The Malevolent Muse

This is written from France especially for

The Malevolent Muse

“You’re really not much use to me are you?” I asked as I tightened the cord that bound it to the chair.

There was no meaningful response. It grimaced a little, it spluttered a little, but generally looked bored. It wasn’t really interested in what I had to say and it certainly wasn’t interested in saying anything of interest to me.

“I’m thinking of trading you in, replacing you, getting something better. You’ve had a lot of chances to better yourself, to reform and do the things that bog standard muses are meant to do. You do know that you’ll be sent off to a school of correction and that you’ll be made to do things that, to say the least, are not very pleasant.” I paused for dramatic effect. It seemed to freeze a little as though with apprehension. “Like revisiting basic grammar – with special reference to trends in the usage of the apostrophe. Like spelling long words without access to online dictionaries.”

I might as well have been speaking to a wall made of impermeable brick.

“I don’t expect to be a Charles Dickens or a James Joyce or a JG Ballard, but heck, I do expect to be able to throw a few words together for the Wednesday Write-in. I mean, we/you are even given prompts. Can’t be all that difficult to string together some clever words in a clever way so as to suggest I have a modicum of talent. Y’know, or you probably don’t or are not interested in, or care about, that writers are not necessarily the kindest of people, that they rather like it when other writers fail to put pen to paper, and they get especially superior when they suspect that fellow scribblers can’t keep their muses in line. And that’s embarrassing. You don’t bother to read the comments people leave on the Cake blog, but I do, and these Cake people, the Cakers, certainly know how to say nice things while secretly they chuckle to themselves that this time he hasn’t quite cracked it. Cake.shortandnotsosweet. Physical pain doesn’t compare.”

I took a deep breath. “Do you want to try again? A choice of five words. Or mix and match. You decide. We’ve got ‘shoe polish, face, copper, rotten and high altitude’. Fairly normal words. Words that Austen and Hardy would have made high literature with within seconds. Not brain surgery. I’m not asking for that. Just eight hundred to a thousand words. They don’t need to be multi-syllabled. No need to throw in Latin or Greek phrases. Dog English is okay. Just a few paras. Please. Pretty please. Don’t sulk just because I’m in France and toying with a foreign language.”

There was no perceivable response other than what appeared to be a smothered yawn.

I knew the time had come for some serious action. I reached out to the table I had prepared earlier and picked up a pencil off the damask cover. It was an HB2. Holding it in front of the creature I gripped it with two hands and with a quick wrist action, snapped it in half. Was there any reaction? I thought I saw some blurring. Next was an old keyboard which I smashed quite deliberately with a claw hammer. I detected some whirring. At last I had its attention! Finally I reached for a copy of Stephen King’s The Shining which I had earlier picked up from an Oxfam shop for less than £2.00 and, with a sharp pair of hairdresser scissors, made a neat horizontal cut in the back cover. It stirred.

And suddenly I felt the warmth creeping into my hands, my brain tingled, and my laptop beeped. This is it, I cried.

My hands moved over the keyboard. Pixels pulsed. The words appeared. “Next time”.

“Next time? Next time! Is that good enough?” I asked.

The hand started moving again. Pixels pulsed. “ Next time. Maybe!”

I slumped back into my chair. Defeated. Yet once again. I could almost hear the jeers of the Cakers. I wept.

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