April Foolishness: Make Mine Cognac!

Another funny excerpt for this month of laughter -- this time from Barbara Alfaro's Mirror Talk, the award-winning memoir about a Catholic girlhood and working in theatre.  You can find more of Barbara's works on her Amazon page.

Mirror Talk
Copyright © 2010 by Barbara Alfaro

The playwright’s description of the character I played was “voluptuous and extroverted.” I weighed ninety-eight pounds and was so shy my thoughts trembled.
“I am casting you against type,” the director told me, adding, “The character you play represents man’s inhumanity to man.”
I accepted the part of “The Girl.” None of the characters in the play had a name. We – “The Girl,” “The Hero,” “The Young Woman,” “the Mother,” “Old Man I,” “Old Man II,” and intriguingly, “Woman’s Voice Under the Blanket” were, we were told, all symbols. Acting a symbol is about as easy as singing a Picasso.
After weeks of rehearsal it became depressingly clear that no one in the cast had the slightest idea of what the play was about. There was some discussion about whether it was a comedy. This was the one thing I was sure it was not. Comedy may be born in pain (recall the chap on the banana peel) but it rarely retires there. The director said something about “symbolic juxtaposition.” Finally, one of the symbols clanged. “What the hell is this play about?” demanded Old Man II. The director smiled that knowing, smug smile directors and successful orthodontists seem able to accomplish and said the play’s “meaning, it’s poetry, its symbolism cannot be explained. It cannot be verbalized.” I knew then that all was lost. I was appearing in a play that could not be verbalized. What was it? A ballet without dance?
My part consisted of walking onstage, giving a brief speech, and sitting silently onstage for the remainder of the play. The only other acting I had done was “the lead” in a children’s theatre production of Sleeping Beauty. In that production I walked onstage, pricked my finger, and played possum for an hour. There seemed a tendency on the part of directors to place me onstage and just leave me there.
The play began with “The Hero” lying in bed, studying his hands. He gave a monolog on sexuality, women, and war. “The Young Woman,” an actress who quite possibly had the best figure and the worst diction in New York, entered his bedroom. She gave a monolog on sexuality, men and war. During her speech a man and woman appeared at opposite sides of the stage and walked slowly toward each other, scattering small paper valentines as they walked. They embraced and walked offstage. “The Mother” ran onstage, screamed, and hit “The Hero.” After a long exchange between “The Hero” and “The Mother,” “Old Man I” entered off-stage right and pretended to die.
A funeral scene occurred. Six actor-mourners, wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas, walked onstage. A short exchange between “The Young Woman” and “The Mother” followed, while offstage a voice shouted in German. I was willing to buy all of this, conceding that something does not have to be understood by me to have validity. But what I found perfectly mystifying was why the six mourners, closing and tucking their umbrellas, suddenly also fell dead. Seven bodies strewn on miscellaneous spots on the stage may have had a dramatic effect on the audience. It certainly had an effect on the members of the cast who, when not worried about going up on lines, were worried about falling down over bodies.
At this point in the play, for reasons known only to the playwright – and even here I have my doubts – an actor crawled onstage, paused center stage, barked twice, and said “Make mine cognac.” He mimed downing a drink with his right paw and crawled offstage. I did not have a copy of the entire script, just the two pages that contained my scene, so I never knew if the two barks were written by the author or were added by the actor. I was afraid to ask. I cannot explain, verbalize, or dance out the effect this moment had on me. It indelibly marked my psyche. During rehearsals and performances I had to bite my lower lip and pinch my arm to keep from laughing. If the play had a long run (thankfully it did not) it is possible that I would today speak with a permanent lisp and never be able to wave my left arm. The only thing more terrible and mysterious than this moment was that immediately following it “Man’s Inhumanity to Man” entered offstage right. I stepped over several “dead” bodies, walked downstage and asked the air, “Is this the Kitty Kat CafĂ©?” I then sat at a small table, extremely downstage right, ordered a cream puff and a cup of coffee, and recited a monolog about soldiers and the Black Forest.
The play was done in the round. I was so close to the audience I could discern colognes. Had the house lights been up and the play been a comedy, I could have examined bridgework.
I had been directed to be “mechanical and puppetlike,” a sort of Machiavellian Muppet. I walked, stood, and sat in sparse, machine-like moves. On opening night, completely, I confess, out of puppet, I happened to cross my leg. Between the action and its completion, I kicked a member of the audience in the shin – hard. He was a big man and able to bear pain soundlessly. I do not know who was more startled. Bathed in embarrassment, as if in full spotlight, our eyes locked and for one mad moment I thought we were going to say hello. I carefully tucked my leg back “onstage” and considered apologizing but I was afraid this would lead to an introduction or worse, chitchat. He looked warm and conversational. [“The leg’s fine. How long have you been acting?”]. Breaking illusion seemed sacrilege enough; conversing during that break, unthinkable. He smiled and rubbed his leg. My fears of comradeship confirmed, I looked away. The incident was closed, except for his date’s rather insensitive query, “Did she hurt you, Eddie?” For Eddie and for me it had been a very real moment, possibly the only real moment in the play. I was understandably somewhat apprehensive for the remainder of the play, a soliloquy by “Woman’s Voice Under the Blanket” and a scene between “The Hero” and “Old Man II.” I could not shake a feeling of acute intimacy with Eddie.
I believe in karma and know that in the silent scheme of all things there was a reason for my appearing in this play. But it, like the meaning of the play, even now, all these years later when I am a student of the art of remembering, has yet to be revealed to me. In the meantime, Eddie, if you are reading this, and we should ever meet for an after-theater drink, make mine cognac.

