An Almost So Story, by Rudyard Woodgnome. This one's for Cobweb - happy Christmas, sweetie
HEAR and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, O my Best Beloved, when the Tame characters were wild. The Fay was wild, and the Rugby Player was wild, and the Caterer was wild, and the Physicist was wild, and the Photographer was wild—as wild as wild could be—and they walked in the Wet Wild Web by their wild lones. But the wildest of all the wild characters was the Brat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.
Of course the Top was wild too. He was dreadfully wild. He didn’t even begin to be tame till he met the Author, and she told him that she was not having him living in his wild ways. She picked out a nice dry Story, instead of a heap of slash, to lie down in; and she strewed clean grammar on the floor; and she lit a warm fire of plot tokens at the back of the Story; and she hung a clever and gripping introduction across the opening of the Story; and she said, ‘Wipe your feet, dear, when you come in, and now we’ll keep house.’
That night, Best Beloved, they ate wild venison roasted on the hot stones, and flavoured with wild garlic and wild accusations; and wild duck stuffed with wild rice and wild fenugreek and wild coriander; and marrow-bones of wild parties; and wild surmise (which is delicious but fattening, or so Keats tells us), and wild grenadillas. Then the Top went to sleep in front of the fire ever so happy; but the Author sat up, brushing her hair with a nasty looking hairbrush. She took some particularly good feedback from Constant Reader—a big fat email—and she looked at the wonderful marks on it, and she threw more wood on the fire, and she made a Magic. She made the First Writing Magic in the world.
Out in the Wet Wild Web all the wild characters gathered together where they could see the light of the fire a long way off, and they wondered what it meant.
Then Rugby Player stamped with his wild foot and said, ‘O my Friends and O my Enemies, why have the Top and the Author made that great light in that great Story, and what harm will it do us?’
Top’s Old Friend lifted up his wild nose and smelled the smell of feedback, and said, ‘I will go up and see and look, and say; for I think it is good. Brat, come with me.’
‘Nenni!’ said the Brat. ‘I am the Brat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. I will not come.’
‘Then we can never be friends again,’ said Top’s Old Friend, and he trotted off to the Story. But when he had gone a little way the Brat said to himself, ‘All places are alike to me. Why should I not go too and see and look and come away at my own liking?’ So he slipped after Top’s Old Friend softly, very softly, and hid himself where he could hear everything.
When Top’s Old Friend reached the start of the Story he sniffed at the introduction with his nose in the air until he detected the beautiful smell of the feedback, and the Author, looking at the email, heard him, and laughed, and said, ‘Here comes the first. Wild Thing out of the Wild Web, what do you want?’
Top’s Old Friend said, ‘O my Enemy and Maker of my Friend, what is this that smells so good in the Wild Web?’
Then the Author picked up a particularly juicy phrase and threw it to Top’s Friend, and said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Web, taste and try.’ Top’s Friend gnawed the feedback, and it was more delicious than anything he had ever tasted, and he said, ‘O Maker of my Friend, give me some more.’
The Author said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Web, help my Top to spank through the day and promote this Story at night, and I will give you as much feedback as you can handle.’
‘Ah!’ said the Brat, listening. ‘This is a very wise Author, but she is not so wise as I am.’
Top’s Old Friend crawled into the Story and laid his head on the Author’s lap, and said, ‘O Maker of my Friend, I will help Your Top to spank through the day, and at night I will promote your Story.’
‘Ah!’ said the Brat, listening. ‘That is a very foolish wanker.’ And the Author heard him, though she said nothing to indicate the fact, but she smiled a little and looked thoughtful. And the Brat went back through the Wet Wild Web wiggling his cute little tail, and walking by his wild lone.
When the Top waked up he said, ‘What is my Old Friend doing here?’ And the Author said, ‘His name is not Top’s Friend any more, but The Wanker, because he will be arrogant and annoying and claim to know better than the ones you love. Take him with you when you go spanking.’
Next night the Author mowed the long green grass before the Story, so that it was short and green, and she marked sacred lines upon it in white, and she set up tall posts in the form of H’s, and she looked at the email—at the big juicy email—and she made a Magic. She made the Second Writing Magic in the world.
Out in the Wild Web all the wild characters wondered what had happened to Top’s Friend, and at last Rugby Player stamped with his boot and said, ‘I will go and see and say why Top’s Friend has not returned. Brat, come with me.’
‘Nenni!’ said the Brat. ‘I am the Brat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. I will not come.’ But all the same he followed Rugby Player softly, very softly, and hid himself where he could hear everything.
