The Press stared at the novelist, and the novelist stared back at the Press.
The Press pushed his hat back. “Sorry, did you just say that?”
“Er—what? That I’m mad?”
“Yes, that’s right. Did you just say you’re mad?”
“Ah. Yes. Yes I did.” The novelist smiled, absently patting the umbrella on the snout. He jerked his hand away just in time to avoid the snapping teeth. “I’m really very mad, you might say.”
The Press took a deep breath. “Well, this is – unexpected. We don’t usually get people to admit it. I say, you’re not running for office or anything, are you?”
The novelist considered. “I don’t think so. But I might think I am.” He grinned in what he hoped was a terribly unsettling manner. “Mad, you know.”
The Press scratched the end of his nose, and scribbled furtively in his notebook. “Right. Right. Have you seen anything unusual or disturbing within the past fifteen minutes or so? You know—visions of apocalyptic nightmares, half-gnawed horrors, that sort of thing?”
“I suppose,” the novelist said thoughtfully, “that depends on if we include this meeting or not.”
The Press started writing, then glanced down at his suit. “Oh. Yeah, well, never mind about that. Um, I’d—let’s see. Can I get a statement from you about the efficacy of Pillsday?”
“That reminds me,” said the novelist, “What, exactly, is—”
“I say, look here,” said the Poet suddenly. He’d been staring at the sky as if in search of inspiration, and turned now to glare at the Press. “We really don’t have time for this. It’s already Pillsday, you know. And that means there’s not much time left for the Committee for the Preservation of the Liberation Of. You know what I mean.”
The Press gasped, tapped his teeth with his pen. “You’re with them, are you?”
“Well.” The Poet glanced at the novelist. “Not so much at present. But we’re, well, rather on our way, if you get my meaning.”
The Press gazed from one to the other with an expression of transfixed rapture, like a freelance reporter who suddenly finds himself collared by three powerful heads of state all desperate to expose the corruption of their administrations. “You don’t mind if I come with you, do you? All I happen to have going on is the Pillsday beat, and that’s only once every other year, isn’t it? But if I had a chance to to interview the Committee for the Preservation of the Liberation Of—well, I’ll be!”
“I’ll choose to ignore the chilling existential implications of that,” said the Poet gloomily. “Are any of us, really?”
“Er,” said the novelist, “Of what, exactly?”
The Poet sighed. “Let’s list that under the first question you’re not allowed to answer, shall we? Come along!”
The novelist reeled after them along the street. It was, he decided, turning out to be quite an unusual Pillsday.
Not, he admitted, that he ever remembered having a Pillsday to compare it to.