April Foolishness: Stephen Osbourne

Today's bit of foolishness comes from author Stephen Osbourne whose new novel, Rat Bastard, promises good fun in the gay romance department.  You can find it at Dreamspinner Press.  Here's an excerpt.
By five o’clock, I was putting the last key into the last guest’s hand, and Jake sauntered up. “How are we doing?”
“We,” I said, “are doing pretty good, both yours truly and the inn. Every guest has paid and been scooted into their room, and as soon as your uncle gets down here to relieve me, I’m off to have one heck of a night. All in all, a really good Friday.”
“It’s Saturday, you doofus.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“It is.”
There was a calendar on the desk, which I consulted. I didn’t like what it told me. “It’s Saturday.”
“Kind of what I was trying to say.”
The heart became leaden. “I’m supposed to go out with the dreaded Cicely tonight.”
“I don’t want to go.” Especially as I’d just made a date with Tony. Choice: go out with a semi-insane, clingy female who you don’t even like and frankly terrifies you, or a gorgeous guy who you have high hopes for a meaningful relationship with. Not much of a choice.
“Don’t go,” Jake suggested.
Good advice. My hand started for the telephone. “I’ll call and cancel.”
“I would.”
My hand hovered over the device. If I broke the date, it would get back to my stepfather. And he would go ballistic. And he’d withhold that moolah of mine. My fingers twitched, wondering what all the hovering was about. I still hesitated. Did I have any options?
Could I possibly do both?
“You’re not phoning,” Jake noted.
“I’m thinking.”
“Don’t strain yourself.”
Was it possible to do a short date with Cicely and then have a long, enjoyable one with Tony? Maybe a short dinner with Cicely, and during said dinner come up with an excuse to cut the night short and then go see Tony. Oh, I’d make it possible. “I’d need a really good excuse,” I said aloud.
“Dead grandmother? That’s always a good one.”
“She would tell Dollings, and he’d do a quick count of the grandparents and find that they’re all alive and accounted for.”
“Tell her you’ve fallen down the stairs. You do that a lot.”
I shook my head. “She’d want to come and nurse me, kissing the bruises. No, what this excuse needs is a heavy dose of reality. The best excuses are rooted in the truth.”

Stephen Osborne lives in rural Illinois with Jadzia the Wonder Dog. In addition to writing, seeing musicals in Chicago, and losing at Monopoly, Stephen sometimes spends cold, shivery nights in haunted locations, just because he likes to.

April Foolishness: Claire Hennessy

British-born Claire Hennessy is a founding member and website editor of the Write On Mamas, a Bay area writing group of over 40 members. She is writing a humorous memoir about reuniting with her childhood sweetheart after a thirty-year-separation.  

You can find her work in two upcoming anthologies – Write On Mamas’ Mamas Write and ABOW’s (A Band of Women) Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God – Transitions. She finds time to write complete nonsense on her personal blog, Crazy California Claire.

I am delighted to be asked to participate in "April Foolishness."  I have not one, not two, but THREE essays coming out in May, in not one, but TWO anthologies. Great, I thought to myself, I can unabashedly promote myself. But then I thought … wait … she said “Foolishness.” 

