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Note to Self (or A Question of Wilkins)

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Old 01-13-2009, 06:58 PM
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Default Note to Self (or A Question of Wilkins)


So I suppose at some point I mentioned that I A) was a writer and B) had dabbled in comedy. This should, hopefully, serve to back up both points - it's a piece I wrote up entirely on whim and it's delightfully absurd. I still couldn't really tell you where the ideas came from.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dedicated to Charles Leitz and Durandal the Garlic, both of whom I’m sure will wholeheartedly identify with the subject material.

It was at around eight o’clock in the morning when Basil Greaves discovered that he’d left himself a note on the counter reminding him to have Wilkins shot.

Naturally, this was somewhat confusing to Basil, as he was good friends with Edward Wilkins, so like anyone would do in that situation he left the house after breakfast to speak with the man himself, and hopefully to find out why he wanted him shot so badly. Since he had, after all, left himself a note to that effect, there must be a good reason that was painfully apparent at the time, but for the life of him he could not actually remember. No doubt he was going to think himself a fool for forgetting once it actually came to him, and he was sure than he and Wilkins would share a good laugh about it when it returned to his memory.

These were the thoughts going through his head as he made his way up to Wilkins’ door, a plain white one with a simple iron doorknocker at about eye level, and as he brought himself up to knock it he was interrupted by a cry from the walk behind him.

“Basil, my dear neighbour! What are you doing at my door?”

Basil turned around to find Wilkins hurrying towards him, his stick in one hand. “Edward! Just the man I was looking for! I was about to knock!”

“So I can see!” replied Wilkins, stepping up beside him. “I would hate to deprive you of the pleasure – would you mind waiting for a minute and then doing so? It’ll give me just enough time to prepare myself.”

“Certainly, my good friend!” exclaimed Basil, stepping back as Wilkins opened the door and stepped past him. “Just one minute!” the neighbour promised as he crossed the threshold, sticking his head out the door.

Basil obliged him, of course, as it was a simple request and only right. After all, it would be quite awkward for them to both be standing outside the door when he knocked! One of them had to be inside to answer the door, otherwise the whole procedure would be simply worthless. He raised his hand to the knocker and knocked twice, firmly, and after a few seconds Wilkins opened the door, a pipe in his mouth and his coat already stowed away. “Basil, my dear neighbour! Now why could you be coming around to my house so early in the morning! I’ve only just finished my after-breakfast walk!”

“I’m so sorry to trouble you, Edward,” replied Basil. “May I come in? It’s nothing important, I promise you.”

“Of course, of course!” exclaimed Wilkins, holding the door open. “Let me take your coat for you…there we go! Let’s proceed into the sitting room together, shall we?”

They did so, and were soon seated around the empty fireplace. “Can I get you anything, Basil?” asked Wilkins. “I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer right now – we weren’t expecting guests.”

“That’s quite all right, Edward. I only came here to get to the bottom of a little mystery in my humble home. You see, Edward, I appear to have left a note reminding myself to have you shot, and for the life of my I cannot remember why!”

“Have me shot!” exclaimed Wilkins. “Whatever I did to prompt this, I’m certain that I most definitely deserve it! Do you have any ideas?”

“I’m afraid not, my dear neighbour,” replied Basil, shaking his head. “That’s why I came here at once – I was hoping that you would be able to cast some light on this strange affair.”

“Dear me!” said Wilkins. “Well, I assume that you’ve brought your pistol so as to carry out the deed once we’ve sorted out the motives?”

“I’m sorry, no, I haven’t,” said Basil, shaking his head again. “You see, the note was quite explicit – I was to have you shot, not shoot you. It’s a vital difference.”

“But you are able to carry this order out quite extemporaneously, yes?” asked Wilkins. “I should hate to have the whole affair dragged out for too long.”

Basil sucked on his lower lip. “I’m not entirely sure, my dear Edward. You see, I’m unfortunately not aware of exactly how one goes about having another shot, especially if the wording excludes the former from actually shooting the latter himself. I suppose this is a rather important question to figure out, isn’t it?”

“Well, this is a conundrum!” said Wilkins, puffing on his pipe. “We’ve only been at this for a good minute or two and we already have twice as many questions as we started out with! How Byzantine! Perhaps if we just focus on the first one and sort out the other once we’ve answered it?”

“Capital!” exclaimed Basil. “I’m glad I came to you, Edward. I’m certain that between the two of us we can sort out any and all problems that come out before I am to have you shot! I don’t know how I’ll get along without you!”

“You flatter me, old friend,” said Wilkins, blushing. “It’s only logical that we tackle the one problem before the other. But let’s not spend the morning complimenting each other and get down to business! When did this note go up exactly?”

