Update on technology or "Damn you to hell, you fucking piece of shit"

I don't ask a lot of my Palm T|X. Keep track of my calender, remember a couple of hundred addresses, run a little weight management software, don't fuck me over...

Can I express a little frustration here? I wrote a huge chunk of text, probably 5000 words, laying out the opening sequence of a WIP. It fleshed out the setting, had a bit of teaser backstory, interesting character and relationship development, a very small piece of puzzling foreshadowing and a main character who gets shot in the head to close out Chapter 1.

Can I show it to you?


Why not? Am I fussy and protective?

No. I can't show it to you anymore because its gone.

I typed it using a folding Palm keyboard with an IR link to my Palm T|X, saved to a Palm 256MB SD card. At some point over the weekend, the unit got jostled and turned on. Somehow, in the touch screen bump and grind, the Bluetooth activation screen came on. I never use Bluetooth on this thing because it sucks power like Lady GaGa.

The battery was run dry, partly from the Bluetooth being accidentally toggled on and off, and partly from having the screen on for 36 hrs.

There was enough power to let me keep typing on the flight from St. Louis to Chicago, although a battery warning light came on every two minutes toward the end. Finally, it went out completely. Sanguine fool that I am, I assumed that because my work was saved to a flash card, it wouldn't matter in the long run. I could just get it all back when I got home.

Oh, you poor deluded child. So trusting. So innocent. So very, very wrong.

I thought I was prepared. I brought along a USB-to-wall socket adapter and a USB cord for the Palm. I found an outlet in the airport and plugged it all in, only to discover that this particular cord links to the data connectors, but not to the power connectors.

Because I was on a roll and I really wanted to keep working during the layover, and on the flight back to Philly, I bought an iGo power unit to recharge the Palm. It was slow, but functional. I gave it some juice as I ate dinner in O'Hare, then turned it on.

All gone.


You heard me. All gone. The file was there, but it was 1k in size and empty. No text.

I've spent the last hour or so running all of the little data recovery tricks I know on this SD card. I'm still trying to think of some way to dig into it. I used to use Norton Utilities for this sort of thing, running disk analysis on the platters sector by sector, reading and transcribing the raw hex code to recover ghosted data.

No such option at the moment.

Oh, you little piece of junk. I use you every day for years on end and you are fine, fine, fine. I ask you to do one simple little thing, and you screw it up.

I will never trust you again.


Writing on the road

Aside from the usual difficulties that plague a writer (such as trying
to remember how to spell "plague"), additional difficulties arise when
writing on the road.

Distractions abound, for one thing. A normal person might think that
someone on a trip to attend a wedding, go on a cruise, accept an
award, testify at a parole hearing, etc. would believe the primary
function of the trip to be the wedding, cruise, banquet, hearing, etc.

However, if you are trying to sqeeze in some writing on the trip, the
nooks and crannies of time which would otherwise be carelessly idled
away become precious and jealously snatched away from the reason for
going on the trip in the first place.

At the moment, I'm sitting in O'Hare waiting out a layover. To be
honest, gentle reader, I don't really want to be talking to you. It's
not that I don't love you. I do, really! It's just that I have a bunch
of scared soldiers, a fatalistic sergeant and a lieutenant on the
verge of a nervous breakdown, all of whom I'm about to send their
deaths in a hail of machine gun fire. I'm anxious to get going on it.

Why don't I? Because I'm waiting for my PDA to recharge. It died on
the first leg of this homeward-wending trip. I'd blocked out these
flights and this layover to knock out the rest of the 8000 words I set
as a goal.

I was going to fall short of 8K anyway, but I feel like this was going
really well until the technology intervened.

How about you? Any technology related writing stories to tell? War
stories, horror stories, triumph stories?

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Follow me on Twitter: @TonyNoland

New nanofiction

Today's @Thaumatrope has one of my nanofiction pieces. If you click over on the reading sampler link, you can read other pieces I've written, long and short.

I've got a few submissions out to various nano and flash outlets at the moment. The short story submissions are on hold for a bit as I work on technique. Or maybe as I hesitate in pathetic self-doubt. One of the two.

I can't wait for novel submission time.

To be taken seriously

Question for the day: why do I resist writing funny things? More importantly, why do I feel that writing funny things would diminish me as a writer?

I got a lot of feedback from the fine folks up in Minnesota (hi guys!) about how funny they thought my Tonka football posts were. They were good sports(1) about it all.

Why am I trying to constrain my writing to serious material? Am I trying to write the great American novel? What's wrong with making it funny?

I get told rather frequently that I'm a funny guy, and have been asked to speak, write and present based on that level of humor. Am I just afraid that it will fail me if I try to turn it on like a light switch?

Maybe I should stop worrying about *trying* to be funny, and just start saying funny things, trusting in my own voice on this one. Heaven knows my other, more serious literary voices are far less compelling.

1. Good sports... football, get it?

Stopping the e.mails - upping the ante

“So what do you want me to do about it?”

The question startled me. The sheer bluntness of it gave me pause – what did I want? I wanted to get off this e.mail distribution list, certainly. Ideally, they’d be redirected to the Tony Noland who has some connection with Tonka football. I’d tried being polite, I’d tried being direct, I’d even tried bad poetry. Nothing seemed to work! I just wanted to be left alone!

Beyond that? Did I want to get nasty? Was I out for revenge?

“Uh, nothing harsh, sir. I just want the e.mails to stop. They’ve got me mixed up with some other Tony Noland, and I just want them to get it right.”

He tapped the ash from his cigarette onto the floor. It was that kind of a bar, his kind. I tried not to look down.

“You come to me just to get these e.mails to stop? Is that all?” His tone was level, as though he were inquiring about the weather. “And how shall I accomplish this? Shall I send them an e.mail? A polite telephone call? You think that perhaps a simple request from me would be more, what, effective?”

“Yes, yes, that’s it. I don’t want anyone, uh, damaged or anything. I just want…” I trailed off, not wishing to repeat myself. He might regard that as a waste of his time, and I did not want that.

“Well, Tony my little friend, I do not make simple requests. When Manuel Calabreja involves himself, he makes his presence known.” He drew, then dropped the butt onto the floor. It was only half-smoked. He made no move to step on it, though it was still smoldering. “Memorably.”

“But, I don’t want anyone… that is, I just … Mr. Calabreja, I was just hoping that a note from you might -”

“Save your breath, Noland. This matter is in my hands now. The e.mails will stop.”

I broke into a fresh sweat. “It’s just that… something too, uh, extreme, may not be called for, and I -”

“Are you questioning my judgment?” He asked the question so quietly I almost didn’t make it out. His huge, scarred hands were folded in front of him on the table. He looked the very image of quiet tranquility. All but his eyes. He regarded me through the smoky haze. He seemed to go in and out of focus as my heart pounded in my chest.

On the third try, I worked up enough spit to answer him, “N,no. No, Mr. Calabreja.”

He stood, moving smoothly. He was not a tall man, not above five feet, eight inches. The room fell silent as he leaned forward, placing his fingertips on the table as he spoke.

“I will make an example of this, little Tony. I will visit these Tonka football people, and I will stop these e.mails. Do you wonder why will I do this? Wonder why I will make an example of them?”

He straightened. “This isn’t about them. They are obviously making a simple mistake. It is you who have made the big mistake, and it is you who will be the example. You dare to come to me, to ME, with these foolish little problems?” His voice rose to a shout, spittle flying from his lips. “No, Tony Noland, you will stand as a warning to anyone else who even considers using me as a flyswatter for their petty grievances. You have unleashed el hurricano de Calabreja and you will know the full fury of it. After I finish my work in Minnesota, I will come back here and I will deal with you, you pathetic dog, and women for the next three generations will beg their husbands not to bother important men with trivial matters.”

He lit another cigarette, and said, “I do this, Tony Noland, as a public service for my brother princes of the earth, so they will not have to deal with worthless fools like you.”

He walked out. The shaft of bright sunlight from the bar door lit the murky interior with a flash. I squinted against it, then let my eyes close fully. The sweat ran down my neck. I sat, unmoving, for a long, long time.

Just because you have purple hair, that doesn't make you a non-conformist

It may have been true years ago that someone with freaky hair, piercings and visible tats was clearly a free spirit, an individual, a non-conformist.

Nowadays, don't count on it. Locked within a social structure hierarchy defined by their peers, someone who wouldn't dare be seen without their rings and studs for fear of looking ridiculous is as trapped and conformist as the man in the canonical gray flannel suit.

I say this because I just read a blog post (linkage withheld) which urged its readers to strike out, to blaze new trails within their own hearts, to become that blue-haired, dragon-tattooed non-conformist they always wanted to be.

The color of your hair is the least of your worries, friend. Freedom begins and ends within your own soul.

