The novelist sat in an armchair, clutching a mug of tea. He sneezed. He shivered. He gulped a mouthful of tea, and tried not to think about the disquieting fate of Captain Jonas T. Sly.
His colleagues sat with him, in comfortable chairs arranged in a sodden half-circle around the fireplace, seawater tricking from their clothes. They all held vast mugs of tea. The Press munched happily on a biscuit, despite the seaweed draped over his hat. The awkward silence, from a happy perch under the table, yarked quietly and woffled up crumbs.
The sock monkey settling in an armchair on the other side of the fireplace, and looked around at the assembled conspirators pleasantly. “Well, it would seem that we’re all here happily ever after, eh? Except for that pirate captain chap, but you can’t have everything.”
The novelist spewed his mouthful of tea across his comrades. He glanced around apologetically. “Er—a bit warm.”
“Yes, well.” The sock monkey smiled. “I admit I wasn’t expecting to deal with you lot until next Pillsday. That would have been better dramatic timing for pulling down the sky and confronting the Scriptwriter, I thought.”
“Drama isn’t everything,” said the poet gloomily. “Art counts.”
“Does he?” said the Press eagerly. “Where’s he live? I’ll get the story.”
The committee chairman coughed politely. Even though they were sitting in a cozy drawing room instead of in a pirate ship pitching in a terrible storm at sea, the committee chairman had refused to relinquish his bullhorn. The cough put several neighboring cannons to shame, and blew out a window.
“IT SEEMS TO ME WE HAVE NEGLECTED TO BEGIN THIS MEETING PROPERLY,” said the committee chairman. “WE SHALL BEGIN BY CALLING THE ROLL! MR. NOVELIST?”
“Here,” said the novelist wearily.
“Point that thing the other way!” the poet growled.
“No sense in calling a roll,” the Press said. “The awkward silence would just eat it. He’s eaten all the digestives.”
The sock monkey set down his tea, leaned forward with his hands on his knees. “Now—all accessorizing aside. You all are here to confront me about my role as the Scriptwriter, yes?”
“Yes,” said the novelist. “That is—I—”
“Here, I told you—”
“Present and accounted for,” said the sock monkey. “Well, if you care to present your grievances, I’m happy to—”
“—consider them. But keep in mind I need to bear in mind what the viewers want—ratings and budget, you know.”
The novelist glared at him. Now that he’d come so far through so many irrational circumstances to confront this very sock monkey, he was sure he had grievances out the ears. He just needed to remember them.
“Scriptwriter,” he said sternly. “I—that is—we—that is, those of us here and some that aren’t—”
The novelist dropped his mug, jumped to his feet. “Look, monkey—you call yourself a scriptwriter. But I’d have you know—” He stopped abruptly, and stared. “The viewers? There are viewers?”
“Oh yes,” said the sock monkey happily. “Millions I should expect.”
The novelist reeled. The cozy sitting room, for some unaccountable reason, seemed to want to learn how to turn cartwheels. It was doing well. “Millions. How many millions?”
The sock monkey shifted his his chair. “Oh, well—millions. Give or take. It’s hard to tell with millions.”
“Give or take?” the novelist demanded. “Give or take? Well, which is it? Give, or take?”
“FOR THE LAST TIME, MR. SLY?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say give,” said the sock monkey slowly. “Certainly not give. Scriptwriting isn’t always giving, you know.”
The novelist grabbed the sock monkey’s scarf, hauled him to his feet. “How many millions?”
The sock monkey scrabbled wretchedly. “No millions, really. Not quite a thousand. Well, bit less than a hundred. Er—no viewers at all, really. But there will be! The script is quite good so far, and if I can find a producer—”
“A producer!” The novelist dropped the sock monkey, towered over him. “Not only have you the audacity to write the Script of our lives, you think you can find a producer? Look at us! An agglomerate of stereo-types! Unheard of novelist? Check! Vacuous poet? Check! Story-obsessed reporter? Check! Mad pirate captain complete with hook? Check! And that’s not even getting into the Wise Old Mentor!”
“There were the baboons,” protested the sock monkey . “And anthropomorphic metaphors. I thought that was rather clever.”
“DOES ANYONE KNOW WHY CAPTAIN SLY CANNOT BE WITH US THIS EVENING?”
There is some disagreement about what happened next.