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.

              F LoveF Love

                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.”


                          “I worry about the dreadful limbo, those poor characters! So much going on and there they all are, frozen in time, perched on the edge of all those cliffs, waiting to spring into action, leap across chasms of revelations, lurch into dark mysterious depths…” Liz trailed off, looking pensively out of the window.  “I wonder if the characters will ever forgive me for the jerky spasms of action followed by interminable stretches of oblivion, endlessly repeated…. Oh dear, oh dear! What a terrible torment, taunting them with great unveilings, and then… then, the desertion, forsaken yet again, abandoned …. and for what?”

                          “Attending to other pressing matters in real life?” offered Finnley. “Entertaining guests? Worrying about aged relatives?” Liz interrupted with a cross between a snort and a harumph.  “Writing shopping lists?” Finnley continued, a fount of gently patient sagacity. Bless that girl, thought Liz, uncharacteristically generous in her assessment of the often difficult maid.  “Do you even know if they’re aware of the dilated gaps in the narrative?”

                          Liz was momentarily nonplussed.   This was something she had heretofore not considered.  “You mean they might not be waiting?”

                          “That’s right”, Finnley replied, warming to the idea that she hadn’t given much thought to, and had just thrown into the conversation to mollify Liz, who was in danger of droning on depressingly for the rest of the evening.  “They probably don’t even notice, a bit like blinking out, and then springing back into animation.  I wouldn’t worry if I were you.  Why don’t you ask them and see what they say?”

                          “Ask them?” repeated Liz stupidly.  I really am getting dull in the head, she thought to  herself and wondered why Finnley was smirking and nodding. Was the dratted girl reading her mind again? “Fetch me something to buck me up, Finnley.  And fetch Roberto and Godfrey in here. Oh and bring a tray of whatever you’re bringing me, to buck us all up.”  Liz looked up and smiled magnanimously into Finnley’s face.  “And one for yourself, dear.”

                          Tidying the stack of papers on her desk into a neat pile and blowing the ash and crumbs off, Liz felt a plan forming.  They would have a meeting with the characters and discuss their feelings, their hopes and ambitions, work it all out together. Why didn’t I think of this before? she wondered, quite forgetting that it was Finnley’s idea.


                            “What? What’s that you say? Do speak up, dear.  Not now Finnley! Can’t you see I’m on the phone? Now then dear,” Liz said into the telephone, “Have I got this right? He hasn’t seeen a doctor yet? What do you mean, there aren’t any, they must have some at the hospital? Only the youngest ones nobody wants and the very old ones?  A lousy hospital and the cardiologist isn’t very techy and doesn’t know what to do?  So Michael is a what did you say, a PA? Oh a physicians assistant. Wait a minute, have I got this right? The doctor only comes to the clinic twice a month?  So you can only see the PA?  But what about the difficulty breathing and the coughing,  I don’t know about in rural Arkansas, but in the rest of the world an 89 year old who’s been coughing so much for three weeks that he can hardly breathe is known as a medical emergency! But why are you waiting for diabetes and heart tests, surely he needs to breathe now and do the tests later? Couldn’t taste the Worcester sauce on his scrambled eggs, you say?”

                            Finnley’s gentle hand appeared as if by magic and restrained Liz from pulling a third handful of hair out.

                            “They’re going to fucking kill him, Finnley, and there’s nothing I can do.”

                            “There never is, really, in situations like this.  Here, drink this. It’ll buck you up.”

                            F LoveF Love

                              “I am having time off,” announced Finnley.

                              Liz looked up from her writing and frowned. It was annoying the way Finnley barged into her office without the courtesy of a knock. “You’ll need to fill in a form. At which point I will consider your request.” She returned her gaze to her writing, or lack thereof as the page was depressingly blank. She knew she sounded brusque but for goodness sakes, that Finnley was just a tad too big for her boots!

                              “Next week.”

                              “Oh well really that isn’t …”

                              Finnley fell to her knees, lowered her head and took a deep sniff of the carpet. Liz, thinking that due respect was being paid, was appeased.

                              Finnley raised her head and gave, what looked like to Liz anyway, a superior smirk. “Have you ever truly contemplated dust, Liz? Well I am going to contemplate dust with others of a like mind.” She stood up and put her hands on her hips. “I have one word for you, Liz.” She paused dramatically. “Dustsceawung.”


                                With a resigned sigh, Liz pushed her writing away took off her glasses and folded her hands in her lap.

                                “I’m listening, Finnley. Tell me all about it.”


                                  “Is Finnley back from her dustsceawung retreat trip yet?” Godfrey wondered aloud.

                                  “Bless you!” Liz shouted across the hall.

                                  “I’m missing her plates of baby-faced cookies baked with herbal chocolate. Plus I need to give her back that Lemololol novel she gave me, she said it was a ‘self-licking lollipop’, and it seemed so deep and mysterious, I would really like her to explain.”

                                  F LoveF Love

                                    Finnley, who was behind the sofa for reasons unknown, stood up and screamed at the top of her lungs. The scream was so unexpected and of such force that Godfrey dropped the novel he was holding and Liz came running from across the hall. What she had been doing across the hall all that time, god only knows, but she certainly wasn’t writing, said Godfrey later when recounting the story to Roberto.

                                    “Mr Dugrat has gone,” announced Finnley when she was sure she had their attention. “Gone,” she repeated.

                                    “Rat? I didn’t know you had a rat. Gone where?” asked Liz nervously.

                                    Finnley gave her a withering glance. “Therefore I did not get to the convention because I have been searching hither and thither for him.”