The potential lightness of not dying

After reading a comment by @HollyWoodward about "lightness" in writing, here is a piece that attempts it. Does it have enough weight to reflect the importance of the subject, but not so much as to be lugubrious? Enough detail to convey the scene, not so much as to get bogged down? Other Calvino elements? You tell me.


"On vacation, I went over to visit my father-in-law. He (70 years old) and his younger brother (60 years old) were outside, working on a stone retaining wall - taking the stones down, removing the sagging dirt behind, rebuilding it. In the course of dumping a wheelbarrow of the dirt, they discovered a yellowjacket nest in the front yard.

The problem was that the yellowjackets did not appreciate the invasion of privacy. Uncle G got bitten, just once, on the arm, and it almost killed him.

He was sweaty and flushed when we got there, about 30 minutes after the bite. He attributed it to the work and the heat. We went in to sit down and he took an allergy pill. Coming back from getting a glass of water, he staggered to the chair, then practically fell into it. He then told us that he had always reacted badly to bee stings.

My wife ran out to get some liquid antihistamine. Uncle G looked terrible, but was adamant that he didn't want to go to the hospital. His arm was swelling, and the bite was turning bright, bright red. Sweat was pouring off his face and his voice started to sound funny. He took off his glasses, and I asked if his vision was blurred. "Yeah... I don't feel ... feel... don't...." That was when his eyes rolled up and he went unresponsive.

My f-i-l immediately said to call 911. I did so, and handed the phone to my father-in-law. While he gave them addresses and particulars, I tried to bring Uncle G around with cold water to the neck. He was slipping into shock. He was already having trouble breathing. Once someone goes into real shock, the heartrate and respiration plummet. In short, the odds of true coma and death go way, way up.

I had him spell his name, made him tell me the make and model of his car, exhorted him as a marine to stay with me until the EMTs arrived. He was slipping away. I swept the piles of magazines, pens and other bachelor crap from a side table and elevated his feet.

That was the right thing to do. At first, he stayed glassy-eyed and disoriented, but came around with more cool water and the new position. He was in a rocking chair, which let him lean back more. He was able to speak, but his voice was getting thick and burred. He was having trouble breathing, and he started to cough.

His throat was starting to close up. Looking back on it, I would estimate that he had perhaps two minutes before he would be unable to breath at all. After that, full shock would set in.

Fortunately for him, the EMTs arrived. They asked a few questions, took some vitals and got him onto an oxygen tank. They loaded him onto a gurney, reversing the position I had had him in. He went from feet up, head down, to feel level, head up. They took him into the ambulance, parked in front of the house. However, they didn't leave right away.

I could see through the ambulance window that there was an awful lot of activity immediately after the doors closed. Lots of hands moving rapidly, equipment brought out, tubes strung, etc.

We found out later that his blood pressure had dropped to 60 over 40. The anaphylaxis and swelling was responsible. Throat closing, blood vessels pinching shut, heart fluttering - a bad, bad situation to be in for a 60 year old.

However, despite the close call, the story has a happy ending. The EMTs in the ambulance, along with the doctors in the emergency room and in the ICU, knew what they were doing. Uncle G recovered and was resting under observation by mid-day yesterday. He spent the rest of the day in the hospital, and may be coming home today.

He'll no doubt be getting a prescription for an epi-pen injector, the kind of thing that everyone with bee sting allergies should carry. I understand that each allergic reaction is worse than the last. Next time, he might have only a few minutes to react instead of half and hour.

I lay awake last night, thinking about all of this. I didn't frame it in dramatic terms while it was happening. There was no, "My God, he's dying!" moment. It was a fast sequence of things to do, tasks to accomplish, short-term (immediate-term) goals. Now, though, I realize that Uncle G came within about 10 minutes of dying.

My f-i-l was level-headed in the crisis, but he was quite pale and shaken when he left to follow the ambulance over to the hospital. After many trips to the ER with heart trouble, he is quite accustomed to riding *in* an ambulance and being treated in the ER. I don't think he has all that much experience being the one sitting and waiting while another person skirts the edge.

He is the oldest of three children. His younger sister died more than 20 years ago. I can only wonder what was going through his mind as he watched his little brother being loaded into the ambulance."

Re: Practice - Weather Policy

(Despite my efforts to get off this mailing list, I keep getting e.mails intended for someone else.

Don't make me get out the free verse, Amy. Nobody wants that.)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Tony Noland <noland.tony@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Aug 2009 06:50:17 -0400
Subject: Re: Practice - Weather Policy
To: amyb@blankblankblank.com

On 8/19/09, amyb@blankblankblank.com <amyb@blankblankblank.com; wrote:
>Tonka Football Association Announcement:
>TFA teams will practice in the rain. Please proceed to practice. Coaches
>and/or Coordinator at the field will cancel practice if lightening occurs.
>During these situations, please stay close to the area so you can pick up
>your player as quickly as possible.
>Tonka Football Program

When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning or in rain?
I don't care, 'cause as I told ya,
I don't live in Minnesota.

My son does not play on your team,
Your e.mails thoughtless start to seem.
I am not this player's father!
He skipped on practice? What a bother!

If he'd only known the team would play!
But, alas, your e.mail went astray.
He never got your note on lightning;
So sad to think... no, no, too frightening!

Not a portent from maudlin ghost,
But from a writer on the East Coast.
I live a *thousand miles* from you!
Correct your e.mails listings, do!

Amy, I'll give you one fair warning
(since I'm feeling nice this morning)
If any more e.mails you send to me
I will write MORE bad poetry!

I'll put the results up on my blog,
A cloud of words that, like a fog,
Will soothe, besot, mystify and calm.
So check it out (TonyNoland.com)!

The right tool for the job

I've been discussing writing tools on Twitter, so I'll expand on my comments here.

There's an old joke that goes, "If at first it doesn't fit, get a bigger hammer." The fact is, there are different tools for different tasks. Writing needs creativity, organization, critical thinking and cold-eyed editing. Each of these tasks are different enough that they deserve a different tool.

With that in mind, let me say that I wrote my first novel using WordPerfect. WordPerfect, for my younger readers, was quite popular back when CPUs were identified by numbers rather than names and disk drives were measured in megabytes rather than gigabytes or terabytes.

The gold standard, the Platonic ideal, the holy blessed mother of all word processors was (and remains) WordPerfect 5.1. Alas for these fallen and degraded times, those glittering, golden days of F11 to RevealCodes under DOS gave way to click, click, click under Windows 3.11. The faithful were driven out of the garden, and the way back to word processing perfection was forever blocked by a flaming sword icon.

My workplace made Word widespread, then dominant, then required. Like a pastor in a whorehouse, I was the only one to cling to the one true faith. I continued to use WordPerfect through multiple upgrades. I converted my .wpd files to .doc, and back-converted what people sent me.

Eventually, though, it was too much. Word broke my files, and too many people had no idea what a .wpd file was. The IT staff started to give me black looks, and my boss started to mutter. I closed the door on WordPerfect, and drank the Kool-Aid. The interoperability with all of my coworkers improved (except when they were using a different version of Word). I began to use Word for everything.

Except for my fiction.

My fiction didn't get sent to anyone else, it was just for my own amusement, so I could use what I liked. WordPerfect was my software of choice for my private documents and it worked wonderfully.

For a while.

I'd never done anything longer than about 8K before, so I was fine with organizing on the fly and editing on the screen. For fiction, I would copy and paste items to a blog I had and got a bit of positive feedback from folks who liked it. (the ones that didn't like it chose not to say so.) At that time, a friend challenged me to do National Novel Writing Month in 2006.

Sure, why not?

I signed up, and successfully wrote a really dreadful novel of 50K using WordPerfect 12. Flying along, running scene by scene and chapter by chapter, I wrote it partly at home, partly at work, partly on a Palm PDA with a portable keyboard. I stitched all the files together into one big document. Hurrah!

One big, slow, fat, impossible to edit document. Eventually, years later after I'd made the switch completely, I converted it to Word so as to be able to look at it from time to time. I keep thinking that I will revise it one day, but I'm starting to think it would be better to just start over with a new book and cannibalize this one for scenes.

This decision is driven partly by the difficulty in moving scenes around, and in getting some kind of an organizational sense of the layout of the story, keeping characters straight, measuring the pacing, etc. I would also get sidetracked by all of Word's formatting crap.

Nowadays, when I want to write, I use Q10, a freeware writing environment that is just text. There are some nice writing tools incorporated, like active word counts, timers, goals, etc., but mostly, it's just a place that shuts out the rest of the world.
Q10 is a simple but powerful text editor designed and built with writers in mind.

Q10 is freeware. That's right, you can download and use it at no cost.

Q10 is small, fast and keeps out of your way.

Press F1 inside Q10 to read the help card.

Q10 will clean your kitchen, walk your dog and make excellent coffee. Well, not really. But it's really good as a full-screen text editor.

