The Manchester Review
David Wheatley
The Novelist
Fiction
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Hastening between conversations in St Ives and Boston Spa just last week I found myself staring with more than usual intentness at the keyboard of my laptop computer and the suddenly-strange outlines of my particular friends, the letters of the alphabet. It was as though all power of speech and expression had deserted me, for that one moment at least. Has the letter f been important to you, down the years, I turned to the woman beside me and asked. Her response was brisk but revealing. Check back in soon for the full transcript of our conversation. As I queued in the dining car for a coffee, I glanced at my prompt-notes and learned to my amusement that I was on the wrong train, and was scheduled at that very moment to address a party of bowls players in Plymouth. I thought of Mrs Waddilove and her mobility buggy. I returned the screwdriver to my inside pocket and –
         Were you happy with the reception of your note to the milkman, I asked Mr Squishy. I would say there are several influences on my style, he told me, stroking my calves as he spoke. Of a Spring evening, I walk to the garage and purchase a copy of Angler’s Monthly, whistling to myself as I stroll back home. Encountering Melvyn Bragg in the street I pause for a chat about fly-fishing. No milk until Thursday please, I told the milkman, and hurried to the station for my train to a writing conference in. Place, name of place. The letter f, I pressed her, has it been. Under the table like that, I asked Mr Squishy, why do you. Has the dangling modifier been a source of comfort to. Why are my words doing this. To me. Clutches screwdriver, the plastic handle warm in my PALM, we’re onto capital letters now: PALM.
         What I’ve always enjoyed about being a novelist is, and still they keep coming, the stories, the bottles of milk. Perhaps now would be a good moment to open things up to the floor. Yes, the gentleman in green in the next town, who is neither with us nor watching. You, sir. I close my eyes and see (the screwdriver) a hell of stories, flowing, babbling, vanishing, a million ignorant tongues curling and uncurling at once, tongues in my hands and inside your eyes. Where I get my ideas from? For my books? How dare you, frankly. It’s none of your business, can I just (screwdriver), can I just. Palm. Screwdriver. Say.
         Press release, press release, dodecahedron, second home, the smell of a new hardback book. Are you a ticket-holder for this event, I was forced to ask Mr Squishy, before turning the screwdriver on my left hand, inserting and twisting, twisting. He thanked me for coming, looking over my shoulder for someone more interesting or important no doubt. I hunkered down in the garden to speak to a worm: it’s bright and jolly at moments like this to feel the connection with nature, to take its questions on punctuation and where I get my ideas. How dare you, I repeated with a flare of indignation and rage. Where I get my screwdrivers from. My real secret is the pathways and lanes I walk, hand in hand with myself, reminded of the pulses of joy in the seasons and my collection of jumping beans. The words go away, make them go away, now, please, please. Writing is a passion, a joy, a calling, a small turnip, a wretched and extinct Scandinavian flatfish. I follow where its Pan pipes lead me, the enchanted voyage towards better haircuts and a violent end. Let us skip and gambol there together, sneezing and intoning our anthems of gnawing hatred and indigestion as we go!