‘What else are you not telling me?’ says the book.
‘Nothing,’ I say.
The book rolls its eyes, gives a brief shrug, and takes off its coat. I notice it has stolen one of my shirts. It is wearing odd socks.
‘I’m waiting,’ it says. ‘I’ve got all day.’
There is a long silence. It is not tense, more the kind of silence that attends one thing ending and another beginning. Outside it is not raining. There is no wind.
‘I’ve read nine novels this year,’ I say finally.
‘Amazing,’ the book says. I can’t tell whether or not it is being sarcastic. I decide it probably is. Just like the old days, I think to myself.
‘That’s a record for you, isn’t it? Normally what you manage in a whole year.’
‘I know, impressive, eh?’
‘Well, it would be.’ The book gives a slight yawn.
‘What do you mean, ‘would be’?’
‘How much poetry?’
‘What is this, the Spanish Inquisition?’
‘Not that much,’ I say.
”Not that much’,’ the book says. ‘Fancy a game of poker?’
There is another silence.
‘I hate it when you lie to me,’ the book says.
‘None,’ I say. ‘Nothing at all. I’ve tried a few times, but nothing seems to be working for me. To think last year I was the world expert on John Ashbery.’
The book sprays a great torrent tea all over the sofa. ‘I’d hardly go that far. So it’s not working for you then?’
‘No. Poetry isn’t working for me. Not this year. I feel like it’s left me. I’ve tried, but -‘
‘Chin up,’ the book says. ‘Maybe it has.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘All those novels you still haven’t read. You could be happy. Novels are the best.’
‘Since forever,’ the book says. ‘No one reads poetry anyway, not even you.’
‘I see what you’re doing. You’re making my future without poetry sound unattractive so that I’ll run straight back into its arms. Very clever. Well, it’s not going to work.’
‘Your words, not mine,’ the book says, a slow smile in the corner of its mouth.