Hmm, would that constitute “foolishness” and I thought “Maybe not”.

So, instead of rushing forth in a mouth-frothing frenzy of excitement about my achievements, instead of jumping up and down with enthusiasm over my upcoming authorly status (which is not advisable after you have ejected two children by natural childbirth, any more than coughing violently or sneezing unexpectedly, without taking prior precautionary measures), instead of waving the front covers of my new books in your virtual faces like an over-enthusiastic puppy shoving his wet snout in your groin area,  I would try and be restrained and just, well, foolish.

I thought I would tell some quick stories of silly jokes I have played on people over the years. 

When I worked in advertising, I used to drive the my co-workers crazy by hiding singing button badges in the ceiling and setting them to go off at random intervals. They would look at the ceiling trying to work out where the noise was coming from, a la Miss Piggy on the Muppet Show.

For some very good reason, lost to me now in my woman-of-a-certain-age-memory status, I put a slice of quiche in a plastic bag and strapped it underneath various desks to rot. You knew you were the next victim of the disgusting, fermenting mess only when you sniffed it down to the underside of your chair like a beagle sniffing drugs at airports which, by the way, happened to me crossing the border into Mexico just last year. I was terrified, thinking I was going to end up in some God-awful Mexican jail in the back of beyond being assaulted by a pot-bellied, brown-teethed, tobacco-spitting, smelly-arm-pitted drug dealer, when luckily all they found was a half-eaten sandwich.

Many moons ago, when dinosaurs first roamed the earth, back when I was in boarding school, we made ‘apple-pie beds’ for unsuspecting victims friends (if you don’t know what these are you will have to buy my memoir – hopefully coming soon – damn, there I go with more shameless self-promotion – must stop that). It got so bad that our parents had to pay for ripped sheets. We also set off fire alarms at midnight, crept up on people and burst paper bags, scaring the living daylights of them (can’t do that now as when you get to a certain age, friends would either have a heart attack or wet themselves), and dared each other to run naked along spooky corridors. On one memorable occasion when I was about 12 years old and sleeping in a dormitory of 7 other girls, I was the victim of a joke buzzing ring (you know the kind, it looked like a ring on the outside, but if you shook someone’s hand it vibrated unpleasantly on their palm) and apple-pie bed combo, with two matrons waiting impatiently for me to get into bed. One of my friends hid the ring under my pillow and the muffled buzzing sounded like the most enormous, longest-lasting fart ever blown out of a backside and I was severely punished for laughing hysterically at such an unladylike explosion.
Recently, at work, we have taken to messing with each other’s desks, moving files around, hiding mugs and pens, removing keyboards and putting laptops on top of filing cabinets. Makes for an interesting start to the day, even if no actual work gets done while we hunt down vital components.

I will leave you with an audacious publicity link to the anthology, published by my fantastic writing group, the Write On Mamas, in which I am featured not once, but TWICE, plus a quick joke or two:

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.
She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.
"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."
A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.
"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"
"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

How to Write Good
1.     -- - Avoid alliteration. Always.
--Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
--Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
--Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
--A writer must not shift your point of view.

Find Claire here:
Crazy California Claire - http://clairehennessy.blogspot.com/
Write On Mamas – www.writeonmamas.com

April Foolishess: Seed Cake by Dan Essman

Living in Willits, California, is one of my favorite poets, Dan Essman, who is a (very) funny person in his spare time.  Here's a bit of April Foolishness from Dan.   

You can find more of his work on Scribd

SEED CAKE:  A Droll Dialogue
by Dan Essman

Miss Mouse, Miss Mouse.
Yes Mr. Bear.

Miss Mouse, would you invite me for tea on Thursday?
I would love to, I would love to have you for tea on Thursday

Oh Miss Mouse, Miss Mouse, would you, if it were not too much trouble, make me one of your wonderful seed cakes? I do so love seed cake. I mean on Thursday, when I come to your house for tea...if it's not too much trouble?
Why certainly, Mr. Bear, I will make seed cake for you when you come to my house on Thursday.

Oh Miss Mouse, my dear Miss Mouse, I do love seed cake...Mr. Squirrel once bragged that his acorn biscuits were the very best confection to serve with tea and while I agree that a good acorn biscuit should not be scorned, still, squirrels are notoriously unreliable and besides...I do so love your wonderful seed cake...

