Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Story Of Story - Flash Fiction

With the summer round of book fairs and literary festivals just around the corner, authors rolled up to the storehouse of stories. They checked in their plots that would keep them fermenting throughout the winter cold, executing them beside a roaring fire. In return they took possession of anecdotes and terminological exactitude, blew the dust off them and dialled their agents to inquire of the travel arrangements, itineraries and Green Room riders.

When their literary rambles and belletristic excursiveness were over for the season, they all assembled at the fabled construction and pushed on through the silo doors only to discover every last one of their story stock had disappeared. They were aghast, with their instinctive reactions of placing their professional pen-holding, or keyboard-palpating hands over either eyes, mouth or ears resulting in a series of tableaus vivant of the Three Wise Monkeys. “What, ain’t you lot ever heard of backing up your work then?” chimed in the warehouse’s custodian, who wrote the odd bit of cyberpunk in his spare time but never showed it to anybody.

“This is an utterable, bloody disaster!” expostulated a writer of the old school.  

“Swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary, or didn’t your mother teach you that bouncing you up and down on her knee?” snarked a writer of erotica. 

“I feel… bereft” sobbed a writer of romances.

“Of course you do dear” smirked the erotician.

“Just because you have no need of a plot in your- I can barely bring myself to call them - stories”.

“Ladies, ladies, come now- who’s that sniggering? I hardly think this is a situation that invites levity. We have all just lost the entire wellspring of stories-“

“All seven of them-”

“- That affects us all”.

“- Not me squire, I write anti-novels”.

“What are you doing here then?”

“My Steampunk writer pal is giving me a lift home from ‘Wilderness’ festival, but he had to stop here to load up his saddlebags”.

“They can’t just have vanished”.

“Recycling’s Tuesdays, so can’t have been carted off in a commercial waste lorry”.

“Not funny”.

“Call this dialogue? It’s bloody rubbish”

“Yes, well we’re rather lacking for stories to hang realistic characterisation on at the moment, aren’t we?”

“Magical Realism bloke, can’t you conjure up something for us here?”

“I got nothing”.

“Christian Fiction guy?”

“I do redemption endings not deus ex machina ones”.

“Pretty simple really. Someone’s nicked them. Half-inched the schemata, hitched up our storylines and had our narratives away on their toes”.

“What on earth are you talking about you ridiculous little woman?”

“Clues me dear. It’s what I deal in. Detective fiction at your service”.

“Well your books can’t be much cop. Our plots haven’t been stolen so much as devoured and consumed. We writers of Police procedurals do things properly. By the book. Anyone here pen forensic science protags?”

“Yeah I do and I see what you mean. There’s insect husks scattered all around here”.

“What are they, boll weevils?”

“I dunno mate. I’m not an entomologist, I’m a writer. I’m the geezer who emails the entomologists when I need some facts”.

“Well here’s a fact for you, boll weevils feed on cotton, not stories. Not paper. Something you’d know if you read my saga on slavery and the Deep South”.

“Oh, I remember that book. When the critic pointed out the infestation that destroyed the crop only happened long after abolition and the Civil War”. 

“Yes, well poetic licence and all that”.

“Historical Fiction, or as we call it, Anachronic-ism”

 “I think you’re all missing the point here. The custodians have a duty of care to our germs of ideas. So we should demand redress. Write a wrong, compensation for lost earnings”.

“Germs of ideas? That’s more Billy Burroughs’ territory. Words as virus”.

“Billy Burroughs? Close personal friend were you?”

“Wasn’t everybody?”

“Plot hole my fictive friend, Burroughs has been dead nigh on two decades. Can’t have been responsible for this”.

“Copycat? Plagiarist?”

“Is no one listening to me?”

“Probably not. Cos no one’s read you I know that much”.

“We should sue the Depository.

“I think you mean sue the Repository?”

“No, I mean Depository”.

“You don’t know what you mean. You don’t know what you’re talking about”.

“You’re splitting hairs”.

“No I’m being pedantic. If they meant exactly the same thing, we wouldn’t need two different words would we?”

“Oh go shove it up your sphincter”.

“He’ll require a suppository then”.

“Fellow writers and Creative Writing Fellows, we can still solve the riddle here. The husks are shed larval skins. Therefore there should be adult insects round here somewhere. We should be able to tell what they are then and what they’ve done with our stories”.

“This might be a clue! This big lump of earth in the corner here!”

“A termite mound! Yes, I’m pretty sure termites eat wood pulp, so paper would fit their diet”.

“Well where the hell does that get us?”

“Into the mound! Our words would be excreted by the insects, so if we can collect them all up, maybe we could reconstruct the plot lines”.

“What are we looking for exactly? What does termite pooh look like?”

“Termite ‘pooh’? What are you, a children’s author?”

“You don’t need to go scrabbling about on the floor. That mound is part earth, part termite faecal matter”.

“I’m an artiste darling, I’m not plunging my hand into a mound of insectile cloaca for literature or anybody”. 

“That’s not true of your last book”.

“That’s not just a mound… that is the literary Omphalos. The font of all story”.

“Who let the prose poet in here?”

“The literary Omphalos, here in Hay-On-Wye, are you sure?”

“Insects, this is all a bit Kafkaesque don’t you think?”

“Kafka’s insects were more metaphorical than literal I would have said”.


“What, insects devouring our words then shitting them back out as pellets and making a tower of them isn’t a metaphor you mean?”

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