The Precious Life and Rambles of Liz Tattler

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      (And her struggles with editorial and cleaning staff anarchy)

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        “Where has Finnley gone this time?” Liz’ pestered with wide movements of her arms.
        “Dinner isn’t going to cook itself, and honestly, as much as I said I love it, don’t let Godfrey order in more Indian food!”


          “Did you see Liz’?” a concerned Godfrey asked Finnley who was tailing him suspiciously.
          “Nope.” Finnley answered with a shrug. “Not since she locked herself in that cupboard with the new gardener.”

          Godfrey raised an eyebrow.
          “Don’t look at me like that! They’ve been at it for hours, can’t decently bother them under the pretense of doing cleaning, can I?”
          “I guess that was a rhetorical question.” Godfrey said, passing a finger on the dusty counter-top.
          “Now, don’t be a smarty pants with me, old man.” Finnley said with a hint of menace in her voice. “Now, if you’ll let me, I have some garbage to get rid off.”

          She then proceeded to take the stairs dragging a heavy sack down each step, making sure to make profound panting noises and muttering, and to bang the sack as loudly as possible with each movement.


            “I had the most awful nightmare”

            Godfrey was taking his morning ginger tea, and talking to himself as usual, although it may have seem he was taking to the new gardener who had come inside for a glass of lemonade. The gardener raised his head, not sure what to answer.

            “The neighbour had left corpses in front of the house, and I had to bury them so people wouldn’t think we’d killed them. It was night, but then I realized it was our dear friends, one had lost an arm even. I then realized they were after the money, and has simply settled there in their place. And then I woke up wondering why is that I hadn’t just called the police instead of making it more of a mess than it was.”

            The gardener was still at the door, unsure if the pause meant he could finally go outside.

            “Truth is, by burying the corpses, I not only became complicit, but also probably made the murderer’s work easier…”

            “I’m sorry Sir, but I have to go back to work now,” the gardener finally said rather awkwardly. “Your bossy maid has ordered me to bury a rather large sack in the garden. I can’t let it sit in the sun like that.”

            Godfrey looked at the gardener in mute horror.


              “And all I really wanted to grow was party gibbons,” said Liz sadly.


                “I’ve half a mind to write that lot out of the story,” muttered Liz, reading back.


                  The guy standing at the door was drenched by the heavy rain. He wore a tattered green raincoat with eyes on hood that made him look like a giant wet silly frog.
                  Finnley, who had just opened an inch of the mansion’s door looked at him twice head to toe, then toe to frogs’ eyes, with growing suspicion.

                  “What do you want?” she muttered a tad rudely, “If you sell anything, we don’t want it, especially the religious stuff.”
                  “Nothing of that sort, M’am.” He drew his hand from his coat, very slowly when he noticed the feral look on Finnley’s face, ready to slam the door on his face, and produced a worn out identification. “Inspector Melon, but you can call me Walter. We have a case of missing person, family reported she was last seen in this vicinity. I would like to speak with Ms Tattler. May I enter?”

                  F LoveF Love

                    “No,” said Finnley, shutting the door firmly on Inspector Melon.


                      “Well, the backdoor was opened, you see, like my wife says…” Inspector Melon started to explain Finnley how he managed to be in the house no sooner had she turned back to dusting duties, or rather turned her back to the door and said duties.

                      “Stop it!” she interrupted, “and put those shoe covers on your muddy shoes, damnit, I’m not going to do the floors again on your behalf, you miscreant.”

                      Finnley, what’s this racket about?” Godfrey appeared from behind the massive last last century clock licking his fingers off the peanut butter.

                      Finnley put her fists on her hips with a defiant air, not gone unnoticed by Godfrey, “Well, THIS dripping wet gentleman pretends to be a policeman investigating on the Jingly girl disappearance… Not that we know anything about that anyhow.”

                      Inspector Melon couldn’t help but say “Interesting you should mention it, did I say I was looking for Ms Jingle Bells?”

                      Godfrey couldn’t help but give a sideway look of “what have you done” to Finnley, who replied by her usual “why look at me like I did something wrong” look.

