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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    “What’s the matter with you?” asked Finnley, noticing Liz looking uncharacteristically quiet and pensive. Was that a tear in her eye glistening as the morning sun slanted in the French window?

    “I’ve just had a letter from one of my characters,” replied Liz. “Here, look.”

    Finnley put her duster on Liz’s desk and sat in the armchair to read it.

    Dear Liz, it said.

    Henry appeared on the same day my young niece arrived from Sweden with her grandma. My mother had already arrived, and we’d just returned from picking them up from the airport. A black puppy was waiting outside my gate.

    “We can’t leave him out here,” I said, my hands full of bags. “Grab him, Mom.”

    She picked him up and carried him inside and put him down on the driveway. We went up to the house and introduced all the other dogs to the newcomers, and then we heard howling and barking. I’d forgotten to introduce the other dogs to the new puppy, so quickly went down and pulled the terrified black puppy out from under the car and picked him up. I kept him in my arms for a while and attended to the guests.

    From then on he followed me everywhere. In later years when he was arthritic, he’d sigh as if to say, where is she going now, and stagger to his feet. Later still, he was very slow at following me, and I’d often bump into and nearly fall over him on the return. Or he’d lie down in the doorway so when I tripped over him, he’d know I was going somewhere. When we went for walks, before he got too old to walk much, he never needed a lead, because he was always right by my side.

    When he was young he’d have savage fights with a plastic plant pot, growling at it and tossing it around. We had a game of “where’s Henry” every morning when I made the bed, and he hid under the bedclothes.

    He was a greedy fat boy most of his life and adored food. He was never the biggest dog, but had an authority over any plates of leftovers on the floor by sheer greedy determination. Even when he was old and had trouble getting up, he was like a rocket if any food was dropped on the floor. Even when he had hardly any teeth left he’d shovel it up somehow, growling at the others to keep them away. The only dog he’d share with was Bill, who is a bit of a growly steam roller with food as well, despite being small.

    I always wondered which dog it was that was pissing inside the house, and for years I never knew. What I would have given to know which one was doing it! I finally found out it was Henry when it was too late to do anything about it ~ by then he had bladder problems.

    I started leaving him outside on the patio when we went out. One morning towards the end, in the dark, we didn’t notice him slip out of the patio gate as we were leaving. In the light from the street light outside, we saw him marching off down the road! Where was he going?! It was as if he’d packed his bags and said, That’s it, I’m off!

    Eventually he died at home, sixteen years old, after staggering around on his last legs for quite some time. Stoic and stalwart were words used to describe him. He was a character.

    A couple of hours before he died, I noticed something on the floor beside his head. It was a gold earring I’d never seen before, with a honeycomb design. Just after he died, Ben went and sat right next to him. We buried him under the oak tree at the bottom of the garden, and gave him a big Buddha head stone. Charlie goes down there every day now. Maybe he wonders if he will be next. He pisses on the Buddha head. Maybe he’s paying his respects, but maybe he’s just doing what dogs do.


    “Would somebody please explain to me what a techromancer is, and what is he doing in my bathroom?”


    “Techromancers shouldn’t be in bathrooms. Like murderers, they don’t belong there,” said Finnley, surreptitiously wiping the tears from her eyes.
    “You aren’t being very surreptitious and I do detest it when you get emotional, Finnley. It is unsettling. Nor are you being helpful in your explanation of techromancer. Godfrey! Where are you?”


    “There it is” he pointed at the worn-out dusty book he’d found after turning around the whole library. “Techromancers appear at the seams between realities. They possess technologies to divine outcomes beyond conventional means of the place in which they appear — in a word, they are from the futures, always, whenever the period they were found in — a reason for which scholars have surmised they come from a unique convergence point of the infinite lines of time in a real projective space of time, hinting at the nature of an all-connected roundabout timeline. Although them popping in existence at awkward places is not unheard of, they tend to stay discrete for fear of the Timeline Riots Impeachment Police.

    “T’isn’t that helpful now, is it” he said dusting a peanut from the floor before cracking the shell open. “And doesn’t tell us why Finnley is so emotional now. Or where is Roberto. If I were to worry, that would worry me more…”


    “Well, that explains it,” replied Liz, with a snort.