Very nice for getting the words out of my head and onto the screen. As I think back on it, some of my best work on my novel was done on that portable keyboard linked to my Palm PDA. No internet, no e.mail, no solitare... nothing except the writing.

So, with Q10, I get words down in concrete form. However, I still need help in organizing it all. When does Patricia meet Kyle? Where did Mr. Topper's driver get the newspapers? Was that before or after the fight scene at the restaurant? How about the ex-pat Russian architect pretending to be a mobster - whatever happened to him after that scene in the airport?

I've been hunting around for something to help me with the organizational aspect of writing. I liked StorYBook, but it doesn't let you edit and compose in-screen. I'd like to be able to do that for files I import from Q10.

Enter what I think will work out well for me: yWriter5.
Organise your novel using a 'project'.
Add chapters to the project.
Add scenes, characters, items and locations.
Display the word count for every file in the project, along with a total.
Saves a log file every day, showing words per file and the total. (Tracks your progress)
Saves automatic backups at user-specified intervals.
Allows multiple scenes within chapters
Viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome fields for each scene.
Multiple characters per scene.
Storyboard view, a visual layout of your work.
Re-order scenes within chapters.
Drag and drop of chapters, scenes, characters, items and locations.
Automatic chapter renumbering.

All very nice. It also lets you export the whole thing as a clean .rtf file when you're done with it. With a tool like this, I might even be able to sort out that NaNo effort.

So, what tools do you use? Do you split the tasks, or do it all in one package?

It always pays to be polite

I'm back from vacation and wading through e.mails, voice mails, etc. At these times, there is a temptation to be curt, in order to blow through the stack as quickly as possible.

Here is why you shouldn't.

I got a series of someone else's e.mails by mistake. I'd responded early on with an "unsubscribe" for that list, but I kept getting them. They accumulated over the past few weeks, and today, I see that there was some time-critical information in them.

It wasn't a big deal, not like something redirected from Bill.Gates@microsoft.org (Subject: Operation Armageddon - final status update), but I could see how the intended recipient might be upset at missing the info.

I responded, explained, and suggested they get the right contact info and redirect. I got a quick response affirming, explaining and closing out the issue. A friendly back-and-forth afterwards, and that was that.

I won't get e.mails I don't want, the intended recipient will get the info they need, the sender won't be wondering why what's-his-name never responded to the e.mails. It's a win-win-win.

Could I have achieved the same result by being a jerk about it? The distance and lack of relationship would have made it easy. Sure, but this way, I feel good about myself. I made a tiny cameo appearance in someone else's life and, if they retain any thought about me at all, it will be neutral to positive. If I'd been an ass about it, they certainly would think of me, and not at all kindly.

The long and the short of it is, when given the opportunity to either contribute to civility and harmony or to detract from it, you should try to make things better. You will be a better person for it.

Sunshiny thoughts

A rather fat woman in a low-cut green top holds the leash of a fat
black lab. As it lies, resting, two blonde children, a boy and a girl,
pet the dog with enthusiasm. Soon, a crowd of kids has left their
swings and juice boxes to join in the patting.

The woman heaves herself to her feet. As she backs away, she gives
more leash to the dog, and more space to the kids. After a few
minutes, the dog also stands. The heat of the pavement has penetrated
his coat at last.

Almost as a group, the kids stand and leave, all except for the first
blone girl. She wants to hold the leash, but the fat woman shakes her
head. She stand patiently in the shade, waiting for the girl to finish
petting the dog.

The girl hugs the dog, then walks off to the shady picnic tables in
the park shelter, rejoining the other kids in the summer bible camp.
The four teachers, or perhaps mothers, call for quiet, twice. They
lead all of the children in prayers of thanks for sunshine, parents
and juice boxes. The final "amen" is in quiet unision. Then, the
eruption of shouts and calls from the six long tables of lunching
children startles the dog.

The fat woman leaves the shade of the restroom building. With her dog
thirty feet away at the end of a retractable leash, she crosses the
grass. The two of them resume their walk in the park, moving from
shade to shade, making their way farther and farther from home.

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Follow me on Twitter: @TonyNoland

The Aunt and the Sluggard, concluded


by P. G. Wodehouse

... continued ...

The stuff was on the table in the sitting-room. Rocky took up the

"Say when, Bertie."

"Stop!" barked the aunt, and he dropped it.

I caught Rocky's eye as he stooped to pick up the ruins. It was the eye
of one who sees it coming.

"Leave it there, Rockmetteller!" said Aunt Isabel; and Rocky left it

"The time has come to speak," she said. "I cannot stand idly by and see
a young man going to perdition!"

Poor old Rocky gave a sort of gurgle, a kind of sound rather like the
whisky had made running out of the decanter on to my carpet.

"Eh?" he said, blinking.

The aunt proceeded.

"The fault," she said, "was mine. I had not then seen the light. But
now my eyes are open. I see the hideous mistake I have made. I shudder
at the thought of the wrong I did you, Rockmetteller, by urging you
into contact with this wicked city."

I saw Rocky grope feebly for the table. His fingers touched it, and a
look of relief came into the poor chappie's face. I understood his

"But when I wrote you that letter, Rockmetteller, instructing you to go
to the city and live its life, I had not had the privilege of hearing
Mr. Mundy speak on the subject of New York."

"Jimmy Mundy!" I cried.

You know how it is sometimes when everything seems all mixed up and
you suddenly get a clue. When she mentioned Jimmy Mundy I began to
understand more or less what had happened. I'd seen it happen before.
I remember, back in England, the man I had before Jeeves sneaked off
to a meeting on his evening out and came back and denounced me in front
of a crowd of chappies I was giving a bit of supper to as a moral leper.

The aunt gave me a withering up and down.

"Yes; Jimmy Mundy!" she said. "I am surprised at a man of your stamp
having heard of him. There is no music, there are no drunken, dancing
men, no shameless, flaunting women at his meetings; so for you they would
have no attraction. But for others, less dead in sin, he has his message.
He has come to save New York from itself; to force it--in his picturesque
phrase--to hit the trail. It was three days ago, Rockmetteller, that I
first heard him. It was an accident that took me to his meeting. How
often in this life a mere accident may shape our whole future!

"You had been called away by that telephone message from Mr. Belasco;
so you could not take me to the Hippodrome, as we had arranged. I asked
your manservant, Jeeves, to take me there. The man has very little
intelligence. He seems to have misunderstood me. I am thankful that he
did. He took me to what I subsequently learned was Madison Square
Garden, where Mr. Mundy is holding his meetings. He escorted me to a
seat and then left me. And it was not till the meeting had begun that I
discovered the mistake which had been made. My seat was in the middle
of a row. I could not leave without inconveniencing a great many
people, so I remained."

She gulped.

"Rockmetteller, I have never been so thankful for anything else. Mr.
Mundy was wonderful! He was like some prophet of old, scourging the
sins of the people. He leaped about in a frenzy of inspiration till I
feared he would do himself an injury. Sometimes he expressed himself in
a somewhat odd manner, but every word carried conviction. He showed me
New York in its true colours. He showed me the vanity and wickedness of
sitting in gilded haunts of vice, eating lobster when decent people
should be in bed.

"He said that the tango and the fox-trot were devices of the devil to
drag people down into the Bottomless Pit. He said that there was more
sin in ten minutes with a negro banjo orchestra than in all the ancient
revels of Nineveh and Babylon. And when he stood on one leg and pointed
right at where I was sitting and shouted, 'This means you!' I could
have sunk through the floor. I came away a changed woman. Surely you
must have noticed the change in me, Rockmetteller? You must have seen
that I was no longer the careless, thoughtless person who had urged you
to dance in those places of wickedness?"

Rocky was holding on to the table as if it was his only friend.

"Y-yes," he stammered; "I--I thought something was wrong."

"Wrong? Something was right! Everything was right! Rockmetteller, it is
not too late for you to be saved. You have only sipped of the evil cup.
You have not drained it. It will be hard at first, but you will find
that you can do it if you fight with a stout heart against the glamour
and fascination of this dreadful city. Won't you, for my sake, try,
Rockmetteller? Won't you go back to the country to-morrow and begin the
struggle? Little by little, if you use your will----"

I can't help thinking it must have been that word "will" that roused
dear old Rocky like a trumpet call. It must have brought home to him
the realisation that a miracle had come off and saved him from being
cut out of Aunt Isabel's. At any rate, as she said it he perked up, let
go of the table, and faced her with gleaming eyes.

"Do you want me to go back to the country, Aunt Isabel?"


"Not to live in the country?"

"Yes, Rockmetteller."

"Stay in the country all the time, do you mean? Never come to New

"Yes, Rockmetteller; I mean just that. It is the only way. Only there
can you be safe from temptation. Will you do it, Rockmetteller? Will
you--for my sake?"

Rocky grabbed the table again. He seemed to draw a lot of encouragement
from that table.

