‘People are talking you know.’

It is mid-afternoon and I have crashed out for a nap. The book has come in with a cup of unappetising-looking tea. Slowly, I prop myself up on the pillows. ‘Who? What people?’


‘How d’you know?’

‘I just know. I heard.’


‘What they’re saying.’

‘Which is?’

‘Things. Stuff. You know the kind of thing.’

‘I don’t know, no.’

The book looks down at its nails, checking them for signs of ridging.

‘You’ll live,’ I say.

‘Don’t change the subject.’

‘Which is?’

‘What you are going to say to stop these rumours.’

‘What rumours?’

‘We’ve had this conversation already.’

‘Have we?’

‘Isn’t this getting a bit Monty Python?’

‘Point taken.’



I take a sip of the tea. Even by the book’s extremely low standards it is disgusting.

‘Something wrong?’ the book says.

‘Nothing’s wrong. Nothing.’ There is a silence. ‘I was asleep, you know.’

The book ignores me. It is pretending to have found an important new discovery on the fingernail of the index finger of its left hand.

‘What I want you do for me is this,’ I say. ‘Next time you see these…people, please can you tell them from me that I am not a recluse, that I am not losing my marbles, and that I have absolutely no plans to tell them what I am up to. And that includes you.’

The book looks up. ‘No plans at all?’

‘None.’ I make sure I hold the book’s gaze. ‘There never was one anyway.’

‘And what if they ask for one?’

‘Ignore them.’

‘All of them?’

‘All of them. Ignore them all.’