Treacle and Ink

May 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 4:51 pm

The phone woke me at midday today. I was deep in a dream, surfacing through layers of sleep to the insistent ringing. I reached out my hand and picked up the receiver.

“Hello?”
“Hello darling!” It was the voice of my editor, Charlie. Seems like half a lifetime since I last spoke to her.
“Oh,” I said, “hi.”
“Darling,” she said, “I’ve just seen finished copies. They’re magnificent. You should be very proud of your clever self!”
“I, um”. If a question mark could be pronounced, it would be the sound I made.
“Second novels are so hard, sweetie. And this is such a cracker. You’ve done wonderfully well!”
“Charlie,” I said, hoisting myself up in bed, “what are you talking about?”
“Your book, darling, your wonderful book! I’m putting copies on a bike to you now, and you can see for yourself!”

I didn’t question anymore. Something had happened but it didn’t seem to be imminently threatening to either my body or my mind, so I drifted back to sleep again, only to be woken when the motorbike courier arrived at my door.

Apparently, I’ve written my second novel. At least, according to Penguin I have.

http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780141885025,00.html

And in the front of the copy I’d been sent, written in a hand that looked very familiar to me, were the following lines:

“In a wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream–
Lingering in the golden gleam–
Life, what is it but a dream?”

I think it must be the final gift from Thomas and Hattie. They’ve written themselves into a book, and made a place to live in it. I hope they’re happy there – by the sound of the book, they are.

Like Dr Doom, they seem to be becoming more fictional by the moment. When I went outside to stand in the sun I noticed that the sign above the door has changed. The bookshop’s called Marsh-Ayre and Klein Books now. I think it’s mine. Although I find I have a lot of ideas for novels bubbling up inside me. More than I’ve ever had before. It’s like a dam has broken in me, and all the ideas are flowing. So if the shop’s really mine, I might leave Jacques to run it while I get on with writing. And Dorcas seems like the perfect person to run the antiques shop.

I went to see Hattie in the hospital again this afternoon. Or at least, I tried to. When I arrived at the ward I’d found her on before, she wasn’t there. I asked one of the nurses for help.
“I’m looking for a red-haired woman? Hattie Loon? She was in a coma?”
The nurse looked surprised. She laughed.
“Red-haired woman in a coma? But that’s just a story some of the nurses tell!”
I thought for a moment.
“How does the story end,” I said, “when they tell it?”
“She wakes up,” said the nurse. “The red-haired woman wakes up when her lover realises that he’s in love with her. That was all she was waiting for. And they go and live together far away. But it’s just a story.”
“Yes,” I said, “just a story. Sorry to trouble you.”

When I got back to the shop, I checked. The store-room boxes are already labelled Muse Antiques.

But, we won’t forget them, Jacques, Dorcas and I. And we won’t forget the help you gave us. I’d like to send gifts to all of you who helped so much, but I don’t think we really can, so I have a final favour to ask of all of you. Would you email me, at marshayrebooks@gmail.com (for some reason, that address still works) and nominate someone (not yourself!) who you think has really done sterling work on solving these mysteries and puzzles and deserves a prize? I’ve got a couple of little things that I’d like to send to deserving people, and you’ve all worked so collaboratively on this that I can’t possibly make this decision myself.

By the way, I know some of you are worried about the second mirror, in the British Museum. But I think we can trust them to take care of their own exhibits. I think it’s really over.

Now, the sun is shining, and Jacques and Bella and Dorcas and I are going to go for a walk. And if we happen to take with us a bag of broken black stone shards that we’ve smashed to powder with a hammer, and if we should happen to empty that bag into the river, who’s to know? We had a strange and wonderful adventure together, but now it’s over and we can just relax and enjoy the happy summer days.

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