He gives me a moment, but that’s it for now.
“Okay,” he says.
He reaches down for a pebble and tosses it into the sea in front of him.
We’re on the beach from last week, on two recliners on the edge of the sea. The sun is still going down but the woman has finished washing her hair. Except for the barman, way back in his ramshackle hut against the dunes, we’re alone.
Absolutely nothing comic or ridiculous has happened for six days. In the story, where time passes much more slowly, the kitten has reappeared – but in such a way that none of them realised it had gone. There was a bump, in a shadowed corner of the tent, and then the kitten staggered out into the light.
“Oh, kitty, come here, Scrumptious,” Myrtille had said, and although the kitten had hissed at the name ‘Scrumptious’, it had allowed itself to be gathered up and was now being held securely in the warmth of Myrtille’s rugs and duvet.
They all believe that the kitten had been hunting a shadow and had bumped its head against the canvas of the tent. Not that it had fallen into the tent through another gap in reality.
Due to a minor continuity failure since last week, Myrtille has woken up without a hangover, and is dressed in soft pink pyjamas. Pipsqueak has removed rather more of his clothes than would strictly have been necessary, and they’re now tucked up warm with the kitten discussing the happy ending that they were promised last week.
“You are writing this for a family audience, aren’t you?”
“Absolutely. Did you see the look she gave him, when he was down to his boxer shorts?”
“I really thought he was going to take those off.”
“So did I for a moment. He’s definitely developing a personality.”
“And you’re going with the flow of it.”
Ed extracts a slice of pineapple from his drink and eats it.
“They work as a couple, I think. She’s definitely the boss.”
“Thank you. But I don’t think–”
“What I mean is, she’s definite. She takes the lead. He’s got a slight wandering eye, which–”
“You caught that. When Stace–”
“Exactly. But the way it’s done, it’s no big deal. Gives him a bit of independence.”
“And nothing more. I like them as a couple.”
The sun ratchets down another notch. On the gantries above us, huge theatrical lighting rigs dim a little as the evening advances. To our right, two men run down to the water and launch a small black dinghy. They paddle frantically out into the bay. A U-Boat surfaces, and we watch in silence as the two men scramble onto its hull, deflate their dinghy, and climb inside. The U-Boat submerges.
“But you’re not going to keep the story going?” says Ed.
“Oh, I’ll keep it going. You asked me whether I’m going to be doing it every week.”
“And you’re not.”
“You know that thing with Medium last week?”
“You subscribed to Medium finally, and uploaded another short story.”
“Yeah. Where will the sun be, when the hunters have eaten?”
“Oh, very subtle. Does it open in a separate window?”
“If it works. Some of the posts on here are short stories, if I tidy them up a bit.”
“I like what you did with What we did with all the plastic.”
“I’ve only just posted that.”
“If you’re going to publish a volume of–”
“Oh, that’s secret too, is it? Sorry. You really don’t get it about self-promotion, do you?”
“To get back on track.”
“What I was trying to say was, I’ve been going back over past blog posts.”
“Looking for short stories?”
“I miss writing the opinion pieces, you know? Commenting? Look at My robot doesn’t understand me, for example. Or perhaps even Eight lists you can safely ignore.”
“You know, this is just too shameless.”
“I started the whole fantasy-novel thing as a guide to writing, you know? Thought I could offer something useful. But then it struck me that I should show rather than tell, demonstrate what I’m saying, and now–”
“Watch it! The picture!”
“Yikes! See you on the other side.”
“Showing rather than telling.”
“You have any idea how many people on Facebook want to write fiction? And I read a lot of it on my Kindle. Not just name authors. I have things to say about technique.”
Far away down the beach, a slim woman in a wind-blown Summer dress shades her eyes as she watches a small seaplane pick up speed across the bay and take off towards the horizon. She watches the sky for a long time after the seaplane has gone.
“Now you’ve got four young people, in varying stages of relationship crisis, family issues as well, with a guaranteed happy ending. And a magic kitten.”
The woman walks slowly back up the beach. When she reaches the dunes, she stops, looks back, and a hauntingly familiar theme tune plays briefly in the air.
“And the working title The Old Guy with a Thousand Faces. He turns up in all these stories, whether he’s a wizard, or a warrior, or a wise old uncle, he’s always–”
“–always me. You wanted to make the point that there’s always an old guy and spin a story around the idea that it’s always the same old guy. You could have just bought the T-shirt, you know.”
“Sure, but you and I work well together, whether you’re Ed. as in Editor, or Ed as in Edgalcius. I wanted to use that.”
“Was there anything you wanted to comment on this week?”
“Brexit? The election?”
“I suppose not. Okay, so where are we going to take them next?"
“How about you tell me for once?”
“Okay, well, I did have this idea…”
Fade. Roll credits.