Mr. Bear, you seem so forlorn, it is as if you somehow doubted that you will have your seed cake on Thursday.
My dear Miss Mouse...it is just that Thursday is so very far away and so much can happen in this world between now and then, I mean, between this moment and Thursday...do you happen by chance to possess some seed cake that I might have today?

I don't believe so...
Perhaps shoved way back on the bread shelf?

Or under your bright kitchen apron?

It's just that seed cake can be so easily be mislaid.

I'm so very sorry, Mr. Bear, but you ate all the seed cake last Thursday.
How ashamed I am, what a greedy Bear I am. 
Because I was so shamefully greedy, Miss Mouse, does that mean you won't invite me next Thursday to your house for tea and seed cake?

Why what a silly Mr. Bear you are. Don't you know that I love you truly and that you can come to my house for seed cake every day of the week except the Sabbath...
And what happens on the Sabbath my dear Miss Mouse?

Why on the Sabbath, Mr. Bear, we are to marry.
To marry! Oh my, how extraordinarily wonderful! 
Will we have seed cake at the wedding?

April Foolishness: Paul Hogan is God by Mike Heartz

A comic treat from writer, Mike Heartz, who specializes in hilarious (and touching) tales of the classroom.  Mike and his wife are both teachers, and also the proud parents of budding writers, Lucie and Gracie, shown here. 

You can find more of his funny work at Eric's Hysterics.  

