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Humour Satire

Wrong Writing

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Blog by Bruce Costello

Even on sunny days, the former Sunday School Hall behind St Jebusiah’s Church seems to languish in shade. The community groups who rent it at fifty cents an hour complain about its airlessness and musty smell. A tradesman is said to be coming to open the windows, stuck shut when the building was painted years ago.

Inside, the carpet is threadbare, the wallpaper dangles in sad strips and the curtains are stained with mould. Hanging askew on one wall is a print in faded blue shades of a young Princess Elizabeth.

Against a lopsided bookcase leans a dust-covered brass plaque with a list of illegible names, and the inscription, barely discernible under green patina: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.”

The Disciplinary Court of the Eastland Writers’ Group is in session. The Jury, made up of writing students and lecturers wearing berets and body piercings, sits on pews around the walls. Seated at the end of a long table, the Presiding Judge, Catriona von Loeven, opens proceedings. She is a bulky woman who looks like she’s wearing opportunity shop clothes, aged somewhere between thirty and fifty- five, with a mane of red hair and narrow green eyes.

She peers at an elderly gentleman in a pin-striped suit at the other end of the table. He is small, and looks cold, sitting with his shoulders screwed up.

“Victor John Watson,” Catriona says, frowning. “In accordance with the disciplinary procedures laid down in Section Two of the Constitution of the Eastland Writers’ Group, of which I am the duly elected President, you have been summoned to answer a serious allegation.”

She taps the table with the blunt end of a ballpoint pen. “Secretary Gary Carson will now read the charge.”

She turns to a white-faced young man wearing a decrepit mauve beret, seated at her right. He has a lengthy nose with a ring through it and insipid eyes.

Secretary Gary stands, clears his throat, casts a withering look towards the defendant, and begins to read in a high-pitched monotone, like a priest chanting some incantation.

“Victor John Watson! You are hereby charged with apostasy in that, in defiance of Group Teaching, you deny that Clever Style is the Supreme Element in writing and blasphemously ascribe primacy to meaning.”

Victor mutters something, not quite inaudibly, and Gary’s face turns bright red.

Catriona flings back her head, like a lioness, and roars at the defendant: “How dare you! These are serious matters involving heresy! As Presiding Judge, I remind you they are punishable by disfellowshipping or excommunication. Do you understand the charge?”

“No, Your Worship.”

“Do you plead guilty or not guilty?” Catriona continues, her voice growling with menace.

“How can I, if I don’t understand, Your Highness?” Victor raises a hand to his clean-cut face, as if to hide his expression.

Catriona slams her fist on the table, narrows her eyes and addresses the Jury.

“I ask members of the Jury to note that the mendacious defendant’s so called inability to understand was deemed passive-obstructivistical by the committee members appointed to counsel him towards literary contrition.”

The Jury nods.

“Objection, Your Honour!” cries the Counsel for the Defence, a whiskery individual looking somewhat like a leprechaun in a green corduroy jacket and bicycle-clipped trousers, perched on a stool beside the accused. “It stands to reason that the defendant must be either stupid, or mentally ill, or both, and his “inability to understand” should be acknowledged by the court as a genuine handicap.”

“Objection overruled! That’s bullshit.” Catriona turns to the Prosecuting Counsel, a woman with close-cropped hair wearing a stained denim jacket and boots that make her look like she’s about to go fox hunting. “Present the evidence, please, Lana.”

Lana rises from her seat at the President’s side, takes a magazine from the top of a large pile on the table before her and waves it at the Jury.

“This magazine bought in a supermarket,” she says, spitting out the words, “and numerous others of its ilk, collected as evidence, contains short stories written by a certain…a certain Sarah Gibbs!”

She clasps a hand to her mouth.

“Take your time,” soothes President Catriona. Lana slumps into her seat and dry retches into a paper bag while the courtroom waits. After a few minutes, she stands up, eyes lowered as if she can’t bear to look at the defendant, then runs from the room.

President Catriona rises. Hands clasped behind her back, she approaches the accused, lowers her face to his and rasps: “Is it not true that you have been writing furtively under the name of Sarah Gibbs?”

Victor looks away.

“And is not true that the stories of Sarah Gibbs, or should I say Victor Watson, are devoid of stylistic innovation, that they lack beauty and lyricism, that they are, in fact, completely devoid of those linguistic elements showing the Love of Words which is the hallmark of Clever Style, the pursuit and honouring of which constitutes the sole purpose of the Eastland Writers’ Group?”