When the Author heard Rugby Player shambling and dragging his knuckles on the ground, she laughed and said, ‘Here comes the second. Wild Thing out of the Wild Web what do you want?’
Rugby Player said, ‘O my Enemy and Maker of my Enemy, where is Top’s Friend?’
The Author laughed, and picked up the email and looked at it, and said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Web, you did not come here for Top’s Friend, but for the sake of this cracking pitch and the cost-price bar afterwards.’
And Rugby Player, shambling and dragging his knuckles on the ground, said, ‘That is true; let me at it.’
The Author said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Web, bend your wild head and do what I tell you, and you shall play on the wonderful grass and drink beer and sing rude songs and show your bare bottom to your heart’s content.’
‘Ah,’ said the Brat, listening, ‘this is a clever Author, but she is not so clever as I am.’ Rugby Player bent his wild head, and the Author whispered all the words of the song about the springbok and the sheep, and Rugby Player breathed on the Author’s feet (which she didn't like much) and said, ‘O my Coach, I will be your servant for the sake of the wonderful bar.’
‘Ah,’ said the Brat, listening, ‘that is a very foolish Rugby Player.’ And he went back through the Wet Wild Web, wiggling his cute tail and walking by his wild lone. But he never told anybody.
When the Top and the Wanker came back from spanking, the Top said, ‘What is Rugby Player doing here?’ And the Author said, ‘His name is not Rugby Player any more, but the Leitmotif, because he will end up in just about everything. Teach him all he needs to know about spanking.’
Next day, holding her equipment high that her long lens should not catch in the wild trees, Photographer came up to the Story, and the Brat followed, and hid himself just the same as before; and everything happened just the same as before; and when Photographer had promised to supply common sense and help the Author keep characters under control in return for some decent lines and a sub of her own, the Brat went back through the Wet Wild Web wiggling his cute little tail and walking by his wild lone, just the same as before. But he never told anybody. And when the Top and the Rugby Player and the Wanker came home from spanking and asked the same questions same as before, the Author said, ‘Her name is not Photographer any more, but Mistress. She will help keep the other characters under control for always and always and always, and I will chat to her while you and the Wanker and the Rugby Player go spanking.’
Next day the Brat waited to see if any other Wild thing would go up to the Story, but no one moved in the Wet Wild Web, so the Brat walked there by himself; and he saw the Author pondering ideas to herself, and he saw the light of consistent characterisation in the Story, and he smelt the smell of a decent Rioja, with not too much oak.
Brat said, ‘O my Enemy and Maker of my Enemy, where did Photographer go?’
The Author laughed and said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Web, go back to the Web again, for I have braided up my hair, and I have put away the magic email, and we have no more need of either friends or subs in our Story.’
Brat said, ‘I am not a friend, and I am not a sub. I am the Brat who walks by himself, and I wish to come into your Story.’
Author said, ‘If you think I’m writing Bratfic you’ve got another think coming. Anyway, why did you not come in with Wanker on the first night?’
Brat grew very angry and said, ‘Has that Wanker told tales of me?’
Then the Author laughed and said, ‘You are the Brat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to you. You are neither a friend nor a sub. You have said it yourself. Go away and walk by yourself in all places alike.’
Then Brat pretended to be sorry and whined, ‘Must I never come into the Story? Must I never have a proper plot and a warm backside? Must I never drink that rather nice wine? You are very wise and you write beautifully. You should not be cruel even to a Brat.’
Author said, ‘I knew I was wise, but I did not know I wrote beautifully. So I will make a bargain with you. If ever I say one word in your praise you may come into the Story.’
‘And if you say two words in my praise?’ said the Brat.
‘I never shall,’ said the Author, ‘but if I say two words in your praise, you may do something juvenile that warrants a spanking in the Story.’
‘And if you say three words?’ said the Brat.
‘I never shall,’ said the Author, ‘but if I say three words in your praise, you may set up home with an improbably dominant Partner and be spanked for always and always and always.’
Then the Brat waggled his butt and said, ‘Now let the Intro at the start of the Story, and the Plot Arc at the back of the Story, and the Implements with which she shows such alarming familiarity, remember what my Enemy and the Maker of my Enemy has said.’ And he went away through the Wet Wild Web wiggling his cute little tail and walking by his wild lone.
That night when the Top and the Rugby Player and the Wanker came home from spanking, the Author did not tell them of the bargain that she had made with the Brat, because she was afraid that they might not like it.
Brat went far and far away and hid himself on an Island in the Wet Wild Web for a long time till the Author forgot all about him. Only the Listmember—the ever hopeful and eternally disappointed Listmember—knew where Brat hid; and every evening Listmember would fly to Brat with news of what was happening.