Paul Hogan is God
By Mike Heartz

           “Carl, what’s wrong?”
            “Carl, what’s wrong?”
            “Carl—I know something is wrong.  I’m good at spotting when someone is sad. It’s a gift.” 
I was in the middle of a Science lesson and everyone was following along as I was reading the directions to our “Camouflage” experiment. Everyone except Carl. He was sitting under his desk repeatedly drumming his head against one of his steel desk legs. My deft powers of intuition led me to believe that all was not copacetic in “Carl Land”.
            “I don’t wanna talk.” He bellowed before slamming his cranium into the leg once more.
            “I understand. And I’m not gonna make you. But, I am trying to teach this lesson about camouflage and everybody’s trying to follow along, and every time you slam your head into the leg of the chair—it makes a pretty loud sound and they look at you. It’s a little distracting.”  I bent down to check his forehead for open wounds.  “And although I know you know about camouflage better than anyone, the others here need to learn about what it is. As you know, it’s incredibly important in nature. It’s how most animals stay alive.”
He looked at me quizzically, trying to figure out how he, Crazy Carl, had become resident expert on this concept of “camouflage” when he wasn’t even that confident in his wiping abilities. Finally he admitted, “I don’t know what that word is or anything.”
            “Sure you do. You may not be able to tell me exactly what it means, but you do it all the time.”
            “Do what?”
            “Blend in. That’s what camouflage means. Remember when you stuck your head in the snowdrift last month so you could ‘look like snow’ playing hide and seek? Well, that’s blending in.”
            “What’s ‘blend in’ mean?”
            “Who can help me here? Who knows what ‘blending in’ means? Yes Aneesha?”
            “If you don’t believe in God then that’s like blending in with the devil and if you don’t go to church and don’t believe in God, then he just skips your house.”
            “Skips your house? Like Santa?”
            “Wow. I did not know that. Good to know.”
            “And Mrs. Claus is God’s mom.”
            I sat back on my desk, baffled.  “Wait…What!? What did you just say?” 
            “It’s the truth. I know it.” 
Somehow God and Santa Claus had surreptitiously snuck their way into our Science lesson. I slid my Science Book on my desk—we wouldn’t have a need for that anymore.  “So let me get this straight. God, like Santa, will skip your house if you don’t believe in him because you’re blending in with the devil. And—if you’ve also been bad all year and don’t believe in God, then Mrs. Claus would really be mad at you because that means you don’t believe in her son and you are disrespecting her husband. Wow. Not a good idea to be a bad person who doesn’t believe in God. Vincent get that out of your mouth. Do you have any idea how dirty that thing is? Yes, Ronald?”
            “So blending in means you be with the devil?”
            “No. Blending in means you try to look like your environment. Like you’re trying to hide. Lions are light brown. They blend in with the tall grasses on the African plains. Frogs are green. They blend in near ponds. Polar bears are white because they live on the ice and snow.  Animals do this to hide from other animals or to hide themselves. Now why would they want to hide? Yes Willy?”
            “They hide from other animals because they’re scared of them.”
            “No!!...Actually maybe—probably yes!....But not what I’m looking for! Yes Antonio?”
            “They hide so they can sneak up on them and eat ‘em!”
            “Yes! A leopard or a lion can be on you faster than you can blink. They can cover the length of this classroom in the time it takes you to hiccup! You don’t have a chance on the African Plain people! These aren’t domesticated zoo lions! If they see you and their hungry—they’re gonna eat you. A lion can puncture your skull with its bite like you can crush a weakly packed snowball in your tiny hands! 
A leopard will just shred you to pieces with its claws—like an angry chainsaw. They’re like very powerful tiny knives. You’ll bleed to death of course as he’s gnawing on your leg.  After you bleed out and he’s had his full right then—he’ll drag you up on a high tree branch and place you in a secure nook to save the rest of you for breakfast.” There were a lot of scared looks, but most were on the edge of their seats. Now was time for the disclaimer. You always had to add the disclaimer.
            “Now remember—there are no leopards in our state, our country or even on our continent. You have nothing to worry about. You will not be taken by a leopard. But—that is what they do in their environment. Remember the only rule of nature!”
            As one, they screamed back, “There are no rules!!”
            “That’s right! If I’m bigger than you and quicker than you—and I’m hungry—I’m gonna catch you, kill you and eat you. I’m not trying to be mean or am mad at you. It’s just the way it works. And I won’t say sorry or thank you. That’s nature. And if you’re bigger than me—then I’ll sure be making certain that I try to blend in everywhere I go because I don’t want you eating me! Yes Aneesha?”
            “Are there any in our city?”
            “No. Remember I just said there are not any lions in our state or country or even on our continent?”
            “I know. But you didn’t say nothing about our city.”
            “Well, I thought if I said that there weren’t any in our state, country, continent that you would get—forget it. No. You will never be eaten by a lion.” 
Just as I predicted Willy sent his hand high. I knew where he was going. “And no Willy—we will not be ‘blowed up’ by a meteor. I never said that. I said it was remotely possible.  I certainly didn’t mean to keep you up for three nights. Your mother’s note was pretty harsh. It was just a video with outstanding animation.”  Willy’s horrifying meteor shower nightmares notwithstanding, but he just wouldn’t let it go. He was always bringing it up.
            “No.  I wasn’t going to ask that…Does God or Santa control the animals?”
            “Control the animals? What do you mean?”
            “Well…who talks to the animals to let them know stuff—just God? And who do they talk to when they want to tell us something? Are all animals able to talk or just some of them?”
            “Well…it depends on what you call ‘talk’. Whales are known to use their songs for communication purposes and monkeys certainly do vocally in the jungle.  Even when dogs are barking at each other, they could certainly be exchanging some thoughts—it certainly looks like they’re screaming at each other sometimes. ”
            “No…I mean in “Rudolph” the reindeer were all talking and being mean to Rudolph because of his nose. They were talking like people.”
            “Well that was a cartoon. Animals don’t really “speak” how we speak. They don’t “speak” English. But they do communicate with each other.”
            “I think God talks to animals with his hands. He don’t even use words. Just points at them and they do what he wants. I saw it.”
            “What are you talking about Willy? Where did you see it?”
            “I saw him get out of his car and point at a big cow and the animal moved so he could keep going. It was God. He had a different kinda hat on but he had blonde hair and I think he was really tan. Musta been summer cause he was wearing different clothes than in the pictures at church. He was only wearing a vest.”
            “Willy—did the guy have an accent?”
            “No…I don’t know…They didn’t show if he peed himself or not. I don’t know.”
            “No…I said ‘accent’ not ‘accident’. Did he speak with an accent? Like he doesn’t sound like us?”
            “Yes.  It’s just the way God sounds I guess.  I could understand most of it so I know I’ll be able to understand God.”
            “Was there always a lot of crocodiles around? A lady who kept getting herself in trouble?”
            “Yeah…you saw it too?”
            “You were watching “Crocodile Dundee” weren’t you?”
            “Yeah...that’s it. God killed a crocodile to save that girl. It was a miracle he was there.”
            “Well…I hate to break it to you Willy—Paul Hogan is not God. And I think you mean he looked like Jesus right?”
            “Who’s that?”
            “Jesus? Or Paul Hogan?”
            “Not the Jesus.”
            “The actor in the movie who did that animal trick. Paul Hogan is his name—he’s Australian, and he is not Jesus or God.”
            “I don’t know. He coulda been.”
“Did you see the third movie—when he comes to L.A.?  He’s no god Willy. He’s no God.”


