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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        Godfrey! GODFREY! For the love of Flove will you slow this thing down!” Liz pushed her hair out of her eyes with a trembling hand. “Finnley! FINNLEY!”

        “What’s the matter now? Can’t keep up?” Finnley smirked over her shoulder and carried on polishing the window.


          “A-OUCH!” Liz shouted.

          “That’s no way to stop my powernap!” she gave a dark eye to the offender.

          Finnley was standing there, looking cockishly at Liz, “don’t mean to be rude M’am, but since you mentioned the pea-shooters that knocker uppers of old London used to wake up the workers,” she smiled excitingly “I’ve been dying to try.”

          Liz was at a loss for words.

          Finnley loaded for a second round with a selection of carefully picked peanuts.

          “Let me guess…” Liz sighed. “There’s no shortage of ammunitions.”


            “It’s amazing, all the material we gathered over the years, it makes one’s head spin…” Godfrey was poring over quantities of papers, mostly early drafts stuck haphazardly in a pile of donations boxes that Elizabeth had generously contributed to the National Library’s archives of great works and renowned authors, but mostly as way of spring cleaning.

            He had materialized some of the links from the pages with webs of purple yarn tied to the wall of the dining hall. It had soon become a tangled mess of interwoven threads that he had to protect from the cleaning frenzied assaults of energetic feather duster of Finnley.

            She’d softened her stance a little when she’s realised how often her namesake has popped in the various storylines, almost making her emotional about Liz’ incorporating her in her works of fictions —only to remember that most of the time, she’d been the working hand behind the continuity, the Finnleys appearances being an offshoot of this endeavour.

            Godfrey had almost forgotten he was actually a publisher to start with, before he became more of a useful side-kick, if not a useful idiot.

            The phone rang in the empty hall. Soon after, Finnley arrived with the heavy bakelite telephone, handing it over to Godfrey unceremoniously. “You might want to take this, it’s Felicity…” she mouthed the last word like it was the name of the Devil himself.

            “Dear Flove protect us, don’t tell me Liz’ mother is in town…”

            “Well, at least she has comic relief value” snorted Finnley on her way back to her duties.


              While Liz’ was playing possum at the mere mention of her mother, Godfrey was burying himself more deeply in the exploration of Liz’ old writing.

              Remembering his role as her publisher did something to him. Somehow, even peanuts didn’t capture his interest as much nowadays, but the exploration of the stories themselves had put a literal spell on him.

              He was for one, marveling at Liz’ capability to jump straight into writing, and especially her early works were quite difficult to understand because of that free-flowing ability, unencumbered by such worries as continuity or even characters consistency. While his own interest was more about providing a finished product, somehow the works of Elizabeth Tattler had defeated every attempts at that.

              What I need is a map… He’d thought. To be able to contextualize a random quote from any of her opus, give it a sense of direction. If we assume the reader is carried into a journey, writing that same journey would require a map of sorts. But the writing are as much about revealing the map, some parts hidden by the relief or terrain, as they are about providing a direction…

              That’s when he looked at his phone messages. 357 unread. Liz’ had been playing with images rerolls in this new app. He sighed looking at the last image. An unexplainable creature and a jelly bean cart in an odd landscape.

              There was no map big enough to contain her genius creativity he reckoned. There was some relief in that too.


                Finnley had promised Liz she would polish at least one window this afternoon, and, if nothing else, she was a person of her word. It’s a gesture of goodwill, as it were, she thought smugly.

                “Window polished,” she said after a few minutes of haphazardly flinging a cloth at the glass. She stood back to admire her handiwork and accidentally stepped on Godfrey who was buried under piles of pages and muttering something about Liz’s genius.

                “That’s one word for it I suppose,” she hissed at him. “Another word is DRUGS. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go to my room and  think.” She aimed a particularly vigorous eye roll in Godfrey’s direction. “Wherever I am, I am one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars you see.”

                “You don’t have time to think!” screamed Liz,  jumping up from behind the  sofa where she had been privately relishing Godfrey’s musings about her genius.


                  “Think, Finnley, think,” Liz grabbed her arm as the bad tempered cleaning lady tried to make her escape.

                  “Ouch! You’ll pull my arm off, then who will clean the windows? And anyway you said I didn’t have time to think”, Finnley retorted.

                  “You don’t have time to waste on your own thoughts, frittering them away on stuff and nonsense. I need you to think about the new story characters. If we don’t get a move on they’ll get disgruntled and start turning up on other stories, and it’s bad enough as it is.”

                  “Not my problem,” Finnley muttered, trying in vain to twist her arm out of Liz’s  vicelike grip.

                  “It’ll be your problem if I write lots of big new windows into the bedrooms and you have to clean them all,” Liz snapped.  “I’ve half a mind to write a dust storm into the story.”

                  “Half witted mind more like,” Finnley snorted rudely. “Why, so you can hide all the loose ends in dust?”

                  “So Finly can find out all the secrets when she dusts.  I can picture it now: All was eventually revealed about the secrets of the mines, when Finly had a jolly good spring clean after the sand storm.  And then you’ll have to think of something.”


                    Godfrey had been in a mood. Which one, it was hard to tell; he was switching from overwhelmed, grumpy and snappy, to surprised and inspired in a flicker of a second.

                    Maybe it had to do with the quantity of material he’d been reviewing. Maybe there were secret codes in it, or it was simply the sleep deprivation.