“I don’t understand, Your Worship.”

“Don’t understand? How very, very convenient!” Catriona shakes her head, glancing towards the Jury. “What do you understand?”

“Well, it’s like this, Your Honour. I just write about ordinary folks with ordinary life problems. I write simply, so people can know what I mean.” He pauses and looks down, shyly. “I like to think my stories help people to think meaningfully about their lives.”

“Oh, you do, do you! Who do think you are? Anton Chekhov?”

The Jury members chuckle loudly.

“That old seagull!” someone calls out from the back of the room and the floorboards resound with the stomping of feet.

“What’ve you got to say for yourself?” Catriona shouts at Victor, as the din dies down.

“Nothing. I just think writing’s about people, not about words.”

“Excuse me, may it please the court,” butts in the Counsel for the Defence, stroking his whiskers down both sides towards a pointed chin. “In defence of the accused, I’d like to point out that he has, unfortunately, never been to a Clever Writing School and isn’t up with Latest Thinking.”

“Irrelevant!” cries Catriona. “And another thing! Do you get paid for these pathetic so called stories you’ve had published?”

“Yes, Your Honour. Eight hundred dollars each. That’s forty thousand dollars for the fifty I’ve had published so far.”

A hush falls upon the courtroom. A blowfly is heard, trapped in a spider’s web against a window pane. It extricates itself and careens around the hall, then crash lands, spinning upside down on the table in front of Catriona, who appears not to notice. Her mouth has dropped open and she is staring at Victor, wide-eyed.

A few minutes pass. Secretary Gary clears his throat twice, jolting Catriona back into the room. She looks around, a burgeoning smile on her face, then rises and bows towards Victor. “Thank you, Mr Watson, for giving freely of your time to assist the group to work through these misunderstandings. Now that they’ve all been nicely cleared up…”

Gary tugs at her sleeve and whispers: “You must address the Jury, Madam!”

“Do I have to?” she hisses back at him.

“Indeed.”

She turns to the Jury. “Members of the, um, Eastland Writers. In view of the fact that our esteemed colleague, Mr Watson, has raised the profile of the group through his recent successes, which he achieved despite never having been to a Clever Writing School, and in recognition of his devotion and compassion towards ordinary people, for whom he writes in a clear and helpful manner which, as he so modestly noted, assists them to think meaningfully about their lives, I propose that we award Mr Watson the great honour of Life Membership of the Eastland Writers’ Group in the sure confidence that he will continue to associate and share freely with us from his, ah, wealth of experience and knowledge.”

Victor buttons up his suit jacket with deliberation, and quietly puts on his hat. Saluting the courtroom with one finger, he leaves, slamming the door so hard behind him, it parts from its rusty hinges and crashes through the floorboards.

Outside, the sun beams down from the spring blue sky and a warm breeze rustles in the trees. Victor takes off his hat and jacket and walks home, whistling.

The following week, he buys the Sunday School Hall from the Church. With help from community agencies, local businesses and volunteers, he restores the building to its former glory and establishes New Zealand’s first free Neighbourhood Therapeutic Writing Drop-in Centre.

The Eastland Writers’ Group disintegrates and Catriona von Loeven absconds with the funds.

THE END 

PUBLICATION NOTE: Wrong Writing was previously published online in 2015 on Fiction on the Web.

Satire Sketch

BREXIT – Cameron thank you dinner for Obama

Published by:

Blog by Richard Heagy

The UK Prime Minister and the US President sit at a table in the far corner of a small upscale restaurant in Mayfair on a quiet street in London; nearby, but out of sight are several secret service agents and security guards. The WAITER approaches the table and asks what they would like to drink.

CAMERON: Whiskey.

OBAMA: Beer.

WAITER: I am sorry sir, but we no longer serve beer. Perhaps you would like something from the bar or maybe a glass of wine.

OBAMA: Wine will be fine.

CAMERON: I will have wine also; cancel the whiskey.

WAITER: Very good, sir, I will send over the sommelier.

(OBAMA and CAMERON listen to the sommelier’s suggestions and finally agree on one)

OBAMA: I brought you a present.

CAMERON: How nice. I hope it did not cost too much.

OBAMA: Not at all, but it is one of your favourites; at least that is what I saw on TV.

(OBAMA hands a nicely wrapped box to CAMERON, who holds up the box and shakes it. Something inside makes a noise and the contents shift a bit)

OBAMA: You will never guess what it is; might as well just open it.