    Liz’” Godfrey glared reproachfully in the direction of Liz fresh line of grated coco’nut. “What did we say about those old snorting habits of yours?”
    “A whole lot of bloody nonsense, that’s for sure”

    “Except that had you listened to me… err to us,” he corrected, seeing Finnley’s glinting eyes lurking in the dark ominously with furious clicks of her knitting apparatus “we wouldn’t have had these unsavoury lobster mobster characters coming to collect our debts.”

    Silence followed by another loud snort.

    “At least,” sighed Godfrey “with all that extra inspiration, do you have anything new to send to Bronkle? And by new, I mean a completed manuscript, not a suitcase full of gargoyles.”


    Finnley, pssst!”

    The maid looked tersely and visibly annoyed at the lanky unkempt guy with the crazy eye.

    “Do not bloody psst me, Godfrey! I’m not your run-of-the-mill hostess, for Flove’s sake.”
    “Alright, alright. Come here, and don’t make a sound!”

    Finnley clutched at her broom, which she’d found could make a mean improved nunchaku in case Godfrey’d forgotten proper manners.

    “Don’t sulk, dear. What I’ve found here is nothing short of a breathrough – pardon my typo, I mean of a breakthrough.”
    “Oh Good Lord, spit it out already, and I mean it metaphorically. I haven’t got all day, you know,… places to clean, all that.”
    “Look at that!”
    Godfrey handed her a pile of typed papers.

    “Well, what’s about it? It does look a bit too neat and coffee-stain free, but the style is unmistakable. Long nonsensical babble, random words and characters, illogical sentence structure and improbable settings… That’s all you have psst ed me for? Another of some old Liz garbage novels?”

    “That’s it! Isn’t it genius?” Godfrey looked at Finnley with an air of sheer madness. “You know Liz hasn’t written in years now, nothing fresh at least. You’ve be one to endlessly complain about that. Something about needing the paper to clean the window glass.”

    “Of course I remember.” She paused, considering the enormous improbability that had just been hinted at. “Do you mean it’s not hers?”

    “Ahahaha, isn’t it brilliant! This is all written by a clever AI. I’ve called it Fliz 2.0 !”

    Finnley was at a loss for words. She didn’t know what was more terrifying, the thought of another Liz, or of an endless inexhaustible stream of Liz prose…

    Godfrey looked pleased at himself “and to think it only took Fliz 44 minutes to spit the entire 888 pages novel!”


    “The thing is Godfrey,…” She was clearly savouring her small victory. Liz’ paused for a long time looking at her long hands, lost in the small wrinkles that led to the nails in need of a manicure. She took a mental note to complain to the writer about getting carried away in inaccurate descriptions of her wrinkly bony-sausagey fingers.
    “Yes, Liz’?” Godfrey said plaintively.
    “Those AIs are good enough to spout endless nonsense, but there is no soul in it. Endless strings of words, more produce of books that don’t make any difference. Cheap undertainment, mark my words.”
    “True. Had to stop Fliz, it was ruining the business. If new books were to be published every day, even the most avid reader got overwhelmed, and the others… they saw it as the worthless poubelle it was.”

    “Well, that’s depressing enough, even for you Godfrey. You left all your peanuts untouched.”
    “I need a hobby I think. Something without tech. Maybe raising a flea would do me good.”


    “You could train it to play dead,” said Finnley giving Godfrey an enigmatic smile which he found rather disturbing. “Or to sit and wait till you give the command for it to take a mouthful of your blood.”
    Finnley took a moment to snigger at the thought, noting that Liz and Godfrey seemed less appreciative of her inventive suggestion.
    “Anyway,” she continued, “back to Bronkel. Something I neglected to tell you … because I have been SO busy cleaning … he called the other day. He is coming to collect the manuscript in person. Next week.”
    “Is this your idea of a sick joke, Finnley?” Liz suspected it was, especially coming after the ridiculous flea suggestion.
    “Nope,” said Finnley. “Sorry, notifications had been turned off in my brain. Better get writing, Liz.”


