maniacally. “That’s why I fainted.”
The sock monkey scratched his head. “Oh, right. We had gotten as far as introductions before you passed away.”
“Why,” said the novelist, “are you the scriptwriter?”
The sock monkey pondered this, tapping his paw to his forehead. “I think,” he said, “it’s because I write scripts.”
“But—you’re a sock monkey.”
“Well, what of it? I suppose it never occurs to you that you’re a novelist.”
“It does sometimes.”
“Well, there you are! Don’t feel too badly—happens to the best of us. I should know. Sometimes,” the sock monkey tapped his nose slyly, “it occurs to me that I’m a sock monkey.”
The novelist wondered whether the conversation had gone rather off track. “Er—I say, look here. I’ve been questing for you, you know.”
“No you haven’t. I never send anyone on quests.”
“For to find you, I should say.”
“Oh? Well, congratulations. Here I am.”
“Yes, ah.” The novelist stared helplessly at the sock monkey. “Er, ah, I think I have something rather important to say in defiance.”
The sock monkey nodded. “I see. One of them high maintenance customer types. Go ahead, I can handle a bit of defiance.”
The novelist opened his mouth. Nothing came out. He shut it with a clack. Here, at last, with absurd ease, was the great end of his dismal quest. Here, at last, he could take the Scriptwriter to task for interpolating so many stereotypes.
But he couldn’t find the words. The defiance wasn’t going as planned. He wished desperately that a giant face would appear on the wall and say the words for him.
A fat, puffy face appeared on the wall behind him. “Brood of scallions!” the face bawled. “Prithee, why the stereotypes which do muddle thy addle? A boo to thy minionation of the patentry! And a squawk to thy yellow predelictions!”
The novelist shuddered, forced a lopsided grin. “Right, er—what he said, you know.”
The sock monkey put on a monocle, and inspected the scowling face mildly. “Well bless me. It must be nearly two o’clock.”