                      F LoveF Love

                        “What’s all this racket?” demanded Liz. She stopped in her tracks staring in amazement at Inspector Melon.


                        “Oh my … Liz???” The colour had drained from Inspector Melon’s plump red face.

                        “Okay, well I will leave you to it,” said Finnley making a hurried retreat.


                          It didn’t take much time for Godfrey to figure out that Walter may have been one of the missing husbands of Liz. She’d been always rather discreet about the total number of her past marriages, and she wasn’t very good at keeping archives either, so it was mostly guesswork from his part, but some signs were unmistakable, such as the spellbound speechless face on Liz’ and Walter.
                          Frozen in time as they were, Godfrey could probably say anything, without fear of breaking that spell.

                          “Well, that is rather awkward, Inspector.” Godfrey said, dropping the empty peanut butter jar into Finnley’s hands before she could make her escape for the sideway door.
                          “Weren’t we all worried sick about that poor child since she left hurriedly from the mansion.”
                          He felt compelled to add “our dear maid Finnley the most, I believe. She had all her belongings stacked in a safe place, for when she would return. Isn’t it, Finnley? That would surely help the Inspector if you could fetch those in the garden, wouldn’t it Inspector.”

                          F LoveF Love

                            “Watch yourself, Godfrey,” hissed Finnley menacingly. “I’ve already cleared up one little nuisance from round this place.”

                            Godfrey paled and took back the peanut butter jar which earned him a perfunctory nod from Finnley.

                            “Don’t hiss, Finnley,” admonished Liz sharply. “Speak up so that the whole class can hear.” She tittered and fluttered her eyelashes at Walter, unfortunately accentuating her lack of sleep and bloodshot eyes in the process.

                            “Yes, what DID you say, young lady?” asked Inspector Melon. He prided himself on being able to deduce that something suspicious was going on and nothing, the considerable charms of Elizabeth Tattler notwistanding, was going to divert him from his duties.


                              But the young upstart Finnley was having none of it. As a distraction tactic, she turned on her benevolent benefactor and with a toss of her head and an impudent tilt to her pugnacious chin, she let fire a volley of accusations.

                              “How very dare you admonish me in front of the Inspector, and sharply too!” Finnley complained.

                              Elizabeth rolled her eyes conspiratorially with Inspector Melon, mouthing the words “can’t get the staff” as she replied, “Don’t take the piss, Finnley!”

                              F LoveF Love

                                All of a sudden, Godfrey flung the peanut butter jar he was holding to the ground where it smashed into dozens of glittering fragments.

                                “Silly me,” he said. “How clumsy! Clean that up will you, Finnley.”

                                Finnley glared at him, torn between annoyance at being treated as a mere cleaner and relief at having an excuse to leave the room and dispose of that darn sack, once and for all.

                                Common sense won. There is plenty of time to make him pay for that, she thought.

                                “Right you are, Sir,” she said, with an inadvertent roll of the eyes. “Right away, Sir.”


                                  Not particularly pleased with himself for that inelegant distraction, Godfrey swiftly used the opportunity to usher Melon and Liz out of the way of the glass shards, and into the next room, a gloomy winter garden kept moist and dark by all the vines and carnivorous plants covering the walls.

                                  “Now, it makes me wonder sometimes, when I see you and the fine inspector here, you always seem to have trouble with your endings Liz’ —not that I am judging…”
                                  “Are we talking about literature or my sex life here?” Liz’ raised an eyebrow fine as a line in the sands of her fury.

                                  The Inspector, nicely framed in a corner by colorful and dangling carnivorous plants, started to lose his legendary composure by the minute, wondering if he shouldn’t hand over the case to a less interest-conflicted party.


                                  “What was in the bag, Finnley, tell us!”
                                  Everyone was looking at the maid after the Inspector had left hurriedly, under the pretext of taking care of a tip he had received on the disappearance of the German girl.

