the novelist is mad again

(The following may require some explanation. You can, of course, read the whole story here. But it might help to explain that the novelist is trying to find and defy the Scriptwriter—a strangely omnipotent sock monkey. In searching, he has joined company with a poet, the Press, a committee chairman, and an awkward silence—a strange furry creature that yarks.

After an attempt to start a mutiny—they were prisoners on a pirate ship—that ended merely with the sheep marooning the pirates, the poet sang a song that brought down a sky. This delighted the pirate captain, Jonas Sly. Captain Sly likes sailing recklessly on improbable seas.

The novelist likes living.

That may prove more difficult.)

The wave as wide as the world swept away the pirate ship Despair the way an exploding fire hydrant sweeps away a stray cigarette. The ship tumbled, rolled, sloshed, and rushed into the silent gulf before the wave, deep beneath the surface of the sea.

The novelist clung to the rigging. Or else the rigging clung to the novelist—he wasn’t sure. They seemed to be in dispute about which owned the cutlass. He was quite sure Cap’n Jonas Sly gave it to him, whatever the ropes thought.

He couldn’t have let go if he wanted to. And he didn’t want to.

At the base of the gulf, the ship turned against the onrushing wave.

“Here we go, mateys!” roared Cap’n Sly. “Up through the sky itself. Yah hoy, Yah harri hoy!”

“Mister Sly.” From his unlikely position in the crow’s nest, the committee chairman bellowed reprovingly through his bullhorn. “Spoken out of order. Orcs say yah hoy yah harri hoy, Mr. Sly. You are not an orc. You will please stand down, and if the treasurer will continue—”

“Falderal and fiddle-dee-dee, then!” Cap’n Sly threw his weight against the tiller. “It’s up we’re going, anyway!”

The ship surged up the wave, heaving and squalling. Blue chunks of sky rushed past, bobbing in the water like melting ice caps. The novelist watched the events on the deck with some unease. He shouted up at the Press above the tumult of water.

“Do you see the sheep?”

“Excellent idea!” shouted the Press. “I was just going to get forty winks myself!”

“No, the sheep!” yelled the novelist. “They’re signing a treaty with the ships rats!”

“Well, what about it? You can skip cats this evening, I won’t stop you. Might make a good story.”

“Yes, we should worry! They’re agreeing to abandon ship together!”

“Really? You’re free to skip in any weather? What if it thunders?”

“I shouldn’t wonder, either. There they go!”


The sheep abandoned ship. More specifically, with the rats on their back, they jumped off the ship onto a passing chunk of sky.

The ship crested the wave, and rode amid the spray. Cap’n Sly laughed like a king of hyenas. Up and up the wave carried the ship, toward the great, crumbling fissure in the sky.

The poet grabbed the novelist’s collar, dragged him within shouting distance. “Look, I realize this is a bad time, but I wrote that song for a reason.”

“What?” said the novelist.

“It was meant to be sung on Pillsday!”

“Oh, ah?” said the novelist. “Er, Happy Pillsday.”

“Not this Pillsday! Next Pillsday! I needed to break down the sky!”

Despite all good intentions, it’s difficult to be sympathetic with an aggrieved artist when you’re getting soaked with icy seawater while clinging to an obstinate rigging of a pirate ship that’s hurling into a falling sky. The novelist must be commended for trying.

“Well,” he said, “Cheer up, old chap.  I think some critics might agree you did!”

“There was a reason! If we broke the sky we could—”

“Very interesting!” bawled the Press. “What’s your preferred technique for skipping cats? Are you a scratch player?”

“Up and away!” roared Cap’n Sly. “Tally ho, merry go mulberry, yark yark yark!”

“Did he just yark?” asked the novelist.

“A motion has been made and seconded,” boomed the committee chairman. “All those in favor please—”

“—we could find the Scriptwriter!” the poet shrieked.

The ship sloshed over the edge of the sky, sailed gracefully through the trees and crashed into the hillside, keeling on its side with a terrible creaking and groaning.

Birds twittered in the sunlight of a summer afternoon, happy and heedless of the monstrous absurdity that had just sailed in. From where he had been pottering in his garden, the sock monkey looked at the pirate ship in  mild surprise.

“Hallo!” he said. “Pillsday already? My, time does fly, doesn’t it?”

“Say aye,” said the committee chairman.


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