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.”
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This punfest was written in response to the #BlogBattle prompt of Hatch.
(Of course, Jasper Fforde does this so much better.)
Images from Pixabay