You could quit

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‘You don’t have to do this you know.’

The book has appeared out of nowhere, while my back was turned at the toaster.

It pours itself a cup of coffee.

‘Ooh, toast, great,’ it says as I sit down. ‘Got any marmalade?’ I go to fetch the marmalade.

Returning to the table I see that the book has nabbed both of my slices of toast, and is in the process of buttering them lavishly. ‘Can I get you anything else?’

The book takes the marmalade jar out of my hand without saying anything. It garnishes half of one slice with the marmalade, then bends over the empty half to create an impromptu sandwich. It’s an effective technique, I find myself thinking, one I seem to remember growing out of when I was fifteen.

‘Got any more coffee?’ the book says, without looking up. A fleck of marmalade sprays from the mouth of the book, hitting me on my upper cheek.

I grab my newly-made toast and sit down at the table. The book is now leaning forward on its elbows, cradling its coffee, the classic pose it adopts When A Speech Is Brewing.

‘You don’t need to do this, you know,’ the book says again, looking right at me. ‘The way I see it, you could quit. No one would think any the worse of you. Quite the opposite. Sometimes you just have to be realistic: you gave it your best shot -and you failed.’

‘Thank you for being so honest!’ I say.

The book appears not to have heard me. ‘It’s not a problem. Plenty of great people spend years making something only to realise when they finish that they’ve completely wasted their time.’ It takes a large slurp of coffee. ‘Which is what I think you’ll find has happened here. Got any sugar?’

‘You don’t take sugar!’

‘I do now,’ the book says, with a sniff. ‘Today at least.’ It sniffs again. ‘You don’t appear to be taking this too well. Are you all right?’

‘Is that really how you see it?’

‘Yes. That really is how I see it.’

‘Non-negotiable?’

‘Oh, it’s always negotiable,’ says the book. ‘It’s not like I care. It’s your book, after all.’

‘So I could still go ahead?’

‘Course you can. You’re a free agent. You can do what you like.’ The book pauses. ‘It’ll just be balls, that’s all.’

‘Can I sleep on it and get back to you?’

‘Course you can, my dear. Your coffee is terrible by the way. Shall we make some more?’

 

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