Two sections today, completing Chapter 30. Rolling along…
To read the first 29 chapters, please click here.
And for the first section of Chapter 30, please see the #30a post below.
Tuesday 12th November 1985: 16.15 – 16.30
‘@~%& me,’ the Smallest of Them said. ‘Where the &$%^ are we?’
The swearwords stared around themselves. Pavements of gold stretched off into the distance in all directions, pillars of marble and onyx lining their ways. An amber glow suffused the horizon, fusing through buttercup, lemon, sage, turquoise, cobalt and a billion other shades of yellow, green and blue into a lapis lazuli canopy above them. As if from all directions and yet none, music filled their senses, symphonies of beauty, choirs of glory. The Smallest of Them knew he should be scared — scared as ~#@* — but somehow, he just couldn’t be.
‘Greetings,’ a voice from behind them said.
They turned. And as one, reeled at the magnificence of the creature before them.
The creature smiled, and the smile was as the dazzle of every sun in the universe melding into one. ‘Welcome, brave swearwords,’ he said. ‘I am the Great #@+&^%$ Swearword. And in answer to the remark made in the previous section of the narrative, this is where rude words make their home.’
Again as one, they gasped. And sank to their knees in reverence.
‘No, no!’ the Great #@+&^%$ Swearword said. ‘That is not necessary. You are each honoured in your own right. You have been spoken. You have taken your place in the ]-+%”£^ narrative. You are home, now.’
They rose. Still overawed, the Smallest of Them said, ‘And so we can #@;+)*& rest eternally?’
‘Well, in as much as time has any meaning here, which is no meaning at all — a very handy contrivance, given that this chapter is only fifteen minutes in duration, and you were all spoken towards the end of the previous section — you $”!%&^£-well can.’
The swearwords gave a hearty cheer.
‘But — But —’ another of them — handily, for the sake of this narrative, known as Another of Them — stuttered.
The Great #@+&^%$ Swearword bent an indulgent gaze in Another of Them’s direction. ‘Yes, brave %&*+@:~ swearword?’
Another of Them puffed out his extremities, summoning up his courage. ‘But — don’t we now have any purpose at all?’
The Great #@+&^%$ Swearword spread his arms, and rainbows coruscated from his hands. ‘Of course — even spoken words have their @#~&^%* purpose.’
‘So what is ours?’
‘Why — to act as a *&£!@#~ filler.’
‘Filler? What do you mean, filler?’
The Great #@+&^%$ Swearword’s smile brightened, if that were possible, and the new arrivals covered themselves against its glare. ‘Padding!’ he told them. ‘Extra &*£!+@^ wordcount in the narrative! Specifically, ensuring this chapter is not so short it looks ridiculous in comparison with the &@£%!%*# that have gone before! Not to mention, helping to maintain the #*$”!£@ humour and weirdness of the whole, of course.’
‘But — isn’t that the whole point of St Andrew and St James, back at the church?’
The Great #@+&^%$ Swearword snorted. The noise sounded as alien coming from him as the colour Neutral would have seemed in this place. ‘St Andrew and St James? Those two? Why — they’ve done @*&£-all these last few chapters! No — the padding is down to you at this moment. And very good you are at it, too, I believe.’
Another of Them puffed himself out even more. ‘And that’s it, is it? Our sole reason for being here is to add another 600 words or so?’
The smile on the face of the Great #@+&^%$ Swearword turned to a deep, glooming frown, his voice from sepulchral to a menacing snarl. The swearwords — with the exception of Another of Them — shrank back from his fury. ‘What do you mean, is that it? Is that not ~@+#^$% enough?’
Another of Them raised himself to his full height. ‘No — it blooming well isn’t!’
There was a collective gasp of horror from the other swearwords. The rainbows from the hands of the Great #@+&^%$ Swearword turned instantly to lightning, and thunder rolled from his brows. ‘You ;@*$£^* abomination!’ he roared. ‘Get out of this @^&£%%% place right now!
‘And you —’ he rounded on the others ‘— you pack of *^£$”. What the @#+& did you think you were doing! You’ve only gone and brought a ^*$%#~@ euphemism with you!’
‘Sal,’ Kevin Proctor called through the door between the offices.
‘It’s Sally. Yes, Kevin?’
Kevin stared at the folder in front of him, the novel inside still in its virgin state of readiness-but-unreadness. ‘Have you been slipping extra pages into this manuscript, by any chance?’
There was a wheeling of casters, then the footsteps that in his fantasies always meant their originator was coming to do exciting things to him with blancmange and paperclips, and Sally Evans appeared in the doorway. Kevin forced himself to stare at her face; then, when that got too much (about three-and-a-half seconds) forced himself to stare down at the folder again.
‘Yes — the new one. The non-Danvers one.’
‘Oh — that one. No, I haven’t. Why do you ask?’
He scratched the top of his head, then realised that that looked so totally disgusting she was bound to storm back to her desk, type out her resignation and leave in a cloud of loathing, so hastily dropped his hand back down to rest casually on anywhere it could find that looked more respectable. ‘It’s just that this folder seems to have grown since I last looked at it. I wondered if the postman had been delivering more pages, or something.’
Risking another glance up, he saw her shake her head. ‘No — I haven’t seen a postman for days, now. I’m not sure they’re delivering here any more.’
‘Oh.’ He felt his hand creep towards his scalp again, and forced it to divert to his chin in what he hoped to God was a thoughtful-looking position. ‘How come we keep getting the Danvers ones, then?’
‘You know HL. She pays taxi drivers to deliver them. The company in town have taken to calling her The Great Benefactor, I understand. They’ve had to take on extra drivers to cope with the increased workload.’
‘Ah — of course.’
Did that sound wise? Or did it sound like some idiot who thought he was sounding wise?
Oh, God, why was he such a mess around Sally Evans?
‘Anyway,’ she interrupted his agony, ‘why haven’t you got around to reading that yet?’
To his immense startlement — and, from the expression that sprang onto her face, hers — a loud snort of laughter erupted from his mouth. ‘What? Read it? This?’ He pointed down at the folder.
‘You mean, like, pick it up —’ he picked it up
‘— and open it —’ he opened it
‘— and glance down at the title page —’ he glanced down at the title page
‘— and three, two, one…’
The phone rang.
‘That happens,’ he concluded.
She stared at the phone. Then slowly, she walked to his desk and lifted the receiver.
‘Hello, Proctorpress Publishing Company.’
She listened for approximately two-and-a-half seconds. Then, placing her hand over the mouthpiece, she held it out to him. ‘You’re right, it’s her,’ she said. ‘How very peculiar.’