“I’m not entirely sure, but it must have been sometime last night, as I don’t remember seeing it yesterday. But I’d forget my own head if it weren’t screwed on! So perhaps it was there before that.”

“You’re being too hard on yourself, my dear Basil!” exclaimed Wilkins, waving his pipe about. “You’re a regular cocker spaniel! I’m certain you would have noticed this note yesterday and come to me right away! That leaves last night. Do you remember what you were doing?”

“Not at all, I’m afraid. I don’t believe it was anything out of the ordinary – ah, yes! I was reading a book, that’s what it was! Some young whippersnapper with the most unwholesome ideas – I don’t remember the name, I’m afraid.”

“And that was what you were doing all evening? Basil, did we meet at any point last night?”

“I don’t believe so, my dear Edward. In fact, I’m almost certain I spent the evening alone.”

“Alone? What of Sybil?”

“Oh, Sybil! She’s out in the country visiting relatives for the next few days. Left yesterday, if I recall correctly.”

“Out visiting relatives? Does that include that absolute bounder James?”

Basil shuddered. “James! Ugh! No, no, she quite explicitly promised me that she would have nothing more to do with that cad. And good riddance!”

“Aye,” Wilkins nodded sympathetically. “Her mother’s family, then?”

“Yes, indeed. They own property out there in the country, but they’ve only just returned from Europe and Sybil is dying to hear about their experiences. I’ll be going along myself in a few days – I hear her brother Arthur was quite awed by Germany and I must go and find out what all the fuss he’s making is about. But we’re digressing somewhat, aren’t we?”

“Oh! I’m so sorry!” cried Wilkins. “You’re absolutely right, we’ve gone far beyond the topic for today! It’s just that you said you were alone and I was wondering what Sybil was up to. The fault is all mine, and I apologize.”

“Oh, there’s no need!” exclaimed Basil, holding his hand in the air to wave off the apology. “It was a wholly reasonable question – if anything, the fault is mine for encouraging the discussion! Where were we?”

“We were trying to remember what you were doing last night that so prompted you to remind yourself to have me shot,” supplied Wilkins. “Are you sure you don’t want anything?”

“Quite sure, thank you. No, I’m quite certain I spent the night doing nothing but reading. Horrid book! I should lend it to you. The man has some of the most radical ideas, all of them quite unnatural.”

“How far are you from the ending?” asked Wilkins. “Seeing as you will be having me shot once we sort this question out I worry that I’ll not have time to read it.”

“Oh! How stupid of me! Of course! Let me just tell you that it’s not the book a proper gentlemen should be reading and leave it at that then. Ugh!”

The front door opened and closed, accompanied by a shrill “Edward! I’m home!”, and Wilkins’ wife Mabel appeared in the doorway to the sitting-room. “Basil!” she exclaimed as she saw him. “Good Lord, if I’d known you were coming I’d have cut my visiting short! Dear me! Can I get you anything?”

“I’ve already asked him, Mabel, and he’s content without,” replied Wilkins, sitting up.

“He even asked twice,” volunteered Basil, smiling shyly. “I’m quite fine.”

“Well, if you insist…” said Mabel, her lips pursed. “And to what do we owe this unexpected pleasure, anyway?”

“Basil’s just discovered a note he left to remind himself to have me shot,” replied Wilkins.

“I can’t remember for the life of me why exactly I wanted this to happen,” continued Basil, “so I came over straightaway to discuss the problem with Edward and try to get to the bottom of it.”

“Have Edward shot!” cried Mabel. “Well, I certainly hope you remember the reason! It wouldn’t do to have him shot if you couldn’t remember why! Will you be doing so as soon as you’ve figured it out? I hope I don’t have to have the carpets cleaned.”

“Well, as I was explaining to Edward earlier, the note quite clearly stated that I was to have him shot, you see,” replied Basil. “The difference is very important; unfortunately, as he pointed out, I don’t really know how to go about it, which creates something of a puzzle for me. So it will probably be quite some time before he actually is shot, I’m afraid.”

“Oh! My dear!” exclaimed Mabel, “There’s no need to be trapped by that question! Have I never told you that my brother is in the Eighth Regiment? I’ll call him as soon as you’ve realized the reason and he can be over with a squad to shoot Edward within a few weeks!”

“Within a few weeks!” cried Basil. “Capital! You see, Edward, you were quite right in having us concentrate on the first question first! Imagine how much time we might have wasted trying to figure out how to have you shot while the answer was right under our noses! Genius, my friend! It will be everyone’s loss when the deed finally is done!”

Wilkins looked down shyly. “It was nothing, my boy, completely logical. Oh!” he lifted his head again. “Now I’ll have time to look at that book you were talking about! I hope you’ve finished it.”

“Oh! I couldn’t read a word more of it! But you’re quite right! In fact,” he stated, rising from his chair, “I’ll go and fetch it right now! I may even see something on the way that will remind me why I’m to have you shot!”