                                  Godfrey was the most curious in fact. He couldn’t believe in the facade of meanness that Finnley carefully wrapped herself into. The way she cared about the animals around the house was a testimony to her well hidden sweetness. Most of all, he thought herself incapable of harming another being.
                                  But he had been surprised before. Like when Liz’ had finished a novel, long ago.

                                  “Alright, I’ll show you. Stay there, you lot of accomplices.”

                                  Godfrey looked at Liz’ sideways, who was distracted anyway by the gardener, who was looking at the nearby closet.

                                  Liz’, will you focus please! The mystery is about to be revealed!”

                                  “Oh shut up, Godfrey, there’s no mystery at all. I’ve known for a while what that dastardly maid had done. I’ve been onto her for weeks!”
                                  “Oh, don’t you give me that look. I’m not as incapable as you think, and that bloodshot-eyes stupor I affect is only to keep annoyances away. Like my dear mother, if you remember.”
                                  “So tell us, if you’re so smart now. In case it’s really a corpse, at least, we may all be prepared for the unwrapping!”
                                  “A CORPSE! Ahaha, you fool Godfrey. It’s not A corpse! It’s MANY CORPSES!”

                                  Godfrey really thought for a second that she had completely lost it. Again. He would have to call the nearby sanatorium, make up excuses for the next signing session at the library, and cancel all future public appear…

                                  “Will you stop that! I know what you’re doing, you bloody control machine! Stop that thinking of yours, I can’t even hear myself thinking nowadays for all your bloody thinking. Now, as I was saying of course she’d been hiding all the corpses!”
                                  “Are you insane, Liz’ —at least keep your voice down…”
                                  “Don’t be such a sourdough Godfrey, you’re sour, and sticky and all full of gas. JUST LET ME EXPLAIN, for Lemone’s sake!”

                                  Godfrey fell silent for a moment, eyeing a lost peanut left on a shelf nearby.

                                  Conscious of the unfair competition for Godfrey’s attention Elizabeth blurted it all in one sentence:
                                  “She’s been collecting them, my old failed stories, the dead drafts and old discarded versions of them. Hundreds of characters, those little things, I’d given so many cute little names, but they had no bones or shape, and very little personality, I had to smother them to death.” She started sobbing uncontrollably.

                                  That was then that Finnley came back in the room, panting and dragging the sack coated in dirt inside the room, and seeing the discomfit Liz’ with smeared make-up all over her eyes.

                                  “Oh, bloody hell. Don’t you tell me I brought that dirty bag of scraps up for nothing!”

                                  She left there, running for the door screaming “I’m not doing the carpets again!”

                                  And closed the door with a sonorous “BUGGER!”

                                  F LoveF Love

                                    “That’s all very well and old books in a sack is one thing …,” began Inspector Melon.

                                    “What are you doing back here, Walter? Didn’t you just leave a few minutes ago!” snapped Liz. “Can’t you see I am in the middle of a crisis … you never did have any sensitivity. If you’ve come to ask me to get back with you, then you are out of luck.”

                                    Inspector Melon’s face reddened again, whether from embarrassment or frustration it was difficult to tell.

                                    “The Jingly girl what’s missing. That tip I got said this was definitely the last place she was seen. Now, do any of you lot know anything about the lass or do I have to round you all up and take you to the station?”

                                    F LoveF Love

                                      Finnley, who had also just then re-entered the room, saw her chance to not only get her own back on Godfrey and prove to him her meanness was not a facade, but also an opportunity to get some peace and quiet.

                                      “Take those two,” she said, pointing towards Godfrey and Liz. “They are bound to know something.”

                                      Godfrey paled and Liz let out a little gasp.

                                      Finnley, how can you do this!”

                                      “Oh bugger it,” sighed Finnley, despondently wondering if she really was a nice person after all.

                                      “She’s in the attic.”

                                      “The attic? I didn’t know we had an attic,” exclaimed Liz. “How absolutely wonderful! I do hope you are keeping it clean, Finnley. Attics are notoriously bad for attracting dust.”


