Monday, 7 November 2011

Logodisciplinarian II

Janet O'Steen, Ireland's foremost logodisciplinarian, sipped her cup of milky tea and frowned.  She set the cup down with a tinkle on its saucer and picked up her pen.  In front of her, on the ceramic-surfaced table she used for working, were two dictionaries; the latest edition and the previous edition.  She was carefully going through them, page by page, comparing the entries and highlighting the changes.  She was not happy about the words that had been omitted from the latest edition.
She circled the word celaxis in the previous edition and then carefully wrote it in in the new edition, at the foot of the page with a little asterisk marking the point at which it should have appeared.  In fact, it hadn't appeared in the previous edition either, but had been copied in by Janet when that had first come into the bookstores, and likewise had been copied from the dictionary before that as well.  She couldn't exactly remember how far back the word had been dropped from everyday use, but she was determined not to lose it from the language.  It was just too useful.
The egg time dinged in the kitchen, so she bookmarked both dictionaries and stacked them neatly on one corner of the table.  It was time to get back to writing.
She was working on the plot for her next novel, which she planned to call Sense and Sensitivity.  It was the story of twin sisters, one whose common sense was her most notable feature and the other whose exquisite appreciation for social niceties and the intricacies of etiquette made her a delight to be around and who would be invited to every party and debutante ball there was, just so that the host and hostesses could be sure that they were doing everything right.  Sadly, sister Sensitivity was acutely aware that her gifts made her more attractive than her sensible sister, and so she refused to court any romantic attention until such time as her sister found love and accepted a marriage proposal.  Sister Sensible however, perceived that she would always be seen as second best while her sister was single, and so refused to countenance any chance of romance until her sister was married off.  The net result of all this was that the two sisters were heading fast into spinsterhood, both firmly believing that they were doing what was best for the other.
The novel opened on the morning of the twins' thirty-seventh birthday to the noise of their best friend, who had been staying with them to help prepare for their birthday party, falling down the stairs and breaking her neck on the tiled floor at their foot.  Sister Sensitivity, ever alert to the social issues, pointed out that as their friend was well known to be staying with them with the expressed intent of helping out with the party, they would need to find some way of articulating the corpse, and perhaps a pliable ventriloquist, until after the party was over.  Sister Sensible thought they had just enough time to bury the body in the woods at the back of the house and hold the party, telling people that their friend had received bad news and left immediately.
"This is just like when we lost mother," said Sensitivity, clutching a perfumed handkerchief alternately to her nose and bosom.  She inhaled deeply, and fluttered her eyelids as though she were going to swoon.
"Mother floated out to sea on a homemade raft of gin bottles and lace petticoats," said Sensible, her face twisting into a frown.  "She only drowned because she couldn't remember which bottles still had gin in them."
"And we spent fourteen weeks pretending that she was just always in the bath whenever people came to visit," said Sensitivity, fluttering her eyelids more, wondering why Sensible didn't take the hint.
"She was just in the bath," said Sensible.  "At least until she went soupy.  Then we pulled the plug."
Janet paused in her writing for a moment and wondered why all her mother characters had to die as part of the story, and then found herself wondering how easily a decomposing body would go down a plughole.  Presumably the bones would need to be dealt with some other way... used to make the crib in the nursery, perhaps?  A hint that the sisters were finding their lifetime together a little hard, a suggestion of the madness that she had planned for later on?  Or was that too unsubtle?
The egg-timer dinged again and she put the novel aside and went back to the dictionaries.  She hated words being out of place.

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