“Wonderful!” replied Wilkins. “I’ll wait for your return, then!”

When Basil made use once again of Wilkins’ knocker he was whistling cheerfully, and the delighted look on his face caused Wilkins to pause as he opened the door. “Why, what’s gotten into you, Basil?” he asked, perplexed.

“Why, nothing but the simple pleasure of having solved a conundrum, my dear Edward!” replied Basil as he stepped into the hall.

“You have it!” cried Wilkins delightedly. “I’ll have to make preparations right away…being shot is a serious business! Why, I’ll be busy writing things down right up until Mabel’s brother knocks on the door!”

“Oh, you need not worry about that, my boy!” replied Basil, showing him the book. “And from now on, the next time I remind myself to have someone shot I’ll write down both their names!”

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Old 01-14-2009, 06:33 AM
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Enjoyed it immensely. Quite Monty Pythonesque in and odd way. Well done.
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Old 01-14-2009, 01:17 PM
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Ahhh!! I'm not quick enough to get it! You led up to the answer so meticulously suspenseful and now I can't understand why Basil wanted Wilkins shot!

I'm not a big fan of large portions of dialog but this was wonderful. From the first sentence I was hooked. Normally I would want to know why this was such a joyous occasion but you've made it so that it's just supposed to be accepted, not questioned. Your SPaG is solid - not an error I could see.

Now tell me what the hell happened! It's frustrating beyond belief!
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Old 01-14-2009, 02:18 PM
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I was snickering at El902's lackwittedness...then realized that I had no idea what the end was, either Obviously the author of the book was the other person Basil wanted shot, but why did he also want Wilkins shot?

Stylistically speaking, you're quite good and readable. There are a few places where I began having to read over again, though, mostly due to confusing sentences. Here's one paragraph I'm doing a line-by-line on to help you get an idea of what I mean:

Naturally, this was somewhat confusing to Basil, as he was good friends with Edward Wilkins,(This is something like a comma splice. A period would make this much simpler to read) so like anyone would do in that situation he left the house after breakfast to speak with the man himself, and hopefully to find out why he wanted him(Keep your pronouns obvious. Say "Wilkins" or another identifier here. "He wanted him shot because he was angry," for example, depends on the reader to figure out exactly who him, he, and him are, and that can get confusing.) shot so badly. Since he had, after all, left himself a note to that effect, there must be a good reason that was(had been...tenses mixed!) painfully apparent at the time, but for the life of him he could not actually remember. No doubt he was going to think himself a fool for forgetting once it actually came to him, and he was sure than he and Wilkins would share a good laugh about it when it returned to his memory(You already said "once it came to him". Either break this sentence up into two shorter ones so that you're not using words that mean the same thing twice in a sentence, or delete one and reword accordingly).


I got a good laugh. These characters were very wacky, very matter-of-fact about the whole thing. I think the best part was when Mabel offered a squad of soldiers to shoot Wilkins...hilarious A little read-over for general readability and this'll clean up really nice, I think!
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Old 01-14-2009, 05:15 PM
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It's always interesting to see who understands the ending and who doesn't in every version I've done of this. That said, it might be a tad too subtle for some - I'll make a change to the ending, I think, in which he indicates the book's author - whose name, for those who haven't caught it, is also Wilkins. Basil mixed up his Wilkins.

I'll admit that this is one of my more muddled examples of prose - in this case I was trying to create a certain tone that wasn't totally natural and so I slipped up from time to time.
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Old 01-15-2009, 03:09 PM
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I found myself reading this with stuffy British accents, and imagined them sitting on overstuffed sofas with lace antimacassars. Wierd...!

I liked the matter-of-fact tone of it, as if the most important thing was sorting out the whys and wherefores rather than preventing the deed! I did understand the ending, but I suggest spelling it out so that the book says the author's name.

Thanks for the chuckles!
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Old 01-15-2009, 05:01 PM
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Stuffy British accents is pretty much what they should have, yes. What are antimacassars?
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Old 01-15-2009, 05:09 PM
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Antimacassars are those things that go over the arms and headrests of sofas.

"Macassar" is a place--in the Middle East, I think. In the Victorian era, people would buy hair oil imported from there, which was called macassar just as porcelain was called china. But when people used too much, they'd leave dark stains on upholstery. (If you've ever seen the Eddie Murphy movie "Coming to America", there's a really funny scene with the "Soul Glo" hairspray doing the same thing.) Anyway, "anti-macassars" were invented to catch the stain. These could be laundered, while couches could not.

Interesting story, huh? I honestly don't know if those things have another, easier name, so I had to use the long word!
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Old 01-15-2009, 05:13 PM
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Ah, I see! Interesting...
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