the novelist is mad

The novelist stood in the wreckage of the tea shop. Tea bags fluttered past on the wind.

The sock monkey poked at a crushed cabinet dolefully. “Well, you know what they say?”

“Oh,” said the novelist. “Ah?”

The sock monkey sighed. “Never saw an anthropomorphized awkward silence before. Never thought I’d see one grow to the size of an elephant. Never thought I’d see one wreck the tea shop. But if there’s money in scriptwriting, I’ll rebuild one day.”

“Er,” said the novelist, “do they always say that?”

“No,” said the sock monkey. “Do you think they might? I mean, if I ended my script that way—the stricken tea shop owner setting off into the sunset to do what he always wanted to do, and to do it with heart. Might become so famous, it becomes what they all say. Like, here’s looking at you, Rosebud, eh?”

“Er,” said the novelist.

The poet wandered over from where he’d been kicking through the crushed check-out counter. “The Press is interviewing the committee chairman. We’re forgetting something here, you know.”

“Yes,” said the novelist. “That’s what they say.”

“If you want to catch a handful of teabags,” said the sock monkey, “I’ll just make a nice wee cuppa, and we can forget properly.”

The poet glared at him. “Oh, it doesn’t matter. I suspect we’re going to mope and maunder and never get on from here at all. This scene is supposed to be the climactic confrontation, and you witter on about tea!”

“I’m not feeling aggressive enough for a confrontation right now,” said the novelist. “After all, it’s been a bit of a day, hasn’t  it? I mean, with getting kidnapped by pirates and the sky falling and—”

“Oh, that’s right!” said the sock monkey. “Happy Pillsday!”

The novelist had a sensation not unlike going dramatically down while the rest of the elevator went dramatically up. “Look, what is Pillsday?”

The sock monkey and the poet stopped glaring at each other long enough to glare at him.

“Background information in the middle of a confrontation?” said the sock monkey. “What are you thinking of?”

“It’s not something we ask,” said the poet grimly. “It’s not something anyone should ever ask.”

The novelist felt suddenly confrontational. “Oh, very well then! Let me ask all the questions I was never supposed to ask! Why stereotypes? Who’s the scriptwriter? What’s Pillsday? For pity’s sake, can we get some art around here?”

The sock monkey rubbed his forehead. “Why art? We’d only get people showing up to laugh at it.”

“Why not?”

The sock monkey and the poet looked at each other, looked at the novelist.

“Er,” said the sock monkey.

“Ah,” said the poet.

The novelist laughed. “See? Oh ah. Er what. There’s nothing else to say, is there?”

“Well,” said the sock monkey carefully, “you see, the thing is, I hadn’t quite—very almost, mind you, but not quite—finished plotting the confrontation, so—”

“It doesn’t matter, does it?” demanded the poet. “I mean, not really. Things keep happening, and people witter on about stories, and giant faces appear in the sky, and you write about them and say they were your idea.”

“Don’t blame me for it,” said the sock monkey sulkily. “That part wasn’t my idea.”

The novelist took a deep breath, tried again. “Look, let’s put it this way. Does the scriptwriter write the script, or the script write the scriptwriter? Suppose it’s Pillsday. Suppose Pillsday is the day that parallel universes all blend together. So in one universe, we’re all living our lives. In the other, he’s writing about them. On Pillsday, we encounter one another and have epistemological meltdowns. Right?”

“What an excellent suggestion,” said the sock monkey. “I wish it really did happen that way, that would be fun!”

“I don’t believe in parallel universes,” said the poet. “look not to the underside of thought/but sometimes—

“Does Pillsday have anything to do with anything?” said the novelist.

“Does it matter?” said the sock monkey.

“No,” said the poet.

The novelist laughed. He didn’t understand why. Perhaps he laughed because there was nothing else to do. Perhaps he laughed because he stopped worried about making sense. Perhaps he laughed because he suddenly remembered the ending of that story about the two old Irishman and the gorilla.

Probably, it was for none of these reasons. And the novelist didn’t think about any of these things, until later when they kept him up for several nights. He just laughed.

The poet glared at him. “You’re mad.”

“A complete nutter,” said the sock monkey.

The Press rushed over. “Got a tremendous statement from the committee chairman about a possible report from the vice-chairman next month. Anyone else care to say anything?”

“Yes,” said the sock monkey. “The novelist is mad.”

The Press shut his notebook. “That ain’t news, folks.”

The novelist laughed again, loudly.

“See?” said the sock monkey.

“Would you stop that?” demanded the poet.

“Yes,” said the novelist. “In fact I’ll stop everything. I know how these stories end. Happy Pillsday, everyone. I’m going home.”


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