Lost For Words

We had a really terrible day at work today. The very first thing, as I was hoovering around the offices, was great excitement over an email that came in overnight.

“It’s Stephen King!” Mr X, the boss, literally danced around the office. “He wants us to build the entire infrastructure for his next novel. This could totally put us on the literary map. We can have a whole new marketing campaign. Wordsmyths, book fabricators to the stars.”

I got nosy and read the email.

“Mr X… it says Steven with a V and Kinge with an E.”

“It’s just a typo. Get on with the hoovering.”

“But it says it’s for a parody novel to be called The Gleaming.”

Mr X read the email more carefully, which certainly took the shine off the morning.

“Dammit,” Mr X shouted. “That’s the fourth one this week. A serious outbreak of plagiarists. Right check the spam-traps, stop the devils from emailing us, man the barricades and batten down the hatches.”

It’s a busy job, cleaning up after a bunch of mythical plot engineers, who probably believe that the rubbish gets put out by magic and fairies sweep the floors. Not that I’m knocking it – I’ve had stranger cleaning gigs and the pay is decent, something about problems with staff retention.

I got on with my hoovering and then went to do the rounds, emptying the bins, only to find that the company resource manager had muddled up the store room and the stock room.

“I must be having an off-day,” he said to me, just staring at the tangled mess. Really he should have just taken the day off.

The store room is where they keep the stock lines, stock ideas, stock phrases and stockinged feet. According to Mr X, that latter item was an ordering error, but we keep them in the hope of a Sherlock Holmes revival when the game is a foot.

However, the stock from the store room was now muddled with the twists, holes and ever increasing climaxes from the plot elements in the stock room. The whole mess was now tangled into a complete deadlock, which would have been bad enough but some clown had opened a barrel of laughs at the same time. Really, stock-phrase spillages are a menace.

Mr X took one look and told me to clean it up. “Throw it all out, lock, stock and barrel.”

I took few hours to clean up the mess because it was too big and rambling to move all in one so I had to untangle a plotless incoherent jumble that was all middle, with no beginning or end to get a hold of.

As I returned from throwing out a ring of opening hooks that were leading each other on, I passed the tensioning room and there was a blood-curdling scream. On a normal day it might have been a mild scream but there were still spilled stock phrases that I hadn’t swept up. I know Mr X has warned me about going in there. You have to pay attention because anything can happen quite suddenly, but I opened the door anyway to see if I could help.

A recently spawned plot was on the bench where Miss Y had been trying to put in a dismembered corpse at the end of the first chapter. Her assistant had been careless with a whole box of tenses making the plot explode in new directions. The walls were covered with indefinite articles, gritty particles, burst participles and past participants. Grammatical errors crawled over each other in the corners of the room, like similes on a metaphor.

A barely-formed denouement burst with a mournful pop, no longer able to sustain itself with so much narrative support taken away.

I thanked my lucky stars that the stock-phrase spillage hadn’t reached this far.

Mr X arrived, out of breath, and stared at what was left of the plot. I was more concerned about the dismembered corpse – is it a store item or stock item, and where did we get it from? Best not to ask, I think, in case it’s the last cleaner who asked where we get our corpses from.

“Dammit,” Mr X growled. “Barely any plot at all. Finish up as best you can, and put it to one side and I’ll advertise it amongst the bargain-basement literary novels.” Then he turned to me. “Right. Sweep this up carefully. Don’t want to compound the errors.”

Usually when something goes wrong like that, Mr X tells me all about it, chapter and verse, but I think the sheer number of disasters had exhausted him.

As I was taking out the debris I passed the plotting shed and noticed that someone had left the inspection hatch open on the idea incubator. Several had banded together to make an escape, leaving a detailed diagram on the wall, and a mark on the floor for where a body should go. Clearly the ideas had no idea where we keep the spare corpses.

I shouted for Mr X, who did a quick count and then sat down bone-weary and with a hint of spilled stock-phrases.