One evening Listmember said, ‘There is a Gnome in the Story. He is old and wicked and greedy, and the Author is very fond of him.’
‘Ah,’ said the Brat, listening, ‘but what is the Gnome fond of?’
‘He is fond of his food, and even more of his drink,’ said the Listmember. ‘He is fond of causing chaos. He is fond of seeing others get into trouble. He is fond of all those things.’
‘Ah,’ said the Brat, listening, ‘then my time has come.’
Next night Brat walked through the Wet Wild Web and hid very near the Story till morning-time, and Top and Wanker and Rugby Player went spanking. The Author was busy cooking that morning, and the Gnome stole half of it and interrupted. So she told him to sod off out of the Story and go and do some of the bloody work himself instead of waiting for her to write it all down. But still the Gnome hung around.
Then the Brat IM’ed the Gnome with a bit of cheek, and followed it up by complaining bitterly of all the unjust punishments he had got, and for what, really? Nothing that any reasonable person could complain about, and most of the dents were out, and the other person had only gone to hospital as a precaution. And the Gnome laughed; and the Author heard him and smiled.
Then the Listmember—the little hopeful Listmember—said, ‘O Author, and Authoritative Author, a Wild Thing from the Wild Web is most beautifully amusing your Gnome.’
‘A blessing on that Wild Thing whoever he may be,’ said the Author, straightening her back, ‘for I was a busy woman this morning and he has done me a service.’
That very minute and second, Best Beloved, the Intro that was being devised for the Story fell apart—whoosh!—because it remembered the bargain she had made with the Brat, and when the Author went to redraft it—lo and behold!—the Brat was sitting quite comfy inside the Story and helping himself to her fudge.
‘O my Enemy and Maker of my Enemy,’ said the Brat, ‘it is I: for you have spoken a word in my praise, and now I can sit within the Story for always and always and always. But still I am the Brat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.’
The Author was very angry, and thought darkly of knouts and birches, and took up her keyboard and began to type. But the Gnome complained because the Brat lacked good characterisation, and the Author could not hush him, for he knew all her email addresses, and how to get past filters.
‘O my Enemy and Maker of my Enemy,’ said the Brat, ‘type a little more about me, and I will show you a magic that shall make your Gnome laugh as loudly as he is now complaining.’
‘I will do so,’ said the Author, ‘because I am at my wits’ end; but I will not thank you for it.’
And as she typed, in came the Photographer, and picked up a nice flexible rattan that was standing against the wall of the Story, and advanced upon the Brat with a determined look in her eye, and the Brat grew pale and said:
‘Not with him, he’s all deformed, he’s got lumps on the front.’
And the Author gave the Brat a Look, and said: ‘He’s a She, and she’ll soon sort you out.’
Then the Brat screamed: ‘A woman? That would be Unnatural!’, and ran around the Story trying to hide while the Photographer chased after him, and the Gnome laughed and laughed until he grew tired.
And even the Author smiled as she looked at the two of them and said, ‘That was rather well done, for slapstick. No question but you have a certain amusement value, O Brat.’
That very minute and second, Best Beloved, the smouldering Plot Arc at the back of the Story came down in clouds from the roof—puff!—because it remembered the bargain she had made with the Brat, and when it had cleared away—lo and behold!—the Brat was sitting quite comfy close to the fire, examining a set of pill bottles labelled: Urgent Medication To Be Taken Regularly.
‘O my Enemy and Maker of my Enemy,’ said the Brat, ‘it is I, for you have spoken a second word in my praise, and now I can mess things up in the Story for always and always and always. But still I am the Brat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. Do you think I will be ill in an attractively romantic way if I forget to take my pills again?’
Then the Author was very very angry, and said: ‘Stuff that, I’m not doing Sick Brat, not for anything. You can watch the dinner and let it burn, and that’s as far as you go.’ And she let down her hair and got out her ironing and began to make a Magic that should prevent her from saying a third word in praise of the Brat. It was not a Writing Magic, Best Beloved, it was a Thinking Magic; and by and by the Story grew so silent that her inbox started to fill up with emails from Constant Reader, wanting to know if she had died.
‘O my Enemy and Maker of my Enemy,’ said the Brat, who was surfing the net on her computer, and downloading porn, and reading her emails when he knew perfectly well that none of these were allowed, ‘is this request to install RipOffYourAccount.exe part of your magic?’
‘Ouh! Chee! No indeed!’ said the Author, and she dropped the iron and made a big burn mark on Top’s best shirt, which was more than a little irritating.
