‘What’s wrong?’ says the book.

‘Nothing,’ I say.


‘Am not.’



‘Pants on fire. You’re hopeless. You should give up now, while you’re ahead.’

I look at the book for a moment. It has settled itself into the sofa behind me, wearing a loud pink shirt, and an orange tan. I did not hear it come in.

‘What was the giveaway?’

‘Just the way you’ve been utterly miserable for the last three months. Moping around the house, making coffee at all hours, googling unnecessary bits of stationery. I know the signs by now,’ the book says. ‘I’m a professional.’ The book begins flicking through an old copy of the Guardian which I have been meaning to throw away.

‘Am I that obvious?’ I say.

‘Always,’ says the book. ‘Do you want to talk about it?’

‘Not really,’ I say.

‘Things really are bad,’ says the book. It carries on flicking through the paper, without looking at it.

‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ I say.

‘Yes, well you say that, but you know you’re going to at some point. Going to have to, I mean.’ The book looks at me. ‘You always do in the end.’

‘Am I going mad again?’ I say.

‘A, you never went mad, b, we don’t call it that any more, and c, absolutely not. You’re just a little tired, plus you’ve fallen into one or two bad habits, that’s all.’

‘Which habits?’

‘The Cult Pens website. I rest my case.’

‘But I love that website,’ I say.

‘Well you say that, of course. You say that,’ the book says again. ‘But it’s hardly original, looking at stationery when you should be writing.’

I say nothing.

‘Is it?’ the book says.

There is a long silence. We listen to a siren blare in the distance.

‘I’m sorry,’ I say at last.

‘It’s not me you need to apologise to,’ the book says. ‘And in any case, I don’t care. It’s your funeral. Me, I’ve got plans. I’m going to be fine. I’m on the New York Times bestseller list.’

‘You never,’ I say. ‘No one told me.’

‘You never asked,’ the book says. ‘Too much time ogling spiral notebooks.’

‘I do not ogle,’ I say. ‘How dare you.’

‘Have you been watching Withnail again?’ the book says.

‘As a matter of fact I have. How did you know?’

‘Remember, I’m a professional,’ the book says. ‘Unlike some people I could mention.’

‘It’s a genuinely sad film, you know. The end. That Hamlet speech. Those wolves. The rain.’

‘It is also about not acting like a professional,’ the book says. ‘In case you need it spelling out to you.’

The book puts the newspaper down. ‘Why do you even hold on to this rubbish?’ it says. ‘You know what it does to you.’

‘Fear of missing out,’ I say.

‘God help us,’ the book says. ‘First stationery distraction, then FOMO. You’ll never be a writer. Mark my words.’

‘I thought that was the whole point,’ I say.