“Weeks of work,” he said grimly. “So many ideas gone all at once, even some originals, and we probably don’t have copies. We must have lost several plots.” Then he looked at me. “Have you cleaned out the nest boxes yet? Go, now, and check them over. With so many ideas on the loose there’s no telling what damage they might do. I need to issue a spoiler alert.”

I went straight to the nest boxes, each one with a nearly-developed plot maturing inside a tightly sealed binder, except for number five which was jumping and twitching. It might just have been a particularly fast-paced plot, or one packed with surprise twists, but I didn’t like the look of it. I called Mr X over, who stroked it softly, lifted it carefully to glance at the synopsis, and then laid it down with a smile on his face.

“Perfect,” he said. “We’re about to hatch a plot.”

At the end of the day, Mr X took us all out for a drink. He raised his glass and solemnly thanked us all for our hard work on a day so overwrought with disaster that no-one would ever take it seriously as a plot outline. I blame the stock-phrases spillage.

“Now, let us put all of this behind us. Tomorrow is a new chapter.” And then he drank. “Down the hatch.”

# # #

This punfest was written in response to the #BlogBattle prompt of Hatch.

(Of course, Jasper Fforde does this so much better.)

Images from Pixabay


12 thoughts on “Lost For Words”

  1. You certainly milked this month’s word for all it was worth! As confessed to before, I do like puns, but this was also fun to read because it was relatable. When the narrator referred to the hours it took to clean up the mess because it was so big and rambling, I knew just how he felt. 🙂 You also inspired me to think about how they were made into a laughing stock, and I was a little surprised there weren’t also dangling modifiers in the tensioning room. And the narrator was probably wise to consider the dismembered corpse might be the last cleaner who asked where they get their corpses. Delightful romp!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. 🙂
      Every time I re-read it, I could see more things to add but ultimately I had to decide to call it done and get it posted before the deadline crept by. I’m not sure what it is with this year, but I have been very patchy in both blogging and writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is clever, witty and tight from the title ‘Lost For Words’ to the closing ‘Down the Hatch’.
    Every trip up a writer has made on their personal journeys, every sin a publisher & editor have allowed because the writer’s genre is trending and bringing in bucks, every allowance made because the writer is ‘A Name’, they are all here.
    A place where all of facets good and bad in writing is located is an intriguing one which borders on the possible (Well, it does for me). Somehow this is how I picture a writer’s mind (Maybe we all visit there in our sleep?)
    Thanks for the visit

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are welcome – glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
      As for a writer’s mind, I did a blog piece years ago called “Head Elsewhere”, prompted by nearly putting a spade through my foot because my mind was in a story somewhere and not focused on the hole I was digging. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A very entertaining read. My favorite line was: “I need to issue a spoiler alert.” Made me chuckle.

    But, what if Steven Kinge becomes a best-selling sensation tomorrow? I bet they will feel silly. Sometimes you just have to invest in raw talent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. 🙂
      I nearly didn’t put “spoiler alert”. I’m a bit of a Dr Who fan and always hear Alex Kingston saying “Spoilers!”

      As for Steven Kinge, if I was writing this in longer form he would probably be all over the news as the most successful debut author as all the big names get into a bidding war for “The Gleaming” which is ultimately published posthumously as his fame turns viral and becomes an untreatable infection.

      But that’s just my nasty sense of humour. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bit late but one does have hatchlings to ponder as prompts come round way too swiftly. Brilliant take Mark. One only possible for a wordsmith to craft with like minded readers to see half the puns and nod sagely or break into mirth. I do wonder what might be residing in the vegetable plot. Perhaps rogue corpses or bad ideas end up in the compost bin. Good place to recycle bad ideas… or corpses.

    Of course Mr King might well have enquired under a pseudonym. Obviously wishing to make good the world build on merit rather than name… just think if Mr X in haste despaired while King ticked another house of words off his list to tempt into mega fortunes.

    Cracking read and full of yolks… not that this has anything to do with hatching and is merely a bad pun.

    Liked by 1 person

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