CAMERON: You are right.

OBAMA: I am always right. It comes with being a Harvard law professor; no one questions you until you go into politics.

(CAMERON carefully tears off the wrapping and opens the box; then pulls out the gift—a tube of Pringles)

OBAMA (smiling): They are Paprika Pringles.

CAMERON: How did you know I liked these?

OBAMA: There was a video of you on the internet; you were on a budget flight eating Paprika Pringles.

CAMERON: How thoughtful.

OBAMA: Oh, I really cannot take all the credit, maybe most of it. You know how so many gifts are not what somebody wants at all. I had a White House intern do an internet search to find out what you really like—and here it is.

CAMERON: I do not know what to say, except thanks.

(He opens the tube, inhales, takes one out and tastes it)

CAMERON (to OBAMA): Would you like to try one?

(Before OBAMA can respond, a WAITER walks over to the table)

WAITER: Excuse me sir, I mean Prime Minister, but you may not bring food into the restaurant.

(The WAITER reaches out and takes the tube of Pringles from CAMERON, but unnoticed by either of them a SECRET SERVICE AGENT appears from nowhere, turns the WAITER round and butts him in the head. The tube falls on the table and the Pringles scatter on the floor)

OBAMA: I brought those all the way from Washington.

OBAMA (to SECRET SERVICE AGENT): Pick those up.

SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Yes, sir.

(The SECRET SERVICE AGENT squats, picks up the Pringles one by one, and blows the dirt off them before putting them back in the tube)

OBAMA: It is hard to get good help these days, even if you are the President of the United States.

(Blood drips from the forehead of the WAITER to his crisply starched white shirt as he holds his head in pain. The MAÎTRE D’ rushes over and helps the WAITER walk away)

CAMERON: Tell me about it.

(ANOTHER WAITER arrives to serve the drinks, followed by the MAÎTRE D’, who serves the starters in enclosed silver covers)

MAÎTRE D’: Compliments of the chef, in honour of the American President.

(He uncovers the dishes to reveal a surprise)

CAMERON: Looks like a tiny square hamburger to me.

OBAMA: It is a White Castle.

(He takes a bite and smiles at the MAÎTRE D’)

OBAMA (continuing): Please give my thanks to the chef.

(Dinner continues with a salad, bread with a plate of olive oil, followed by the main entre, all of which takes a few hours)

CAMERON: Had enough to eat?

OBAMA: It is probably enough to last all week. I should walk it off in Hyde Park in the morning, but my secret service agents will complain.

(As CAMERON and OBAMA are enjoying after dinner drinks, the WAITER returns to the table with several bandages on his forehead)

OBAMA: I am sorry about what happened. I was beginning to get worried—it took you so long.

WAITER: First, I called the nearest hospital emergency room and asked for an ambulance. When I described my injuries, they said it was not serious enough for an ambulance, and suggested that I take a taxi.

OBAMA: Looks like they fixed you up. Your socialised medicine is excellent, so I hear.

WAITER: Where did you hear that?

OBAMA: Uh …

WAITER: I waited in a large room full of tired and angry people, some coughing and sneezing, for four hours; no it was 3 hours and 48 minutes, as they must release you in 4 hours.

OBAMA: Well, anyway the exam must have been thorough.

WAITER: What exam? They dabbed my forehead with some stinging substance, slapped on three small bandages, and gave be two paracetamol—what you would call aspirin.

OBAMA: Again, I am very sorry about what happened. You should go home and get some rest.

(The WAITER nods and leaves)

CAMERON: I invited you here to express my appreciation for your support with the EU referendum, especially your recommendation that the United Kingdom stay in the European Union.

OBAMA: Remaining in the EU gives the UK more influence and is important for economic prosperity and security. It is most unfortunate that the Leave vote prevailed.

CAMERON: I should have never authorised the referendum. The Leave vote has been a shock to everyone, even the Leave supporters. The financial markets are in disarray and the pound is in the toilet.

(A tall stocky man with unruly blonde hair, much like a miniature haystack, approaches the table and pulls out a chair. He is BORIS JOHNSON, former Mayor of London and now a Member of Parliament)

BORIS (as he sits down): May I join you?

CAMERON: You already have.

OBAMA: I thought that the referendum was primarily about the economy and security, but it seems that immigration became a more significant factor as the vote neared.