‘Ah,’ said the Brat, watching, ‘then it will do no harm if I delete it?’
‘No,’ said the Author absently, scrubbing frantically at the singed bit, ‘delete it quickly and I will ever be grateful to you.’
Brat made one click with the mouse, and the Author said, ‘A hundred thanks. Even the antivirus thingy doesn’t pick up all of those.’
That very moment and second, O Best Beloved, the big frat paddle that hung on the wall cracked in two pieces—ffft!—because it remembered the bargain she had made with the Brat, and when the Author gave up on the singed shirt and threw it in the rag bag—lo and behold!—the Brat had set up his own account on her computer and was sitting bold as brass looking up suitable partners on psycho-top.com.
‘O my Enemy and Maker of my Enemy’, said the Brat, ‘it is I; for you have spoken three words in my praise, and now I can have a series of my own for always and always and always. But still I am the Brat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. What do you think of this guy – muscles or what?’
Then the Author laughed rather reluctantly, and set the Brat a glass of the cool white milk and a cookie (at which he turned his nose up) and she said, ‘O Brat, you may think you are pretty clever, but remember that your bargain was not made with the Top or the Wanker, and I do not know what they will do when they come home.’
‘What is that to me?’ said the Brat. ‘If I have my place in the Story and fanmail from Constant Reader I do not care what the Top or the Wanker can do.’
That evening when the Top and the Wanker came into the Story, the Top looked at Brat’s cute little tail and said: ‘Wow, who is this?’ And the Brat sat by the fire and smiled, until the Author said, with malice aforethought:
‘This is your Brat, and he has made a bargain to come and live with you, but he has ruined your favourite shirt, and to judge by the smell, he has burned dinner as well.’
Then the Top said, ‘Well, we’ll see about that because he has not made a bargain with me or with all proper Tops after me.’ Then he took off his big size-12 plimsoll with the heavy, worn sole, and he took up his little leather paddle and the heavy wooden bathbrush (that makes three) and he fetched a tawse and a cane (that is five altogether), and he set them out in a row and he said, ‘Now we will make our bargain. If you do not do behave in a more adult fashion in the Story for always and always and always, I will use these five things on you whenever I see you, and so shall all proper Tops do after me.’
‘Ah,’ said the Author, listening, ‘this is a very clever Brat, but he is not so clever as my Top.’
The Brat counted the five things (and they looked very severe) and he said, ‘I will behave reasonably sensibly when I am in this Story for always and always and always; but still I am the Brat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.’
‘Not when I am near,’ said the Top. ‘If you had not said that last I would have put all these things away and only ever spanked you for always and always and always; but I am now going to spank you hard on your bare bottom as well as using these implements on you. And so shall all proper Tops do after me!’ And he began to slide the Brat’s trousers down with alacrity and not a little pleasure.
Then the Wanker said, ‘Wait a minute. He has not made a bargain with me or with all proper Wankers after me.’ And he showed his teeth and said, ‘I think that you have been very disrespectful to me, and I’m sure Top agrees with me because I’m his oldest friend, and I shall make sure he gets to hear a slanted version of it and punishes you unjustly. And so shall all proper Wankers do after me.’
‘Ah,’ said the Author, listening, ‘this is a very irritating Brat, but he is not so irritating as the Wanker.’
Brat counted to ten and he said, ‘I will be as polite to you as I can be while I am in the Story, and not point out to Top that he should have some faith in his partner if he claims to have a meaningful relationship. But still I am the Brat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.’
‘Not when I am near,’ said the Wanker. ‘If you had not said that last I would have shut my mouth for always and always and always; but now I am going to try to split up your relationship and make you unhappy whenever I meet you. And so shall all proper Wankers do after me.’
Then the Top spanked the Brat, very thoroughly, and used all the implements and the Brat ran out of the Story with his arse on fire and the Wanker suggested that the Top had been far too generous; and from that day to this, Best Beloved, three proper Tops out of five will always use a selection of implements on a Brat whenever they meet him, and all proper Wankers will try to get him into trouble. But the Brat keeps his side of the bargain too. He will manage his own medication, study schedules, and bills, and drive reasonably carefully, just as long as he is under the Author’s eye. But when he has done that, and between times, and when the surf is playing on the shores of distant islands, he is the Brat that walks by himself, and all places and all writing are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Web or into the Wet Wild Lists, wiggling his cute little tail and walking by his wild lone; and if trash is scattered all over your desktop in the morning, you will surely know, oh Best Beloved, how to deal with it, and who is to blame.
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© , 2007