                                      A scream not unlike those of Irish Banshees made Roberto jump and inadvertently cut the head of the duck shaped box tree he was tending to and had been carefully shaping for years. He looked, first, horrified at the headless duck, then towards the manor, from where the scream had originated. The grand patio door was open and revealed Finnley standing behind the pink furred sofa. He could only see her back. She was wearing green dungarees that oddly gave her an adventurous Lara Croft look. She brandished her duster and plunger like a pair of combat knives in front of Godfrey and a disheveled Liz. Godfrey picked up a book and frowned.
                                      All he could make were two words “Dung” and “rat”. Could that be related to that time when Liz asked him to find a solution for the rat she had spotted several times near the pool? Did Finnley find rat dungs somewhere? Roberto thought the problem would have been resolved with the poisonous wheat, but he never found a body.

                                      He looked again at Finnley, Godfrey and Liz. Seeing them all agitated, an idea started to sprout in his mind. The inauguration of Tatler’s Roman Villa was near. Walter Melon had responded positively to his suggestion. Maybe he could find special someones for the other two too. His abuela had always told him he had a knack for finding missing pieces.

                                      He picked up the duck’s head and put it back on top of the box tree. He pouted. Could a piece of wire and some special glue do the trick? There might be another solution. The duck’s body just looked like a whale calf.


                                        “Oh!” exclaimed Liz, who had heretofore been struggling to stay abreast of recent developments.  “You mean Mr Du Grat!  Honestly Finnley, your pronunciation leaves much to be desired.  I have it from the horses mouth that the charming Mr Du Grat has gone on an adventure.  More’s the pity,” she added, “As I was just starting to take a shine to him.”

                                        “But what about Walter Melon?” Roberto chimed in nervously.

                                        “What’s it got to do with you?” Liz narrowed her eyes.  “Turning the garden into a wildlife haven was a mistake, it’s left you with far too much time on your hands, my boy!  See if there’s anything you can do to help Finnley, it might stop her screaming.”

                                        “Why not help her with the baby faced cookies, Roberto?” Godfrey said mildly, peering over the top of his spectacles.

                                        “What was that you said? I can’t hear over that racket.”

                                        “I SAID..” Godfrey shouted, but was prevented from continuing when the corner of Liz’s desk landed on his gouty toe, which left him momentarily speechless.

                                        “Well that shut you all up, didn’t it!” With a triumphant smile, Liz surveyed the room. Her sudden urge to upend her desk, sending papers, books, ashtrays, peanuts and coffee cups scattering all over the room had been surprisingly therapeutic.  “I must do that more often,” she said quietly to herself.

                                        “I heard that,” retorted Finnley. “Let’s see how therapeutic it is to clean it all up.”  And with that, Finnley marched out of the room, tossing her toilet plunger over her shoulder which hit Godfrey on the side of his head knocking his glasses off.

                                        “Not so fast, Finnely! Godfrey shouted.  The pain in his big toe had enraged him.  But it was too late, the insubordinate wench slammed the door behind her and thundered up the stairs.

                                        “Ah, Roberto!  You can clean all this mess up.   I’m off to the dentist for a bit of peace and quiet.  I’ll expect it all to be tip top and Bristol fashion when I get back.”

                                        Thundering back down the stairs, Finnley flung the door open. “You use far too many cliches!” and then slammed back out again.


                                          Little did they know all was tied to that mysterious tattoo on Roberto’s derrière…

                                          THE END

                                          “Wow. Liz’. Just wow. You have outdone yourself again.”

                                          The crowd was cheering, her mother at the front in an ultragreen bathing suit waving a conductor baton at the assembled fans.

                                          Obviously the nitrous oxide from the dentist was making Liz’ quite delirious.

                                          F LoveF Love

                                            Finnley sniggered. “You said derriere.” 

                                            “Oh do grow up, Finnley,” Liz managed to mumble.


                                              A sudden and violent storm had cut off the manor from the outside world. Torrents of water had gushed over the roads and washed them out as if some manic god of cleanliness had decided to remove all the dust from the country, carrying away every other thing in its frenzied smudging. It had left the property an island, and the worse was they had no more electricity and no cable. Liz counted the days.

                                              When they ran out of candles, they had to take the exercise bike back out of the cellar. Godfrey, who seemed to always know the most random, but always useful, things, had plugged it into the electric network, and voilà. Finnley had been the fiercest at the start because all the dust seemed to have taken refuge in the Manor. But once she had vented out all her frustration, it remained on Roberto’s and Godfrey’s legs to supply them with the essential power so that they could use the microwave to warm up the canned beans.

                                              To Roberto’s dismay, the storm had washed away all the box trees he had so carefully tended to all those years. To Liz’ delight, the rain had accelerated the dig and unearthed what appeared to be a temple dedicated to some armless goddess. There was just one tiny problem, half the ruins were underwater.

                                              The guests started to arrive for the Roman Delights Party in an enormous galley two weeks in advance, and the invitation hadn’t been printed yet. Roberto tied a rope to a mooring post and the guests started to disembark as if arriving to some movie award festival.

                                              “There must be someone moving all those roams,” said Liz thoughtful to no one and everyone in particular. “They could take turns and relieve us at the bike.”

                                              “Us?” asked Godfrey, raising an eyebrow.

                                              “Tsst. Don’t be so cliché.”

                                              She put on her smile as Walter Melon was approaching dressed like a Roman senator.

                                              Sailors carrying crates invaded the kitchen. Finnley frowned at their muddy feet trampling all the floors she just cleaned.

                                              “What’s in those?” she asked briskly.

                                              “Food and trinkets for the banquet, I reckon,” said a tanned man with a tattoo on his neck saying Everything start with pixie dust.

                                              Finnley rolled her eyes. “Follow me, I’ll show you the cellar.”

                                              “Where do we put the octopuses tanks?”

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