"I will!" he said.

* * * * *

"Jeeves," I said. It was next day, and I was back in the old flat, lying
in the old arm-chair, with my feet upon the good old table. I had just
come from seeing dear old Rocky off to his country cottage, and an hour
before he had seen his aunt off to whatever hamlet it was that she was
the curse of; so we were alone at last. "Jeeves, there's no place like

"Very true, sir."

"The jolly old roof-tree, and all that sort of thing--what?"

"Precisely, sir."

I lit another cigarette.



"Do you know, at one point in the business I really thought you were

"Indeed, sir?"

"When did you get the idea of taking Miss Rockmetteller to the meeting?
It was pure genius!"

"Thank you, sir. It came to me a little suddenly, one morning when I
was thinking of my aunt, sir."

"Your aunt? The hansom cab one?"

"Yes, sir. I recollected that, whenever we observed one of her attacks
coming on, we used to send for the clergyman of the parish. We always
found that if he talked to her a while of higher things it diverted her
mind from hansom cabs. It occurred to me that the same treatment might
prove efficacious in the case of Miss Rockmetteller."

I was stunned by the man's resource.

"It's brain," I said; "pure brain! What do you do to get like that,
Jeeves? I believe you must eat a lot of fish, or something. Do you eat
a lot of fish, Jeeves?"

"No, sir."

"Oh, well, then, it's just a gift, I take it; and if you aren't born
that way there's no use worrying."

"Precisely, sir," said Jeeves. "If I might make the suggestion, sir, I
should not continue to wear your present tie. The green shade gives you
a slightly bilious air. I should strongly advocate the blue with the
red domino pattern instead, sir."

"All right, Jeeves." I said humbly. "You know!"


The Aunt and the Sluggard, part 8


by P. G. Wodehouse

... continued ...

"I beg your pardon, sir. I am leaving a small assortment of neckties on
the mantelpiece, sir, for you to select according to your preference. I
should recommend the blue with the red domino pattern, sir."

Then he streamed imperceptibly toward the door and flowed silently out.

* * * * *

I've often heard that chappies, after some great shock or loss, have a
habit, after they've been on the floor for a while wondering what hit
them, of picking themselves up and piecing themselves together, and
sort of taking a whirl at beginning a new life. Time, the great healer,
and Nature, adjusting itself, and so on and so forth. There's a lot in
it. I know, because in my own case, after a day or two of what you
might call prostration, I began to recover. The frightful loss of
Jeeves made any thought of pleasure more or less a mockery, but at
least I found that I was able to have a dash at enjoying life again.
What I mean is, I braced up to the extent of going round the cabarets
once more, so as to try to forget, if only for the moment.

New York's a small place when it comes to the part of it that wakes up
just as the rest is going to bed, and it wasn't long before my tracks
began to cross old Rocky's. I saw him once at Peale's, and again at
Frolics on the roof. There wasn't anybody with him either time except
the aunt, and, though he was trying to look as if he had struck the
ideal life, it wasn't difficult for me, knowing the circumstances, to
see that beneath the mask the poor chap was suffering. My heart bled
for the fellow. At least, what there was of it that wasn't bleeding for
myself bled for him. He had the air of one who was about to crack under
the strain.

It seemed to me that the aunt was looking slightly upset also. I took
it that she was beginning to wonder when the celebrities were going to
surge round, and what had suddenly become of all those wild, careless
spirits Rocky used to mix with in his letters. I didn't blame her. I
had only read a couple of his letters, but they certainly gave the
impression that poor old Rocky was by way of being the hub of New York
night life, and that, if by any chance he failed to show up at a
cabaret, the management said: "What's the use?" and put up the

The next two nights I didn't come across them, but the night after that
I was sitting by myself at the Maison Pierre when somebody tapped me on
the shoulder-blade, and I found Rocky standing beside me, with a sort
of mixed expression of wistfulness and apoplexy on his face. How the
chappie had contrived to wear my evening clothes so many times without
disaster was a mystery to me. He confided later that early in the
proceedings he had slit the waistcoat up the back and that that had
helped a bit.

For a moment I had the idea that he had managed to get away from his
aunt for the evening; but, looking past him, I saw that she was in
again. She was at a table over by the wall, looking at me as if I were
something the management ought to be complained to about.

"Bertie, old scout," said Rocky, in a quiet, sort of crushed voice,
"we've always been pals, haven't we? I mean, you know I'd do you a good
turn if you asked me?"

"My dear old lad," I said. The man had moved me.

"Then, for Heaven's sake, come over and sit at our table for the rest
of the evening."

Well, you know, there are limits to the sacred claims of friendship.

"My dear chap," I said, "you know I'd do anything in reason; but----"

"You must come, Bertie. You've got to. Something's got to be done to
divert her mind. She's brooding about something. She's been like that
for the last two days. I think she's beginning to suspect. She can't
understand why we never seem to meet anyone I know at these joints. A
few nights ago I happened to run into two newspaper men I used to know
fairly well. That kept me going for a while. I introduced them to Aunt
Isabel as David Belasco and Jim Corbett, and it went well. But the effect
has worn off now, and she's beginning to wonder again. Something's got to
be done, or she will find out everything, and if she does I'd take a
nickel for my chance of getting a cent from her later on. So, for the
love of Mike, come across to our table and help things along."

I went along. One has to rally round a pal in distress. Aunt Isabel was
sitting bolt upright, as usual. It certainly did seem as if she had
lost a bit of the zest with which she had started out to explore
Broadway. She looked as if she had been thinking a good deal about
rather unpleasant things.

"You've met Bertie Wooster, Aunt Isabel?" said Rocky.

"I have."

There was something in her eye that seemed to say:

"Out of a city of six million people, why did you pick on me?"

"Take a seat, Bertie. What'll you have?" said Rocky.

And so the merry party began. It was one of those jolly, happy,
bread-crumbling parties where you cough twice before you speak, and
then decide not to say it after all. After we had had an hour of this
wild dissipation, Aunt Isabel said she wanted to go home. In the light
of what Rocky had been telling me, this struck me as sinister. I had
gathered that at the beginning of her visit she had had to be dragged
home with ropes.

It must have hit Rocky the same way, for he gave me a pleading look.

"You'll come along, won't you, Bertie, and have a drink at the flat?"

I had a feeling that this wasn't in the contract, but there wasn't
anything to be done. It seemed brutal to leave the poor chap alone with
the woman, so I went along.

Right from the start, from the moment we stepped into the taxi, the
feeling began to grow that something was about to break loose. A
massive silence prevailed in the corner where the aunt sat, and,
though Rocky, balancing himself on the little seat in front, did his
best to supply dialogue, we weren't a chatty party.

I had a glimpse of Jeeves as we went into the flat, sitting in his
lair, and I wished I could have called to him to rally round. Something
told me that I was about to need him.

The stuff was on the table in the sitting-room. Rocky took up the

"Say when, Bertie."

"Stop!" barked the aunt, and he dropped it.

I caught Rocky's eye as he stooped to pick up the ruins. It was the eye
of one who sees it coming.

... to be continued ...

The Aunt and the Sluggard, part 7


by P. G. Wodehouse

... continued ...

It was Rocky. The poor old scout was deeply agitated.

"Bertie! Is that you, Bertie! Oh, gosh? I'm having a time!"

"Where are you speaking from?"

"The Midnight Revels. We've been here an hour, and I think we're a
fixture for the night. I've told Aunt Isabel I've gone out to call up a
friend to join us. She's glued to a chair, with this-is-the-life
written all over her, taking it in through the pores. She loves it, and
I'm nearly crazy."

"Tell me all, old top," I said.

"A little more of this," he said, "and I shall sneak quietly off to the
river and end it all. Do you mean to say you go through this sort of
thing every night, Bertie, and enjoy it? It's simply infernal! I was
just snatching a wink of sleep behind the bill of fare just now when
about a million yelling girls swooped down, with toy balloons. There
are two orchestras here, each trying to see if it can't play louder
than the other. I'm a mental and physical wreck. When your telegram
arrived I was just lying down for a quiet pipe, with a sense of
absolute peace stealing over me. I had to get dressed and sprint two
miles to catch the train. It nearly gave me heart-failure; and on top
of that I almost got brain fever inventing lies to tell Aunt Isabel.
And then I had to cram myself into these confounded evening clothes of

I gave a sharp wail of agony. It hadn't struck me till then that Rocky
was depending on my wardrobe to see him through.

"You'll ruin them!"