                                        While the others were posturing and staring at each other threateningly like a pack of territorial stray dogs, Roberto inched closer to the mysterious sack. Something had started to protrude through a ragged hole in the side of the hessian weave. With a surreptitious glance at the others, who were still glaring at each other ~ with the exception of Godfrey who was still eyeing the lone peanut ~ he took another step closer. He bent down, ostensibly to flick a bit of mud from his trouser knee, and peered at the thing poking out of the sack.

                                        “Why, it’s a tiny furled leaf!” he gasped. “It’s sprouting!” Like a sack of old potatoes left to rot in a damp corner, forgotten and discarded, a pale shoot was striking out in search of light.

                                        Roberto held back when Liz demanded that Finnley lead her to the attic forthwith, followed by the Inspector. Godfrey shuffled along after them, picking up the stray peanut and popping it into his mouth. As soon as the gardener heard their footsteps creaking on the first floor landing, he made his move. There was life in that sack and he was going to give it the chance to thrive, to grow and blossom.

                                        He knew just where to plant it. It would take some time to reach that place, but he knew what he must do.

                                        Roberto set off for The Enchanted Woods, with a determined smile and a spring in his step. He was going to save the characters and grow them himself, nurture them all back to life.


                                          The sack got heavier with each step, as the old abandoned characters grew in anticipation, sending long tendrils through the loose weave of the hessian. The extra weight didn’t slow Roberto down, in fact he felt invigorated and inspired with something more interesting to do than pander to the others in that madhouse of Elizabeth.

                                          One particularly persistent shoot near the top of the sack kept winding itself around Roberto’s neck, and when he unwound it repeatedly, it would jiggle as he walked and poke him in the eye, before curling itself back around his neck.

                                          I wonder which character you will turn out to be when we get you planted, he admonished the tendril goodnaturedly, for it was a gentle twining around his neck, and playful.

                                          As the gardener walked, appreciating the puffy white clouds scudding across the baby blue sky and the bird twittering and swooping, he felt a sense of purpose and depth that had been missing from his life in recent years. It had been entertaining at the madhouse, but only superficially. He had felt destined for more than raking leaves and pruning roses. Now he had a mission, and felt lighter at the same time as feeling very much more substantial.

                                          The twining tendril round his neck suddenly thrust our several more pale green leaves, obscuring Roberto’s vision entirely. He was chuckling affectionately as he fell into the sink hole, and as he fell, the sack burst open, scattering the characters willy nilly into the vast underground cavern that he found himself in.


                                            Finnley, go and tell Roberto to bring the ladder. I can’t possibly climb up through that trap door with those rickety steps, I want a proper ladder. And proper gardener to hold it steady. I wouldn’t trust any of you lot,” she said, glaring at them each in turn.

                                            Finnley made a rude sign behind Elizabeth’s back, and clumped back down the stairs. Increasingly heated bickering between Liz and the Inspector ensued. Godfrey wandered off down the hallway tutting and shaking his head, and then darted into a spare bedroom and fell sound asleep on the bed.

                                            Expecting a tongue lashing from Liz for being so long, Finnley was surprised that nobody noticed her return. She cleared her throat a few times trying to get their attention.

                                            “Go and get yourself a spoonful of honey and stop making that ghastly croaking noise, Finnley!”

                                            “The thing is, Liz,” replied the maid, “He’s gone.”


                                            Exasperated, Finnley’s voice rose to an alarming falsetto. “The gardener! Roberto! He’s gone, and what’s more, he’s taken the sack with him!”

                                            “Do get a grip, Finnley, he’s probably just taking the rubbish out. Now then, Walter, if you think I’ve forgiven you for that day when you….he’s taken what? What did you say?”

                                            Elizabeth blanched, waving her arms around wildly as if she was drowning.

                                            “I know a good gardener who’s looking for a job,” the Inspector said helpfully.

                                            “You utter fool!” Elizabeth rounded on him. “My babies have been stolen and you talk about gardening! Never mind that German, or whatever it was you said you’re doing here, go and catch that thief!”

                                            Raising an eyebrow, Finnley wondered if this was just another fiasco, or was it really a cleverly engineered plot?

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