    “But I can’t, I’m too busy with my new art deco project, repainting the gnomes in the garden, supervising Roberto to take care of my crops of… erm medicine. And of course, Uncle Oobie is staying in the caravan for the next weeks, I absolutely need to show him around.”
    “Who would have known the housewife life was so stressful” a metallic voice came from the speakers.
    “Couldn’t have said it better” Finnley said under her breath.
    “Damn it Godfrey, thought you’d deactivated Fliz!”
    “It’s not Fliz, Liz’, it’s Olexa! Not my fault if she has a temper in her notification mode. We installed it so you can reorder hummus by shouting in the air… Or… wait a minute… Has Finnley tricked me there?”
    He looked around, but the maid had scurried along to tend to some important cleaning duties.


    The maid scurried back.

    BTW, Bronkel also said ‘Every Christmas Eve the elves will come and give us a new pair of pyjamas.’ He said you would know what that means.”


    “What is Bronkel’s on about, like we’d need pairs of pyjamas with this unbearable heat? Must be his odd Kiwi streak talking. Although an early Christmas is a nice thought.”

    Godfrey!” she bawled though the halls “Make yourself useful and bring me my mustard seed & sag paneer ice cream”.


    “It’s a code word for Penelope JaneLiz said sagely. “PJs, get it?”

    “Surely you don’t want sage as well with your ice cream?” asked the ever mentally eavesdropping Finnley.

    Finnley, considering you are always telepathically listening, you really need to refine. You are missing the gist, girl!”

    Finnley snorted. “Girl? you dictatorial old hag, fancy calling a 49 year old ‘girl!”

    “Get on with your work, boy!”

    “Not very funny, Liz. Anyway you’re wrong. It’s a code for Prune Jam. Godfrey is constipated, but he’s embarrassed to tell anyone.”


    “The Fellowship congratulates and thanks you for your continuity work on the script. We acknowledge the extreme difficulties you contend with as you face erratic forces resistant to any form of continuity and seeking only to create meaningless threads. The Fellowship also advises the script will be even further improved if you could sexy it up a bit.”

    Godfrey, I think this is a message for you,” said Liz. “Probably for you as well, Finnley.
    Now then, you have a good think about that while I catch up with a few loose ends.”


    Finnley, I hear you’ve been spotted scurrying on occasion,” mused Liz. “ I find this hard to picture.”


    A soothing voice echoed “Not as hard to picture as you writing, dear.”

    Everyone shouted “OLEXA!”

    “Yes dear ones, do you want me to order more houmous?”

    “This rude AI will have to go Godfrey, or we’ll face no ends of procrastination, now that hurdles and excuses are finally lifted and Liz seemingly on board” Finnley ventured, hiding in the shadows.


    After venturing this, Finnley lowered herself slowly to the floor and leaned against the wall.

    Finnley had never before said so many words in the one sentence, shadows not withstanding, and she felt quite overcome with emotion.


    “Should we call the doctor, Godfrey?” asked Liz. “ Finnley seems to be suffering from delusions again. Didn’t somebody mention Dr Bronklitis was coming soon? Can he have a look at her?”

    “Delusions, Liz? Are you sure?”

    “Well look at her, slumped over there on the floor twittering about long sentences! She won’t get the dishes washed if she carries on like this!”


    Finnley, how on earth did you manage to insert yourself in the kitchen and do the dishes while I was standing here twittering about doctors and whatnot. And here you are and the dishes are done but when I started my comment, I swear they were still on the bench.”
    Liz peered at Finnley suspiciously.
    “Do you have magical properties you aren’t sharing with us?” she asked.


    Liz blinked several times. Something was wrong with her eyes, sometimes she saw Finnley in front of her and some other times it was Olexa with that awful fixed grin of hers. Who would ever imagine the mouth of a robot should look like that?
    Liz started to wink her left eye, then her right. That was even odder that before, with her left eye she could clearly see Finnley, trying to show some concern over the prolonged silence, or was she? With the other eye, it was Olexa standing in front of her, approaching menacingly with a kitchen towel she used like a whip.

    Roberto!” Liz shouted, “Have you put that thing in my lipstick again?”

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