"I hope so," said Rocky, in the most unpleasant way. His troubles
seemed to have had the worst effect on his character. "I should like to
get back at them somehow; they've given me a bad enough time. They're
about three sizes too small, and something's apt to give at any moment.
I wish to goodness it would, and give me a chance to breathe. I haven't
breathed since half-past seven. Thank Heaven, Jeeves managed to get out
and buy me a collar that fitted, or I should be a strangled corpse by
now! It was touch and go till the stud broke. Bertie, this is pure
Hades! Aunt Isabel keeps on urging me to dance. How on earth can I
dance when I don't know a soul to dance with? And how the deuce could
I, even if I knew every girl in the place? It's taking big chances even
to move in these trousers. I had to tell her I've hurt my ankle. She
keeps asking me when Cohan and Stone are going to turn up; and it's
simply a question of time before she discovers that Stone is sitting
two tables away. Something's got to be done, Bertie! You've got to
think up some way of getting me out of this mess. It was you who got me
into it."

"Me! What do you mean?"

"Well, Jeeves, then. It's all the same. It was you who suggested
leaving it to Jeeves. It was those letters I wrote from his notes that
did the mischief. I made them too good! My aunt's just been telling me
about it. She says she had resigned herself to ending her life where
she was, and then my letters began to arrive, describing the joys of
New York; and they stimulated her to such an extent that she pulled
herself together and made the trip. She seems to think she's had some
miraculous kind of faith cure. I tell you I can't stand it, Bertie!
It's got to end!"

"Can't Jeeves think of anything?"

"No. He just hangs round saying: 'Most disturbing, sir!' A fat lot of
help that is!"

"Well, old lad," I said, "after all, it's far worse for me than it is
for you. You've got a comfortable home and Jeeves. And you're saving a
lot of money."

"Saving money? What do you mean--saving money?"

"Why, the allowance your aunt was giving you. I suppose she's paying
all the expenses now, isn't she?"

"Certainly she is; but she's stopped the allowance. She wrote the
lawyers to-night. She says that, now she's in New York, there is no
necessity for it to go on, as we shall always be together, and it's
simpler for her to look after that end of it. I tell you, Bertie, I've
examined the darned cloud with a microscope, and if it's got a silver
lining it's some little dissembler!"

"But, Rocky, old top, it's too bally awful! You've no notion of what
I'm going through in this beastly hotel, without Jeeves. I must get
back to the flat."

"Don't come near the flat."

"But it's my own flat."

"I can't help that. Aunt Isabel doesn't like you. She asked me what you
did for a living. And when I told her you didn't do anything she said
she thought as much, and that you were a typical specimen of a useless
and decaying aristocracy. So if you think you have made a hit, forget
it. Now I must be going back, or she'll be coming out here after me.

* * * * *

Next morning Jeeves came round. It was all so home-like when he floated
noiselessly into the room that I nearly broke down.

"Good morning, sir," he said. "I have brought a few more of your
personal belongings."

He began to unstrap the suit-case he was carrying.

"Did you have any trouble sneaking them away?"

"It was not easy, sir. I had to watch my chance. Miss Rockmetteller is
a remarkably alert lady."

"You know, Jeeves, say what you like--this is a bit thick, isn't it?"

"The situation is certainly one that has never before come under my
notice, sir. I have brought the heather-mixture suit, as the climatic
conditions are congenial. To-morrow, if not prevented, I will endeavour
to add the brown lounge with the faint green twill."

"It can't go on--this sort of thing--Jeeves."

"We must hope for the best, sir."

"Can't you think of anything to do?"

"I have been giving the matter considerable thought, sir, but so far
without success. I am placing three silk shirts--the dove-coloured, the
light blue, and the mauve--in the first long drawer, sir."

"You don't mean to say you can't think of anything, Jeeves?"

"For the moment, sir, no. You will find a dozen handkerchiefs and the
tan socks in the upper drawer on the left." He strapped the suit-case
and put it on a chair. "A curious lady, Miss Rockmetteller, sir."

"You understate it, Jeeves."

He gazed meditatively out of the window.

"In many ways, sir, Miss Rockmetteller reminds me of an aunt of mine
who resides in the south-east portion of London. Their temperaments are
much alike. My aunt has the same taste for the pleasures of the great
city. It is a passion with her to ride in hansom cabs, sir. Whenever
the family take their eyes off her she escapes from the house and
spends the day riding about in cabs. On several occasions she has
broken into the children's savings bank to secure the means to enable
her to gratify this desire."

"I love to have these little chats with you about your female
relatives, Jeeves," I said coldly, for I felt that the man had let me
down, and I was fed up with him. "But I don't see what all this has got
to do with my trouble."

"I beg your pardon, sir. I am leaving a small assortment of neckties on
the mantelpiece, sir, for you to select according to your preference. I
should recommend the blue with the red domino pattern, sir."

Then he streamed imperceptibly toward the door and flowed silently out.

... to be continued ...

Gone, but not forgotten

In case anyone is checking, I'll be back next week. for those of you who don't like Wodehouse, here's a question for you:

Imagine that you seduced someone, took advantage of them and made him (or her) love you. Then, after you had your fun, you dropped him, hard. You didn't call, didn't respond to e.mails, etc. In fact, you forgot all about him.

Years later, you got curious and did a Google search, looking for whatever became of him. You found nothing at first, then discovered that he killed himself four months after your affair.

How do you feel?
Follow me on Twitter: @TonyNoland

The Aunt and the Sluggard, part 6


by P. G. Wodehouse

... continued ...

I didn't get it for the moment; then it hit me.

"What! Here?" I gurgled.

"Certainly! Where else should I go?"

The full horror of the situation rolled over me like a wave. I couldn't
see what on earth I was to do. I couldn't explain that this wasn't
Rocky's flat without giving the poor old chap away hopelessly, because
she would then ask me where he did live, and then he would be right in
the soup. I was trying to induce the old bean to recover from the shock
and produce some results when she spoke again.

"Will you kindly tell my nephew's man-servant to prepare my room? I
wish to lie down."

"Your nephew's man-servant?"

"The man you call Jeeves. If Rockmetteller has gone for an automobile
ride, there is no need for you to wait for him. He will naturally wish
to be alone with me when he returns."

I found myself tottering out of the room. The thing was too much for
me. I crept into Jeeves's den.

"Jeeves!" I whispered.


"Mix me a b.-and-s., Jeeves. I feel weak."

"Very good, sir."

"This is getting thicker every minute, Jeeves."


"She thinks you're Mr. Todd's man. She thinks the whole place is his,
and everything in it. I don't see what you're to do, except stay on and
keep it up. We can't say anything or she'll get on to the whole thing,
and I don't want to let Mr. Todd down. By the way, Jeeves, she wants
you to prepare her bed."

He looked wounded.

"It is hardly my place, sir----"

"I know--I know. But do it as a personal favour to me. If you come to
that, it's hardly my place to be flung out of the flat like this and
have to go to an hotel, what?"

"Is it your intention to go to an hotel, sir? What will you do for

"Good Lord! I hadn't thought of that. Can you put a few things in a bag
when she isn't looking, and sneak them down to me at the St. Aurea?"

"I will endeavour to do so, sir."

"Well, I don't think there's anything more, is there? Tell Mr. Todd
where I am when he gets here."

"Very good, sir."

I looked round the place. The moment of parting had come. I felt sad.
The whole thing reminded me of one of those melodramas where they drive
chappies out of the old homestead into the snow.

"Good-bye, Jeeves," I said.

"Good-bye, sir."

And I staggered out.

* * * * *

You know, I rather think I agree with those poet-and-philosopher
Johnnies who insist that a fellow ought to be devilish pleased if he
has a bit of trouble. All that stuff about being refined by suffering,
you know. Suffering does give a chap a sort of broader and more
sympathetic outlook. It helps you to understand other people's
misfortunes if you've been through the same thing yourself.

As I stood in my lonely bedroom at the hotel, trying to tie my white
tie myself, it struck me for the first time that there must be whole
squads of chappies in the world who had to get along without a man to
look after them. I'd always thought of Jeeves as a kind of natural
phenomenon; but, by Jove! of course, when you come to think of it,
there must be quite a lot of fellows who have to press their own
clothes themselves and haven't got anybody to bring them tea in the
morning, and so on. It was rather a solemn thought, don't you know. I
mean to say, ever since then I've been able to appreciate the frightful
privations the poor have to stick.

I got dressed somehow. Jeeves hadn't forgotten a thing in his packing.
Everything was there, down to the final stud. I'm not sure this didn't
make me feel worse. It kind of deepened the pathos. It was like what
somebody or other wrote about the touch of a vanished hand.

I had a bit of dinner somewhere and went to a show of some kind; but
nothing seemed to make any difference. I simply hadn't the heart to go
on to supper anywhere. I just sucked down a whisky-and-soda in the
hotel smoking-room and went straight up to bed. I don't know when I've
felt so rotten. Somehow I found myself moving about the room softly, as
if there had been a death in the family. If I had anybody to talk to I
should have talked in a whisper; in fact, when the telephone-bell rang
I answered in such a sad, hushed voice that the fellow at the other end
of the wire said "Halloa!" five times, thinking he hadn't got me.