April Foolishness: Attila the Bun and the lost paradigm by Samantha Memi

Samantha Memi offers this little literary tidbit for our month of April Foolishness.  Find more of Samantha's writing in her witty flash fiction book, Kate Moss & Other Heroines.

The piece below originally appeared in Every Day Fiction.

Attila the Bun and the lost paradigm  

by Samantha Memi

I had a meeting with the editor of a well-known magazine. She said, —I think your paradigm got stuck up your monomyth.
—Oh dear. Is that bad?
—Bad? You want to be a writer, don’t you?
—Well, I did. I’m not so sure now. I mean, if my paradigm got stuck up my monomyth, maybe I should find another career.
—Look, you write well. I mean for an amateur your writing is quite good. But…
I knew there would be a but.
—Let’s look at what you’ve written. You’ve got a cheese and tomato sandwich who wants to fuck a sausage roll. She looked at me over the top of her glasses. —Right?
—Where’s your hook?
—What hook?
—Your hook? A mechanism to catch the reader.
—I haven’t got a hook.
She offered me a cigarette. I refused. She lit hers. Smoke came out of her nose. I thought, Dragon lady, that’s a good story, She came in the night, breathing fire.
—You must have a hook. It's imperative. What about your plot point?
—Plot point?
—You don’t know what a plot-point is?
—Um … no.
—You don’t know much about writing, do you.
I agreed I didn’t.
—Is the sausage roll vegetarian?
—Um… I'm not sure.
—If your sausage roll isn’t vegetarian what’s the attraction for the sandwich?
She leant over her desk.
—No self-respecting cheese and tomato sandwich is going to want to fuck a sausage roll full of meat.
She blew a puff of smoke in my face and leant back in her chair. I had to admit I hadn’t thought of that. She smirked.
—You have to define your characters. If you were a cheese and tomato sandwich would you fancy a sausage roll, or would you lust after another sandwich?
That was a conundrum I hadn’t envisaged when I came for the meeting,
—You have to know your characters. What kind of cheese is it? Are they cherry tomatoes or plum tomatoes? Organic wholemeal or sliced white?
This was getting more complicated by the minute. So many decisions.
She brought out a huge hardback book, the size of a small house, and let it fall onto her desk where it shook the room so badly I wobbled on my chair.
—This is your seven point paradigm.
—My what?
—You must have a paradigm and it must have seven points. Now, who’s your main character?
—Attila the Bun.
—Attila the Bun.
—Where does he come into it?
—At the end when Claude the sandwich is fucking Harold the sausage roll, Attila the Bun attacks and chops everyone to bits.
What’s the point of that?
—I mean, does this Attila represent the greed of corporate institutions trying to crush the common man.
Why did she keep asking difficult questions? I looked out the window at the sun shiny day. Wouldn’t I rather be home with my daughter showing her how to make cup cakes. Ms. Paradigm caught my disinterest, and squinted
—Have you layered your plot?
—What with?
—What are they?
She looked at me as if I were a smudge on her desk and I needed to be wiped off.
She took a deep breath. —Take this book. Read it and learn about writing.
I staggered down the stairs and into the street. The book was so heavy I had to get a taxi home. On the way I wondered whether Attila should have white icing or pink. I didn’t like sticky buns. Was my prejudice against cheap cakes corrupting my fiction? Was I biased in my writing? I wanted to be fair to all my characters. I decided to show Attila’s good side by making him the adoptive parent of a Danish pastry.

Once home I eagerly levered open the massive tome and marvelled at all the diagrams showing plot points and turning points and arcs. I wondered if the people who wrote this had written any stories, but apparently they hadn’t. Such a pity. I’m sure any stories they wrote would be the most paradigmed, monomythed, plot-pointed stories ever written.
I tried to read the first paragraph but I couldn’t understand a word of it. I realised I’d have to buy a dictionary. This writing game was going to be a lot more difficult than I’d envisaged. If I couldn’t read a book about how to write how could I learn to write.

I returned the book to its owner. —I can’t understand it, I told her.
—What a pity, she said, —I had such hopes for you. What will you do now?
—I think I’ll go back to baking.
—That’s nice.

In honour of my literary efforts I made sausage rolls and cakes.

—Mm, yummy, said my daughter as she ate Attila the Bun. Her sticky smile was worth a thousand plot points and a million editor’s smirks.

Follow Samantha Memi on her BLOG
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