BORIS: Maybe so, but substantial support for the Leave vote already existed for other important reasons. This is also about representative democracy. Unelected faceless EU civil servants impose endless rules, regulations and financial obligations on the UK. The press and the elite have neglected the obstacles the EU has created for business, especially small shopkeepers, as well as unduly interfering with the daily private lives of ordinary people with petty overregulation. The European Court of Justice overrules English laws and judges, something the US would never stand for, as evidenced by their refusing to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

CAMERON: I did negotiate with the EU and got them to agree to some changes in our favour.

BORIS (to CAMERON): I know you tried your best, but you really did not get much. The bloated EU bureaucracy is extremely inflexible from top to bottom, starting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. He is so rigid that I would not be surprised if he could not even bend over to tie his shoelaces. The man has this ever-closer phobia and keeps pushing the EU down a one-way road to failure. What started as an economic union—with the European Economic Community in 1975—morphed into the European Union in 1993, a political union with an insatiable hunger for fiscal, diplomatic and unchecked legislative powers.

(Although OBAMA finished his dinner some time ago, a small piece of bread remains on the table. He picks it up and dips it in a small plate of olive oil)

BORIS (to OBAMA): It is much healthier to dip bread in olive oil than to smoother it with butter, do you not agree?

OBAMA: I believe everyone knows that.

BORIS: Dip away while you can. In 2014, the EU tried to ban the use of refillable bottles and dipping bowls of olive oil at restaurant tables. There was an unusual groundswell against the proposal across Europe by consumers and restaurant owners.  It was one of the very few times that the EU backed down and reversed one of its rules, never admitting it was wrong, but excusing itself by saying that the ban was not formulated so as to achieve wide support from the public, as if the EU has ever given a rat’s ass about public opinion. They always know better and want to impose their way of thinking by re-educating the public, a common trait of those in unelected positions. I would not be surprised if they tried something like this again; the UK will still be subject to EU regulations until they negotiate the terms of withdrawal from the EU.

ANOTHER WAITER (arrives out of nowhere, pushing a cart): Gentlemen, I have the pleasure of preparing Bananas Foster at your table.

(The cart contains a large skillet on an alcohol burner, brown sugar, butter, rum, banana liquor, and several bananas)

OBAMA: I have not eaten Bananas Foster for quite some time.

(An elderly man—the MINDER—with white hair, a face with more wrinkles than his tired ill-fitting soviet era brown suit, and a short military style haircut suddenly appears and pulls out a small tool—a digital angle finder, picks up a banana and measures its curvature or bend. He speaks with an East German accent)

MINDER (to ANOTHER WAITER): You will take these bananas back; their bend violates EU regulations.

(The MINDER puts the banana back on the cart and ANOTHER WAITER pushes the cart away)

CAMERON: I thought that the bend rules applied to cucumbers.

BORIS: Yes, but it is more complicated for cucumbers than bananas because there are two cucumber categories. Class I and Extra Class cucumbers allow a bend of 10mm per 10cm of length, whereas Class II cumbers can bend twice as much.

CAMERON: Wait a minute. I think the rule on bananas was modified in the UK a few years back.

MINDER: Nobody told me. I will have to fill out a report concerning this violation.

(He takes out a pad of forms and makes notations on the top one)

MINDER: Your names.

CAMERON: I am the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

MINDER: And I am the King of Bavaria.

BORIS: He really is the Prime Minister.

BORIS and OBAMA (to themselves): Not for long.

MINDER: And, I suppose you are the Mayor of London

(pause)

MINDER (continuing): For the pittance they pay me, I am not going to verify your names. I just need to write something in each blank on this form so none of the highly paid comrades in Brussels sends it back.

(He starts filling out the form and turns to OBAMA)

MINDER (to OBAMA): Don’t think I have forgotten about you. You look like a university professor. I’ll just write “professor”, since you gentlemen are playing games with me over your real names. They don’t matter because the guilty party subject to a fine is the restaurant.

OBAMA: That’s OK; I can get some Bananas Foster next time I am in New Orleans.

(OBAMA picks up a thin briefcase and pulls out a group of articles that mention Cameron and the EU referendum. He holds them out to CAMERON, but the MINDER grabs them and pulls off the large paperclip holding them together)

MINDER: What have we here?

BORIS: This does not look good.

OBAMA: The articles are not all negative.

BORIS: That is not the problem; it is the petty EU bureaucracy.

(The MINDER pulls out a small ruler and measures the length of the paper clip)

MINDER: Just as I suspected; this clip exceeds the allowable size under EU regulations.