It was Rocky. The poor old scout was deeply agitated.

... to be continued ...

Hurt me, please don't don't

Sometimes we imagine or exaggerate the pains we are dealt. It would
appear that the excrutiating pain I experience at the dentist and
during surgeries minor and major has *not* been a failure of nerve or


All is grist for the mill, naturally. It's not a problem for me to
write characters in pain.

Sent from Gmail for mobile | mobile.google.com

Follow me on Twitter: @TonyNoland

The Aunt and the Sluggard, part 5


by P. G. Wodehouse

... continued ...

"Miss Rockmetteller!"

And in came a large, solid female.

The situation floored me. I'm not denying it. Hamlet must have felt
much as I did when his father's ghost bobbed up in the fairway. I'd
come to look on Rocky's aunt as such a permanency at her own home that
it didn't seem possible that she could really be here in New York. I
stared at her. Then I looked at Jeeves. He was standing there in an
attitude of dignified detachment, the chump, when, if ever he should
have been rallying round the young master, it was now.

Rocky's aunt looked less like an invalid than any one I've ever seen,
except my Aunt Agatha. She had a good deal of Aunt Agatha about her, as
a matter of fact. She looked as if she might be deucedly dangerous if
put upon; and something seemed to tell me that she would certainly
regard herself as put upon if she ever found out the game which poor
old Rocky had been pulling on her.

"Good afternoon," I managed to say.

"How do you do?" she said. "Mr. Cohan?"


"Mr. Fred Stone?"

"Not absolutely. As a matter of fact, my name's Wooster--Bertie

She seemed disappointed. The fine old name of Wooster appeared to mean
nothing in her life.

"Isn't Rockmetteller home?" she said. "Where is he?"

She had me with the first shot. I couldn't think of anything to say. I
couldn't tell her that Rocky was down in the country, watching worms.

There was the faintest flutter of sound in the background. It was the
respectful cough with which Jeeves announces that he is about to speak
without having been spoken to.

"If you remember, sir, Mr. Todd went out in the automobile with a party
in the afternoon."

"So he did, Jeeves; so he did," I said, looking at my watch. "Did he
say when he would be back?"

"He gave me to understand, sir, that he would be somewhat late in

He vanished; and the aunt took the chair which I'd forgotten to offer
her. She looked at me in rather a rummy way. It was a nasty look. It
made me feel as if I were something the dog had brought in and intended
to bury later on, when he had time. My own Aunt Agatha, back in England,
has looked at me in exactly the same way many a time, and it never fails
to make my spine curl.

"You seem very much at home here, young man. Are you a great friend of

"Oh, yes, rather!"

She frowned as if she had expected better things of old Rocky.

"Well, you need to be," she said, "the way you treat his flat as your

I give you my word, this quite unforeseen slam simply robbed me of the
power of speech. I'd been looking on myself in the light of the dashing
host, and suddenly to be treated as an intruder jarred me. It wasn't,
mark you, as if she had spoken in a way to suggest that she considered
my presence in the place as an ordinary social call. She obviously
looked on me as a cross between a burglar and the plumber's man come
to fix the leak in the bathroom. It hurt her--my being there.

At this juncture, with the conversation showing every sign of being
about to die in awful agonies, an idea came to me. Tea--the good old

"Would you care for a cup of tea?" I said.


She spoke as if she had never heard of the stuff.

"Nothing like a cup after a journey," I said. "Bucks you up! Puts a bit
of zip into you. What I mean is, restores you, and so on, don't you
know. I'll go and tell Jeeves."

I tottered down the passage to Jeeves's lair. The man was reading the
evening paper as if he hadn't a care in the world.

"Jeeves," I said, "we want some tea."

"Very good, sir."

"I say, Jeeves, this is a bit thick, what?"

I wanted sympathy, don't you know--sympathy and kindness. The old nerve
centres had had the deuce of a shock.

"She's got the idea this place belongs to Mr. Todd. What on earth put
that into her head?"

Jeeves filled the kettle with a restrained dignity.

"No doubt because of Mr. Todd's letters, sir," he said. "It was my
suggestion, sir, if you remember, that they should be addressed from
this apartment in order that Mr. Todd should appear to possess a good
central residence in the city."

I remembered. We had thought it a brainy scheme at the time.

"Well, it's bally awkward, you know, Jeeves. She looks on me as an
intruder. By Jove! I suppose she thinks I'm someone who hangs about
here, touching Mr. Todd for free meals and borrowing his shirts."

"Yes, sir."

"It's pretty rotten, you know."

"Most disturbing, sir."

"And there's another thing: What are we to do about Mr. Todd? We've got
to get him up here as soon as ever we can. When you have brought the
tea you had better go out and send him a telegram, telling him to come
up by the next train."

"I have already done so, sir. I took the liberty of writing the message
and dispatching it by the lift attendant."

"By Jove, you think of everything, Jeeves!"

"Thank you, sir. A little buttered toast with the tea? Just so, sir.
Thank you."

I went back to the sitting-room. She hadn't moved an inch. She was still
bolt upright on the edge of her chair, gripping her umbrella like a
hammer-thrower. She gave me another of those looks as I came in. There
was no doubt about it; for some reason she had taken a dislike to me. I
suppose because I wasn't George M. Cohan. It was a bit hard on a chap.

"This is a surprise, what?" I said, after about five minutes' restful
silence, trying to crank the conversation up again.

"What is a surprise?"

"Your coming here, don't you know, and so on."

She raised her eyebrows and drank me in a bit more through her glasses.

"Why is it surprising that I should visit my only nephew?" she said.

Put like that, of course, it did seem reasonable.

"Oh, rather," I said. "Of course! Certainly. What I mean is----"

Jeeves projected himself into the room with the tea. I was jolly glad
to see him. There's nothing like having a bit of business arranged for
one when one isn't certain of one's lines. With the teapot to fool
about with I felt happier.

"Tea, tea, tea--what? What?" I said.

It wasn't what I had meant to say. My idea had been to be a good deal
more formal, and so on. Still, it covered the situation. I poured her
out a cup. She sipped it and put the cup down with a shudder.

"Do you mean to say, young man," she said frostily, "that you expect me
to drink this stuff?"

"Rather! Bucks you up, you know."

"What do you mean by the expression 'Bucks you up'?"

"Well, makes you full of beans, you know. Makes you fizz."

"I don't understand a word you say. You're English, aren't you?"

I admitted it. She didn't say a word. And somehow she did it in a way
that made it worse than if she had spoken for hours. Somehow it was
brought home to me that she didn't like Englishmen, and that if she had
had to meet an Englishman, I was the one she'd have chosen last.

Conversation languished again after that.

Then I tried again. I was becoming more convinced every moment that you
can't make a real lively _salon_ with a couple of people,
especially if one of them lets it go a word at a time.

"Are you comfortable at your hotel?" I said.

"At which hotel?"

"The hotel you're staying at."

"I am not staying at an hotel."

"Stopping with friends--what?"

"I am naturally stopping with my nephew."

I didn't get it for the moment; then it hit me.

"What! Here?" I gurgled.

"Certainly! Where else should I go?"

... to be continued ...

The Aunt and the Sluggard, part 4


by P. G. Wodehouse

... continued ...

Not that I cared about Ted; but if I hadn't dragged him in I couldn't
have got the confounded thing on to the second page.

Now here's old Rocky on exactly the same subject:

"DEAREST AUNT ISABEL,--How can I ever thank you enough for giving
me the opportunity to live in this astounding city! New York seems
more wonderful every day.

"Fifth Avenue is at its best, of course, just now. The dresses are

Wads of stuff about the dresses. I didn't know Jeeves was such an

"I was out with some of the crowd at the Midnight Revels the other
night. We took in a show first, after a little dinner at a new
place on Forty-third Street. We were quite a gay party. Georgie
Cohan looked in about midnight and got off a good one about Willie
Collier. Fred Stone could only stay a minute, but Doug. Fairbanks
did all sorts of stunts and made us roar. Diamond Jim Brady was
there, as usual, and Laurette Taylor showed up with a party. The
show at the Revels is quite good. I am enclosing a programme.

"Last night a few of us went round to Frolics on the Roof----"

And so on and so forth, yards of it. I suppose it's the artistic
temperament or something. What I mean is, it's easier for a chappie
who's used to writing poems and that sort of tosh to put a bit of a
punch into a letter than it is for a chappie like me. Anyway, there's
no doubt that Rocky's correspondence was hot stuff. I called Jeeves in
and congratulated him.

"Jeeves, you're a wonder!"

"Thank you, sir."

"How you notice everything at these places beats me. I couldn't tell
you a thing about them, except that I've had a good time."

"It's just a knack, sir."

"Well, Mr. Todd's letters ought to brace Miss Rockmetteller all right,

"Undoubtedly, sir," agreed Jeeves.