                    Inspired by Elizabeth active play with her digital assistant —which she called humorously Whinley, he’d tried various experiments with her series of written, half-written, second-hand, discarded, published and unpublished, drivel-labeled manuscripts he could put his hand on to try to see if something —anything— would come out of it.

                    After all, Liz’ generous prose had always to be severely edited to meet the editorial standards, and as she’d failed to produce new best-sellers since the pandemic had hit, he’d had to resort to exploring old material to meet the shareholders expectations.

                    He had to be careful, since some were so tartied up, that at times the botty Whinley would deem them banworthy. “Botty Banworth” was Liz’ character name for this special alternate prudish identity of her assistant. She’d run after that to write about it. After all, “you simply can’t ignore a story character when they pop in, that would be rude” was her motto.

                    So Godfrey in turn took to enlist Whinley to see what could be made of the raw material and he’d been both terribly disappointed and at the same time completely awestruck by the results. Terribly disappointed of course, as Whinley repeatedly failed to grasp most of the subtleties, or any of the contextual finely layered structures. While it was good at outlining, summarising, extracting some characters, or content, it couldn’t imagine, excite, or transcend the content it was fed with.

                    Which had come as the awestruck surprise for Godfrey. No matter how raw, unpolished, completely off-the-charts rank with madness or replete with seeming randomness the content was, there was always something that could be inferred from it. Even more, there was no end to what could be seen into it. It was like life itself. Or looking at a shining gem or kaleidoscope, it would take endless configurations and had almost infinite potential.

                    It was rather incredible and revisited his opinion of what being a writer meant. It was not simply aligning words. There was some magic at play there to infuse them, to dance with intentions, and interpret the subtle undercurrents of the imagination. In a sense, the words were dead, but the meaning behind them was still alive somehow, captured in the amber of the composition, as a fount of potentials.

                    What crafting or editing of the story meant for him, was that he had to help the writer reconnect with this intent and cast her spell of words to surf on the waves of potential towards an uncharted destination. But the map of stories he was thinking about was not the territory. Each story could be revisited in endless variations and remain fresh. There was a difference between being a map maker, and being a tour-operator or guide.

                    He could glimpse Liz’ intention had never been to be either of these roles. She was only the happy bumbling explorer on the unchartered territories of her fertile mind, enlisting her readers for the journey. Like a Columbus of stories, she’d sell a dream trusting she would somehow make it safely to new lands and even bigger explorations.

                    Just as Godfrey was lost in abyss of perplexity, the door to his office burst open. Liz, Finnley, and Roberto stood in the doorway, all dressed in costumes made of odds and ends.

                    “You are late for the fancy dress rehearsal!” Liz shouted, in her a pirate captain outfit, her painted eye patch showing her eye with an old stitched red plush thing that looked like a rat perched on her shoulder supposed to look like a mock parrot.

                    “What was the occasion again?”

                    “I may have found a new husband.” she said blushing like a young damsel.

                    Finnley, in her mummy costume made with TP rolls, well… did her thing she does with her eyes.


                      Roberto sighed and scratched a red patch on his left hand. Spring was here. It was obvious as vibrant lime green leaves had grown on freshly sprouted twigs. If it added a nice touch of colour to the garden, the box trees, lined up on the opposite side of the pool that he had dedicated so much time last year to carving them as birds, elephants and rhinos, had now a dishevelled appearance, and that only added to his despair.

                      The lawn was sprinkled with yellow spots of dandelions. Roberto just tried to remove some of them with his hands, but got badly stung by nettles. They had invaded the garden from the new neighbour’s meadow. That estúpido, had said he wanted nature to grow on its own terms, but looking at the result, Roberto thought it was more of a natural disaster than anything else.

                      “Don’t get rid of the dandelions,” said Liz. “It attracts bumblebees and wild bees. I’ve heard that we need to save them.”

                      “You talked with that neighbour again?” asked Roberto.

                      “Dominic? Isn’t it nice the birds are back?”

                      Roberto looked at the birdbaths on top of the four Corinthian columns at each corner of the pool. A group of sparrows were fooling around cleaning their feathers. At Roberto’s feet, a hedgehog was drinking in a puddle left by  the 7:30 morning rain, remains of a feast of slugs behind him. Sometimes, he envied their insouciance and joie de vivre. They were content with whatever was provided to them without wanting to change their environment.

                      “The diggers arrive around 2pm. Just mow the lawn behind the box trees. That’s where Dominic’s son spotted strange growth patterns with his drone. He said that’s highly likely we have roman ruins in our garden.”

                      Roberto wondered why you needed to cut the grass of a place where you’re going to dig everything out anyway. He rolled his eyes, something he had learned from Finnley, and went to the patch of lawn behind the box trees. From there he could see brambles starting to emerge from the thuja border with Dominic’s jungle. Another thing he could not touch, because Liz wanted to have Finnley make jams with the berries.


                        “Well now, Godfrey,” said Liz, who was trying to get up to speed with the latest developments her editor had been pondering in his journal, “And who might this potential new husband be?  It’s a wonder you didn’t have me dressed in a pink satin nightgown with ostrich feather mules.  Let me guess!” she  added with a flash of inspiration. “Will it involve a thread jump?”   Liz winked conspiratorialy at Roberto and then frowned. “You look fed up darling, why don’t you take the day off? Forget the gardening, the bees will thank you for it. Be a dear and go and wake Finnley up, heaven only knows why she sleeps all day and stays up all night.”

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