(He bends the paperclip and it snaps in two)

MINDER: Oh, my, look at this. This clip appears to be made of materials that violate EU safety regulations. I’ll have to confiscate it and write another report.

(The Minder places the unclipped papers on the table, fills out another form and departs. Before he leaves, he clicks his heels together and raises his right arm in a Nazi salute)

MINDER: Sorry. Old habits are hard to break.

OBAMA: First it’s bananas; now it’s paper clips.

(He straightens the articles and hands them to CAMERON)

CAMERON: Thank you. I am sure I will find them interesting.

OBAMA: Who was that fellow?

BORIS: A minder.

OBAMA: Did you say a miner?

BORIS: No, a minder—one of those low-level officials assigned to follow you around if you visited Soviet controlled countries in the old days. They would stick to you like glue.

OBAMA: I thought that all went out with the end of the Cold War.

CAMERON: It is just something the EU is trying on a temporary basis.

BORIS: There is no such thing as temporary where the EU is concerned. They will make this so-called experiment permanent and expand it.

OBAMA: Why was that fellow measuring the bananas?

CAMERON: The EU wants to ensure that its rules and regulations are being followed. They have placed staff members in a few restaurants on a test basis to oversee compliance in the food service industry.

BORIS: Staff members, bloody hell. These are former minders from East Germany here to spy on us for the EU; a relic from the Cold War, straight out of Alexanderplatz central casting in Berlin. They are state employees who cannot be retrained for other jobs. An invasive program our Prime Minister has allowed into the UK.

CAMERON: I saw his resume—he comes with a recommendation, somewhat dated, from Erich Honecker.

BORIS: Wonderful fellow as far as apparatchiks go, especially known for organising the building of the Berlin Wall.

OBAMA (to himself): I wonder if Donald Trump has heard of him?

CAMERON: Don’t blame me; the UK has to follow the EU directives or they raise a big stink or take legal action.

BORIS (to OBAMA):  You probably thought the EU referendum was just about security and the economy.

OBAMA: Well yes. That is what first comes to mind.

BORIS: The problem that mostly affects the daily lives of UK citizens is the constant generation of new regulations, most of them quite petty.  Job security is sacred at the European Commission. It is almost impossible to be fired, but people still like to give the appearance of being busy.  I would not be surprised to find that they have classes to teach civil servants how to look busy when they have nothing to do.  More than 10,000 EU officials make more than our Prime Minister does.  The latest proposal, so I hear, is to offer an incentive system for lower-paid employees who submit three ideas each week for new things to regulate.

OBAMA: There is nothing wrong with big government, but I don’t know about that kind of incentive system.

OBAMA (to BORIS): You were a major supporter of the Leave campaign. What are their plans for carrying out the Brexit?

BORIS (ignoring the question): Do you own a dog?

OBAMA: Two.

BORIS: Well, you probably have the same rules as in the UK; you must carry a plastic bag and pick up after your dog makes a deposit.

OBAMA: Yes, but it is not a big inconvenience.

BORIS: You might have a problem with your dogs if you move to London after you leave the White House, at least until we are out of the EU.

OBAMA: I wasn’t planning to, but why is that?

BORIS: The EU regulators in their concern for the environment are going all out after plastic.

OBAMA: I see nothing wrong with that.

BORIS: They are considering banning the use of plastic bags for dog walkers.

OBAMA: Then, how are you going to clean up the dog deposits?

BORIS: Dog owners will have to train their dogs to sit on the pot to take a crap before they go for a walk. Quite an inconvenience for dog owners, but it will be good for business.

OBAMA: How is that?

BORIS: They already make special potty seats for small children and disabled persons. Now they will need to design special ones for dogs, and one size will not fit all. Even so, the solicitors will be concerned about liability if an owner uses the wrong size and a dog falls in and drowns, so more work for them. Potty manufacturers and the owners of pet stores will also benefit from increased sales.

(ANOTHER WAITER appears with the dessert menu and asks to take their orders)

OBAMA: I am not hungry anymore.

CAMERON: Me neither.

BORIS (to ANOTHER WAITER): Bring those bananas back. I’ll take them home and make my own Bananas Foster.

ANOTHER WAITER: I am sorry but the MINDER confiscated them.

BORIS: What is he going to do—send them with his report to Brussels?

ANOTHER WAITER: No. I saw him through the window, standing at the bus stop. He was eating the bananas.

THE END

Small banana X