The novelist clattered out of the high rise after the abstract poet. A car rushed past through a convenient puddle, and splashed him with a spume of icy salt slush.
Which, the novelist thought bitterly, hardly seemed sensible, as it appeared to be midsummer.
The poet stretched expansively. He’d found a greasy suit jacket somewhere, and looked remarkably small in it. ‘Ahhh! Ahaha. Do you smell that, colleague?’
The novelist sniffed. His nose, fortunately, had rebelled and stopped working. Carrying the scent of distance, time, and death in a folded umbrella did not encourage olfactory initiative. ‘No.’
The umbrella growled, and tried to thrash out of his grip.
The poet sighed sympathetically. ‘I sometimes think you have no true poetic vision, my friend. That smell, which you might call a horribly metallic burning sensation, is in fact the sweet reek of freedom and demonstrable—er, prosody. The sweet, pure air of regency! The burning of fossilized fuel!’
The novelist looked up from his struggle with the umbrella. ‘Er, don’t you mean fossil fuel?’
The poet gave him what was meant to be an withering glare, but more closely resembled the universal expression for I have accidentally swallowed forty-seven live bees, can you call a taxi? ‘No, not fossil fuel, fossilized fuel. We have moved beyond the uneducated dark ages, and have progressed as a society into going gray.’
‘Green?’ the novelist suggested.
The poet considered. ‘Well, I suppose some of them could be. But we usually say ‘going gray’ because, in popular consciousness, that’s the colour of dinosaur bones.’
The novelist reeled. The umbrella saw its moment, and bit him firmly on the shin.
The poet waved his hand lazily. ‘In fact, I wrote a poem exploring our return to fossilized fuel. I call it understudy. No capitalization, you understand.’ He cleared his throat. ‘moon wings / suffused to the surface of my sorrow /look behind you / rat face/ there’s a fat winkle where/if/you’d never know it/when they didn’t/yell/get off the road, brain.’
The novelist stopped swearing long enough to gasp, ‘Er, really, fascinating. Do you—think we could postpone the recitation for another time? If we’re going to find something that’s not in the script—er—’
‘Oh, that’s all of it.’ The poet grinned. ‘Brevity is the soul, eh what?’
‘Wit?’ the novelist hazarded.
‘What about it?’ The poet rubbed his hands together. ‘Now, as I said once before, we are revolting against our sock monkey Scriptwriter.’
Here, at least, the novelist felt on safe ground. Which was a somewhat frightening thought. ‘Yes, quite. We’re trying to find something that’s not in the script, and, er, make it take over the story, are we?’ He cuffed the umbrella. It yipped with indignation.
‘Yes, I think so.’ The poet looked around absently. ‘The problem is, it’s Pillsday again. Again. So the likelihood of anything happening isn’t very likely.’
Before the novelist could reply, they were accosted by the Press. ‘Hallo! You’re a novelist aren’t you?’
‘I try to be, most days.’
‘Can you give a statement about it being Pillsday?’ the Press demanded. He was small, in a rumpled brown suit, and shockingly rumbled hair frizzing out from under his hat. ‘Like, what do you have to say? Is it Pillsday?;
‘Er, is it?’ the novelist said.
The Press scribbled manically in his notebook. ‘Really? What makes you think that? Do you approve of the Scriptwriter’s new embassy?’
‘Er—’ The novelist looked about desperately. The poet was pretending to be part of a mailbox. The umbrella had fallen asleep. ‘Er—what is Pillsday?’
The Press pushed his glasses up his nose, gawped. ‘You don’t know what Pillsday is? Are you mad?’
The novelist hesitated. He had a horrible feeling that things could get no worse, and a worse feeling that he was wrong. And then he made one of the most defining decisions of his career.
‘I might be,’ he said. ‘I fact, I’d say perhaps I am.’