And, by Jove, they did! They certainly did, by George! What I mean to
say is, I was sitting in the apartment one afternoon, about a month
after the thing had started, smoking a cigarette and resting the old
bean, when the door opened and the voice of Jeeves burst the silence
like a bomb.

It wasn't that he spoke loud. He has one of those soft, soothing voices
that slide through the atmosphere like the note of a far-off sheep. It
was what he said made me leap like a young gazelle.

"Miss Rockmetteller!"

And in came a large, solid female.

... to be continued ...

The Aunt and the Sluggard, part 3


by P. G. Wodehouse

... continued ...

I was shocked, absolutely shocked.

"My dear chap!" I said reproachfully.

"Do you dress for dinner every night, Bertie?"

"Jeeves," I said coldly. The man was still standing like a statue by
the door. "How many suits of evening clothes have I?"

"We have three suits full of evening dress, sir; two dinner jackets----"


"For practical purposes two only, sir. If you remember we cannot wear
the third. We have also seven white waistcoats."

"And shirts?"

"Four dozen, sir."

"And white ties?"

"The first two shallow shelves in the chest of drawers are completely
filled with our white ties, sir."

I turned to Rocky.

"You see?"

The chappie writhed like an electric fan.

"I won't do it! I can't do it! I'll be hanged if I'll do it! How on
earth can I dress up like that? Do you realize that most days I don't
get out of my pyjamas till five in the afternoon, and then I just put
on an old sweater?"

I saw Jeeves wince, poor chap! This sort of revelation shocked his
finest feelings.

"Then, what are you going to do about it?" I said.

"That's what I want to know."

"You might write and explain to your aunt."

"I might--if I wanted her to get round to her lawyer's in two rapid
leaps and cut me out of her will."

I saw his point.

"What do you suggest, Jeeves?" I said.

Jeeves cleared his throat respectfully.

"The crux of the matter would appear to be, sir, that Mr. Todd is
obliged by the conditions under which the money is delivered into his
possession to write Miss Rockmetteller long and detailed letters
relating to his movements, and the only method by which this can be
accomplished, if Mr. Todd adheres to his expressed intention of
remaining in the country, is for Mr. Todd to induce some second party
to gather the actual experiences which Miss Rockmetteller wishes
reported to her, and to convey these to him in the shape of a careful
report, on which it would be possible for him, with the aid of his
imagination, to base the suggested correspondence."

Having got which off the old diaphragm, Jeeves was silent. Rocky looked
at me in a helpless sort of way. He hasn't been brought up on Jeeves as
I have, and he isn't on to his curves.

"Could he put it a little clearer, Bertie?" he said. "I thought at the
start it was going to make sense, but it kind of flickered. What's the

"My dear old man, perfectly simple. I knew we could stand on Jeeves.
All you've got to do is to get somebody to go round the town for you
and take a few notes, and then you work the notes up into letters.
That's it, isn't it, Jeeves?"

"Precisely, sir."

The light of hope gleamed in Rocky's eyes. He looked at Jeeves in a
startled way, dazed by the man's vast intellect.

"But who would do it?" he said. "It would have to be a pretty smart
sort of man, a man who would notice things."

"Jeeves!" I said. "Let Jeeves do it."

"But would he?"

"You would do it, wouldn't you, Jeeves?"

For the first time in our long connection I observed Jeeves almost
smile. The corner of his mouth curved quite a quarter of an inch, and
for a moment his eye ceased to look like a meditative fish's.

"I should be delighted to oblige, sir. As a matter of fact, I have
already visited some of New York's places of interest on my evening
out, and it would be most enjoyable to make a practice of the pursuit."

"Fine! I know exactly what your aunt wants to hear about, Rocky. She
wants an earful of cabaret stuff. The place you ought to go to first,
Jeeves, is Reigelheimer's. It's on Forty-second Street. Anybody will
show you the way."

Jeeves shook his head.

"Pardon me, sir. People are no longer going to Reigelheimer's. The
place at the moment is Frolics on the Roof."

"You see?" I said to Rocky. "Leave it to Jeeves. He knows."

It isn't often that you find an entire group of your fellow-humans
happy in this world; but our little circle was certainly an example of
the fact that it can be done. We were all full of beans. Everything
went absolutely right from the start.

Jeeves was happy, partly because he loves to exercise his giant brain,
and partly because he was having a corking time among the bright lights.
I saw him one night at the Midnight Revels. He was sitting at a table
on the edge of the dancing floor, doing himself remarkably well with a
fat cigar and a bottle of the best. I'd never imagined he could look so
nearly human. His face wore an expression of austere benevolence, and he
was making notes in a small book.

As for the rest of us, I was feeling pretty good, because I was fond
of old Rocky and glad to be able to do him a good turn. Rocky was
perfectly contented, because he was still able to sit on fences in his
pyjamas and watch worms. And, as for the aunt, she seemed tickled to
death. She was getting Broadway at pretty long range, but it seemed to
be hitting her just right. I read one of her letters to Rocky, and it
was full of life.

But then Rocky's letters, based on Jeeves's notes, were enough to buck
anybody up. It was rummy when you came to think of it. There was I,
loving the life, while the mere mention of it gave Rocky a tired
feeling; yet here is a letter I wrote to a pal of mine in London:

"DEAR FREDDIE,--Well, here I am in New York. It's not a bad place.
I'm not having a bad time. Everything's pretty all right. The
cabarets aren't bad. Don't know when I shall be back. How's
everybody? Cheer-o!--Yours,


"PS.--Seen old Ted lately?"

Not that I cared about Ted; but if I hadn't dragged him in I couldn't
have got the confounded thing on to the second page.

Now here's old Rocky on exactly the same subject:

... to be continued ...

The Aunt and the Sluggard, part 2


by P. G. Wodehouse

... continued ...

"Read this, Bertie!" I could just see that he was waving a letter or
something equally foul in my face. "Wake up and read this!"

I can't read before I've had my morning tea and a cigarette. I groped
for the bell.

Jeeves came in looking as fresh as a dewy violet. It's a mystery to me
how he does it.

"Tea, Jeeves."

"Very good, sir."

He flowed silently out of the room--he always gives you the impression
of being some liquid substance when he moves; and I found that Rocky
was surging round with his beastly letter again.

"What is it?" I said. "What on earth's the matter?"

"Read it!"

"I can't. I haven't had my tea."

"Well, listen then."

"Who's it from?"

"My aunt."

At this point I fell asleep again. I woke to hear him saying:

"So what on earth am I to do?"

Jeeves trickled in with the tray, like some silent stream meandering
over its mossy bed; and I saw daylight.

"Read it again, Rocky, old top," I said. "I want Jeeves to hear it. Mr.
Todd's aunt has written him a rather rummy letter, Jeeves, and we want
your advice."

"Very good, sir."

He stood in the middle of the room, registering devotion to the cause,
and Rocky started again:

"MY DEAR ROCKMETTELLER.--I have been thinking things over for a
long while, and I have come to the conclusion that I have been
very thoughtless to wait so long before doing what I have made
up my mind to do now."

"What do you make of that, Jeeves?"

"It seems a little obscure at present, sir, but no doubt it becomes
cleared at a later point in the communication."

"It becomes as clear as mud!" said Rocky.

"Proceed, old scout," I said, champing my bread and butter.

"You know how all my life I have longed to visit New York and see
for myself the wonderful gay life of which I have read so much. I
fear that now it will be impossible for me to fulfil my dream. I
am old and worn out. I seem to have no strength left in me."

"Sad, Jeeves, what?"

"Extremely, sir."

"Sad nothing!" said Rocky. "It's sheer laziness. I went to see her last
Christmas and she was bursting with health. Her doctor told me himself
that there was nothing wrong with her whatever. But she will insist
that she's a hopeless invalid, so he has to agree with her. She's got a
fixed idea that the trip to New York would kill her; so, though it's
been her ambition all her life to come here, she stays where she is."

"Rather like the chappie whose heart was 'in the Highlands a-chasing of
the deer,' Jeeves?"

"The cases are in some respects parallel, sir."

"Carry on, Rocky, dear

"So I have decided that, if I cannot enjoy all the marvels of the
city myself, I can at least enjoy them through you. I suddenly
thought of this yesterday after reading a beautiful poem in the
Sunday paper about a young man who had longed all his life for a
certain thing and won it in the end only when he was too old to
enjoy it. It was very sad, and it touched me."

"A thing," interpolated Rocky bitterly, "that I've not been able to do
in ten years."

"As you know, you will have my money when I am gone; but until now
I have never been able to see my way to giving you an allowance. I
have now decided to do so--on one condition. I have written to a
firm of lawyers in New York, giving them instructions to pay you
quite a substantial sum each month. My one condition is that you
live in New York and enjoy yourself as I have always wished to do.
I want you to be my representative, to spend this money for me as
I should do myself. I want you to plunge into the gay, prismatic
life of New York. I want you to be the life and soul of brilliant
supper parties.

