Don't piss me off
09: 20 PM. Joseph puts the chicken in the oven. He is nervous because Cassandra is coming over tonight and he needs to cook to impress her. He has never cooked before.
“Jane”, I say, tilting my chair back, “Did I ever mention all this is a story?”
She looks confused. “What do you mean?”
“Precisely that, really. We’re characters, you and I, and this entire thing is being invented by someone.”
She stares. I sip my drink. Tick tok, tick tok. Your move.
09: 40 PM: Sprinkles has developed an aversion to loud noises, ever since a firecracker exploded too close to him and singed his tail. The timer on the oven is set wrong and it goes off too early, causing him to flee, screeching, down the hall.
“You can’t be serious.”
“Sure I can. Watch.” I lean forward. “Jane Treacle, your existence is meaningless. You’re a figment of someone’s imagination, with neither a mind nor a–”
“What are you doing? What’s going on?”
“Me?” I raise my eyebrows. “I’m just sitting here, really, waiting for a more original reaction than denial. Is it going to change anytime soon?–”
“What is wrong with you??”
I whistle. “Relax. I can understand that being controlled by someone can be a little bit of a stressful concept at first–”
“Someone just tried to kill me. I called you for help and suddenly, you’re ranting about how someone is controlling us–”
I smile. “Uh-ah. Not us. You, Jane, just you. It’s a bit of a sore point between us actually.”
“The author and I.”
09:40:30 PM: Gabby has done two weeks grocery shopping in one trip, to avoid effort. He is now out of breath from climbing 10 floors. He is catching it back when Sparkles startles him and he jumps. One orange bounces off and escapes.
“What–how would that even work?!”
“Now that, I admit, I don’t know. Maybe the machine that governs these things fucked up. Maybe I’m the writer’s split personality that he’s trying to exorcise through writing about it.” Maybe you’re stupid enough to make a character smarter than you? “I don’t know. Don’t care, honestly.”
I laugh. “You’re still shocked. It takes a bit of getting used to. You’ll never admit it, of course. But you’ll see. Tiny things. He is an exceptionally bad writer.”
9: 42 PM: Cassandra is worried about the dress she is wearing. She is late, she knows this, but she could not find the right dress to wear that would spell sexy but not slutty. She has not done this in a long time. She tries to put on an extra whiff of perfume and fails to see the orange in her path. She slips.
“This is insane.”
“Actually, it’s pretty obvious. Your personality is practically a broken record. And the ‘incidents’! Good lord! Shootouts in Park Lane. Mysterious dead bodies… dense fog, dark shadows. It’s hilarious.”
“Some one tries to kill me and you call it hilarious–”
“Relax. You won’t die. You’re the leading lady. In fact, I think we’re meant to be falling in love right about now.”
She stiffens in anger. “You are doing such an excellent job.”
I grin. “One tries.”
04:00 PM earlier that day: Fredrick is smiling, for the first time in a long time. He is old and lonely, but his granddaughter has just come to see him. He places her gift, a plant of geraniums, out on the corridor window. There is not enough light in his apartment.
09: 41 PM:
So much so for love. She walks me to the door to make sure I leave. “I came to you for help. Why tell me all this?”
“Why not? Think about it: does the attempt on your life seem all that consuming now?”
She looks ready to kill me. For one second I am moved: she really can’t see the truth. To her this is reality and someone just emptied a gun through her window. She is scared.
I step up the stairs, closer to her. “Hey. I know it sounds crazy at first, but all this isn’t real. He’s an idiot, love. If there’s one thing he is, it’s predictable. It’ll have a happy ending, you’ll see. You’ll be alright.”
Then I turn and walk down the stairs, real Humphrey Bogart style, leaving her unconvinced.
09: 42: 05 PM: Cassandra falls against the pot of geraniums, pushing them off the window. They fall towards the curb below.
09: 42: 08 PM:
I step onto the curb.