Saturday, 17 December 2011


The newspaper article was terrible.  Janet was so upset by it that she tore the page into even one-inch squares and stirred it into her porridge, and then ate it.  Twenty minutes later she went out and bought another copy of the paper so that she could read through the article again and wonder what had ever possessed her to talk to the interviewer in the first place.
The interview had happened in a coffee-shop that dated back to the late seventeen hundreds, and she'd been quite proud of herself for finding it and picking it for the interview.  The deep wing-back chairs were easy to sink back into and come across as a mysterious and deep thinker.  The ancient tables, though sticky beyond belief, conveyed an atmosphere of intellectualism.  The coffee – well, the coffee had been plain dreadful in her opinion, but she'd not wanted to ruin the interview, so she'd drunk it and pretended to like it, while despising the poor taste of the interviewer who apparently did like it.
"Your first review," the interview had said, slurping her coffee, "was perhaps not entirely positive."
"Not positive?" Janet had had to control herself not to scream. "The reviewer was a dyslexic illiterate nitwit whose only talent lay in stringing together insults and epithets from a thesaurus, presumably a big one with pictures and bright colours!"
"Your reviewer," said the interviewer patiently after writing that down, "was none other than Lady Agnes Scaggs, author of fifteen romance novels, twelve criminal fiction novels and three novels that are... perhaps of a somewhat delicate nature.  Her review dwelt at length on what she felt were the matricidal and homicidal overtones of your novel.  How would you answer her charge that you must have a deep-seated complex and mother-issues?"
"Scaggs?  Is she the one who writes about the talking horse that solves crimes?"  Janet had been distracted by that initially, but had eventually returned to the question.  "I have no mother issues, I have no bloody mother for that matter.  The syphilitic whore abandoned me, for which I'm very grateful, at the age of six, leaving me out with the empty milk bottles while she went on a whore-tour of Canada.  I'd prefer never to be reminded of her again, but my characters wouldn't be humans without mothers, so I'm forced to confront their relationships with their own mothers.  Not all of us write about the animals we've taken as lovers, you know."
The interviewer had been silent for a while as she scribbled to get Janet's words down verbatim.  Then she'd sat back in the chair, her face disappearing in the shadows, and said,
"Your second novel was considered by many reviewers to have Clytemnestric themes, which you, slightly surprisingly, referred to as 'no bloody tea, thank-you.'  Do you still feel that that was an appropriate response?"
Janet had had to look up Clytemnestra after that review, and while being annoyed for being made to appear stupid by the reference had not forgotten it since and was delighted to be able to answer the question.
"The themes of the unheeded warnings of the future are commonplace in my work," she said.  "So yes, I do think they were relevant, but as I said at the time, and I was misquoted, it's no cup of tea to follow those themes."
"Really?  They seemed rather facile to me," said the interviewer picking up a copy of Bride of Prejudice from her bag.
"That's the calexis," said Janet smugly, having no idea what facile meant.  The interview looked puzzled, so Janet egged her on.  "Do you have any more questions?"
"Lady Agnes Scaggs also reviewed your fourth book, Coathanger Abbey, which her family famously claimed brought on her heart-attack and subsequent death.  The book was found with a marker just after the now-infamous lesbian root-vegetable orgy between the staff and in-patients of the eponymous abbey."
"Good," said Janet.
"Good.  I'm glad she's dead.  If you tell me where they buried the old bag I'll go over and dig her up and play drums with her femurs and her skull."
"How very Samuel Clements," said the interviewer.  Her face was drawn and pinched, and she slipped Bride of Prejudice and her tape recorder into her bag.  "I think that's enough questions really."  She left her card behind when she left, and Janet only now thought to find it in her own handbag and read it.
Patricia Scaggs.
"Oh bugger," said Janet.  The newspaper headline screamed at her as she stared at it: Novelist to desecrate society grave!  All of her treacherous words were there, listed, cited, and the audio-recording allegedy available online for readers to hear for themselves.  And they'd excerpted the lesbian vegetable orgy scene from her book.  It was clearly a defamation of her character, an assassination of heinous proportions.  Lady Agnes Scaggs was reaching out from beyond the grave, her wretched skeletal hand grasping Janet's throat and choking her out of this world!
"Dammit," she muttered under her breath and went out back to find the shovel.  She was pretty certain that Scaggs was probably buried in the nicer part of the churchyard.

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