"Above all, I want you--indeed, I insist on this--to write me
letters at least once a week giving me a full description of all
you are doing and all that is going on in the city, so that I may
enjoy at second-hand what my wretched health prevents my enjoying
for myself. Remember that I shall expect full details, and that no
detail is too trivial to interest.--Your affectionate Aunt,


"What about it?" said Rocky.

"What about it?" I said.

"Yes. What on earth am I going to do?"

It was only then that I really got on to the extremely rummy attitude
of the chappie, in view of the fact that a quite unexpected mess of the
right stuff had suddenly descended on him from a blue sky. To my mind
it was an occasion for the beaming smile and the joyous whoop; yet here
the man was, looking and talking as if Fate had swung on his solar
plexus. It amazed me.

"Aren't you bucked?" I said.


"If I were in your place I should be frightfully braced. I consider
this pretty soft for you."

He gave a kind of yelp, stared at me for a moment, and then began to
talk of New York in a way that reminded me of Jimmy Mundy, the reformer
chappie. Jimmy had just come to New York on a hit-the-trail campaign,
and I had popped in at the Garden a couple of days before, for half an
hour or so, to hear him. He had certainly told New York some pretty
straight things about itself, having apparently taken a dislike to the
place, but, by Jove, you know, dear old Rocky made him look like a
publicity agent for the old metrop.!

"Pretty soft!" he cried. "To have to come and live in New York! To have
to leave my little cottage and take a stuffy, smelly, over-heated hole
of an apartment in this Heaven-forsaken, festering Gehenna. To have to
mix night after night with a mob who think that life is a sort of St.
Vitus's dance, and imagine that they're having a good time because
they're making enough noise for six and drinking too much for ten. I
loathe New York, Bertie. I wouldn't come near the place if I hadn't got
to see editors occasionally. There's a blight on it. It's got moral
delirium tremens. It's the limit. The very thought of staying more than
a day in it makes me sick. And you call this thing pretty soft for me!"

I felt rather like Lot's friends must have done when they dropped in
for a quiet chat and their genial host began to criticise the Cities of
the Plain. I had no idea old Rocky could be so eloquent.

"It would kill me to have to live in New York," he went on. "To have to
share the air with six million people! To have to wear stiff collars
and decent clothes all the time! To----" He started. "Good Lord! I
suppose I should have to dress for dinner in the evenings. What a
ghastly notion!"

I was shocked, absolutely shocked.

... to be continued ...

When are you a "real" writer?

Are you a real writer once you've written something? Does the mere act of writing make you a writer? Or are there metrics that you have to reach? Some obvious ones, in order of increasing difficulty/snobbery:

Finished something.
Shown it to someone else.
Revised it based on input.
Submitted something for publication.
Gotten something published.
Gotten paid for something you've written.
Made a profit on one single thing you've written, i.e. (what you were paid) > (time & materials invested).
Made a profit on at least 5 things.
Made a profit of one month's expenses.
Made a profit of one year's expenses.
Sold a short story.
Sold 5 short stories.
Sold a book.
Sold 3 books.
Gotten an advance on an unfinished book.
Gotten an advance on an unfinished book from a major house.
Had a substantially profitable book.
Had a best seller.
Had 3 best sellers (to prove the first one wasn't just a fluke).
Made enough to quit your day job.
Been optioned for some kind of spin-off from your book (calenders, wrist bands, inspirational coffee mugs, etc.)
Been optioned for new creative work based on your book (movies, TV shows, pulp fiction set 'in the universe of...', line of action figures, etc.)
Won an award.
Won a major genre award (Hugo, Edgar Allen Poe, Newberry).
Won a major literature award (Booker, Pulitzer, Nobel).

When does it count?

Update: this is a repost. I like the comments on this one, so I've carried it forward so the comments can be seen.

The Aunt and the Sluggard, part 1


by P. G. Wodehouse

Now that it's all over, I may as well admit that there was a time
during the rather funny affair of Rockmetteller Todd when I thought
that Jeeves was going to let me down. The man had the appearance of
being baffled.

Jeeves is my man, you know. Officially he pulls in his weekly wages
for pressing my clothes and all that sort of thing; but actually he's
more like what the poet Johnnie called some bird of his acquaintance who
was apt to rally round him in times of need--a guide, don't you know;
philosopher, if I remember rightly, and--I rather fancy--friend. I rely
on him at every turn.

So naturally, when Rocky Todd told me about his aunt, I didn't
hesitate. Jeeves was in on the thing from the start.

The affair of Rocky Todd broke loose early one morning of spring. I was
in bed, restoring the good old tissues with about nine hours of the
dreamless, when the door flew open and somebody prodded me in the lower
ribs and began to shake the bedclothes. After blinking a bit and
generally pulling myself together, I located Rocky, and my first
impression was that it was some horrid dream.

Rocky, you see, lived down on Long Island somewhere, miles away from
New York; and not only that, but he had told me himself more than once
that he never got up before twelve, and seldom earlier than one.
Constitutionally the laziest young devil in America, he had hit on a
walk in life which enabled him to go the limit in that direction. He
was a poet. At least, he wrote poems when he did anything; but most of
his time, as far as I could make out, he spent in a sort of trance. He
told me once that he could sit on a fence, watching a worm and
wondering what on earth it was up to, for hours at a stretch.

He had his scheme of life worked out to a fine point. About once a
month he would take three days writing a few poems; the other three
hundred and twenty-nine days of the year he rested. I didn't know there
was enough money in poetry to support a chappie, even in the way in
which Rocky lived; but it seems that, if you stick to exhortations to
young men to lead the strenuous life and don't shove in any rhymes,
American editors fight for the stuff. Rocky showed me one of his things
once. It began:

The past is dead.
To-morrow is not born.
Be to-day!
Be with every nerve,
With every muscle,
With every drop of your red blood!

It was printed opposite the frontispiece of a magazine with a sort of
scroll round it, and a picture in the middle of a fairly-nude chappie,
with bulging muscles, giving the rising sun the glad eye. Rocky said
they gave him a hundred dollars for it, and he stayed in bed till four
in the afternoon for over a month.

As regarded the future he was pretty solid, owing to the fact that he
had a moneyed aunt tucked away somewhere in Illinois; and, as he had
been named Rockmetteller after her, and was her only nephew, his
position was pretty sound. He told me that when he did come into the
money he meant to do no work at all, except perhaps an occasional poem
recommending the young man with life opening out before him, with all
its splendid possibilities, to light a pipe and shove his feet upon the

And this was the man who was prodding me in the ribs in the grey dawn!

"Read this, Bertie!" I could just see that he was waving a letter or
something equally foul in my face. "Wake up and read this!"

... to be continued ...

Fruit smoothie

A fruit smoothie recipe isn't fiction, but there's an analogy.

1 clementine
1 overripe banana (minus the 20% that was trimmed off as just too nasty to eat)
1/2 pint strawberries (the other 1/2 pint was moldy)
12 cherries, pitted
1 gala apple, cubed
1/4 C orange juice

Put all fruit except apple into blender. Add OJ, blend until smooth.
Add apples, continue blending. Serve to family and friends. Makes 4

So what's the analogy of making a smoothie to writing fiction?

*The process requires flexiblity and creativity
*Use what you have on hand, but be judicious in the proportions
*Trim the bad stuff if you want the end product to be any good
*Don't freak out if the final product isn't what you originally intended to make
*Feed it to someone else and see what they think of it before you
declare it a success
*Don't let one bad smoothie put you off making smoothies in the future
*Making smoothies is not only fun and educational, you will be a
healthier person for having done it

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Vacation posts

As I noted in a previous post, I'm going to be on vacation for a couple of weeks. I'll be mailing in a few blog posts and tweets, but my web access (and time to use it) will be quite limited.

I've scheduled a set of posts to run throughout most of this time, with one of P.G. Wodehouse's delightful stories. In recognition of the nature of this blog, I've chosen "The Aunt and the Sluggard", dealing as it does with writing and the writing life.

Specifically, what if someone were to present you with the means to life out a life of ease and excitement, a long run of sybaritic bliss... and you hated it? What if they insisted that you live it anyway? Beneath the comedy, there is the question of the one controlling the purse-strings confusing their vision of the good life with someone else's vision.

As you read this story, I would like to note, for the record, that if I ever were to be able to live solely off of my writing, I would not go around in my pajamas all day.

At least not at first.


There once was a plumber from Dallas
Whose wife loved his seven inch phallus.
She said with a smirk,
"He lays pipe, does great work!"
The rest she refuses to tell us.

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Scheduling error

Hmmm, I thought I had that advance scheduling thing figured out. I must be more tired than I realized.

Will work on this tomorrow.