This week’s challenge: to write a 1500 word comedy.
…the number of books on Mr Evan’s desk.
I lean across and whisper to Ee-Jay. “Jesus Moffat, they’re made of paper.”
“Of course Phillistine,” butts in Phillip Morris. “What did you think you’d be reading in Historical English?”
“You’re such a dick, Phill-lip Morris.”
Mr Evans clears his throat and says, “We will start the semester with Jane Austen’s Pride-Pride-Pride and Prejudice.”
The class sniggers.
“Guess they didn’t fix his tic during the holidays,” I say to no one in particular and there’s another round of sniggers.
The Max Head-Room stylin’ was kinda funny in first semester, but Jesus Moffat, can’t Dep-Ed do something about maintaining their Edu-Bots. He might explode and kill the first two rows of students. That’s why I’m always one row from the back. Human shield and all that.
Mr Evans ignores me and I realise he’s been reprogrammed.
He distributes stacks of books to each person in the front row. The books move down, row by row and I pass the last book to Phillip Morris. I hold my copy between two fingers and drop it back on my desk.
“Sir?” I do it proper-like, put my hand up, rather than just yell out. “You can’t expect me to hold it in my hands for… hours. I don’t know where the last reader’s hands were before they touched it.”
“Miss Hellier. What did you expect when you signed up for Historical English?”
“Sir?” It’s someone near the door. “This isn’t written in English.”
“Jesus Moffat,” it’s Phillip Morris cursing. “Pride and Prejudice was published 250 years before Universal English became the standard language. Everyone knows there used to be twenty-six letters in the alphabet until American-English was adopted as the universal language and Z replaced S, S removed altogether from usage in 2034.”
“American English is very much an oxymoron, would you not agree, Mr Morris.”
I snort out my nose.
“He doesn’t mean moron, you oxygen thief,” Phillip Morris spits behind me. “It’s a figure of speech combining two contradictory terms. Like Intelligent Ally Hellier.”
“Are you calling me dumb, Phillip Morris?” I turn and glare at him. “I swear I’ll tell everyone what happened at your birthday.”
“That’s enough,” Mr Evans brings the metre long ruler down on my desk and I jump. That’s new! “Detention Miss Hellier?”
“No-no-no, thank you, sir,” I say, doing the head jerks to accompany the stammer knowing I’ll get away with it.
The class laughs and Mr Evans returns to his desk like I said nothing. I fume.
“Pride and Prejudice is just your sort of book. Has the world’s surliest dude in it,” Phillip Morris whispers in my ear. “Your soul mate. Ally and Darcy sittin’ in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”
“Piss off Phillip. Just cause I won’t go out with you.”
“You know one day you’re going to be begging for me.”
“You just wait.” He starts to tap his foot against my chair, gently rocking it.
“Fuck off, Phillip.”
…the number of minutes left of this class and Phillip Morris.
– – –
…the number of days it take me to ask Mum to write a note to get me out of reading the book. She refuses because it’s the day before my essay’s due. There’s only one thing to do… hit the Webz, find a movie and/or an essay to rip off.
The Edu-Bot-pinheads set the same book year-in, year-out but never ask the same essay question twice. I’m screwed. There’s essays on social and marriage mores (they wanted more?), the original title, the status of women… but nothing even close to Mr Evan’s question: explore the relationship between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet beyond the paradigms of class and love.
They were at school together? Hold on… it was a love story? Shit! I should have paid more attention in class.
What do I know about the story? I remember he didn’t want to dance with her. Okay… I can write about dancing and their relationship. Mr Darcy doesn’t have the moves on the dance floor so he can’t get the chick he’s hot for. Now I need the movie to fill in the gaps?
The search turns up 1234 hits of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies: The Movie.
Zombies? A love story about zombies? Mr Evans never said that. Bastard.
I can turn in an essay on Mr Darcy who just wanted the best brains of all and was willing to dance to get them. That’s not talking about love or class.
But hold on… at the bottom, four listings for Pride and Prejudice, and the zombie ideas eats itself. Three have some dude called Colin Firth in them, but it’s going to take me all night to watch them and then I still have to write something. There’s a short one. Just one listing for it. I utter a prayer of thanks to Jesus Moffat and press play on the VidScreen.
One Hundred and Eighteen…
…the number of the minutes it takes for me to fall for Mr Darcy and promise I’ll do whatever it takes to have him.
– – –
…the number of hours I’ve (almost) been awake for.
I told Mum I had vomitingdiarrhea from touching the book Friday morning, because she wouldn’t write me the note and she backed out the door dry retching. She put me in isolation for forty-eight hours. Just like I knew she would.
I get Phillip Morris on the UpLink at lunchtime and tell him I need him to reanimate a movie character for me.
His Dad’s head tech at Opera Io where they stage productions of holographic singers, whose mostly dead heads are kept in these bubbling dome things. And his Mum’s an Aisa Priestess. So I figure if anyone knows how to DIY reanimation it’s him. And I know I have something he wants. I don’t have to beg.
He arrives after school with bags of tech junk and a sick grin. His Mum suggests I channel the Buddha, create Mr Darcy from my thoughts and a drop of my blood. I say I thought Buddha was the guy who owned that garden fountain franchise and I can’t see how that’s going to help?
Phillip rolls his eyes.
I remind him Mr Darcy can’t be a hologram like the opera. I can’t make out with a billion light particles. He says we need to use the theory of integrated awareness—something about raising sentience. I don’t care if Mr Darcy can talk. I don’t want him for his conversation.
At dawn on the final day Phillip wakes me. He’s hot-wired his device into the Amb-100 outlet by the door, now he needs my blood. I let him prick my finger and squeeze a drip into the circuit and the walls shimmer, like they’re alive, linking the Amb-100, the VidScreen and me. Gratefully I’m only connected by blood.
I’m thinking about Mr Darcy stepping out of the rain and into my arms when Phillip reminds me of his payment.
I let him touch my tits. It would’ve bothered me two days ago, Phillip Morris with his paws on me, but now I just close my eyes and imagine they’re Mr Darcy’s slightly clumsy hands. When Phillip’s done I tell him to bugger off and threaten I’ll put it out on the Webz he vomited vodka orange out his nose at his birthday if he tells anyone he touched my tits.
My hand shakes when I cue the movie to Mr Darcy and Elizabeth ‘fessing up to being hot for each other. Once I’m happy with the freeze frame, I tear open the tiny black courier bag. The contents decompress and a dress of cream material grows in my hands.
I get dressed and giggle; I’ve never worn a dress before. I flick the switch, activate the circuit and stay kneeling, my hand hovering over Phillip’s device for several minutes, thinking all the right kinds of thoughts about Mr Darcy, just like Mrs Morris said.
“Dance with me Mr Darcy,” I say standing up, hoping he does more than dance when he appears. The VidScreen activates on my voice and the Amb-100 flickers to life, rain falling on the walls. The image on the screen lurches and freezes. I’m about to swear at Phillip Morris for shitting me to go the grope when a voice behind says, “You have bewitched me.”
“Jesus Moffat… yes!” I say, turning. “You’re here.”
“Body and soul,” he says. “I love, I love—” and I grab him and jam my mouth against his. Conversation be damned… I don’t know how long the circuit will hold up.
The number of minutes I go the snog with Mr Darcy before Mum opens the bedroom door to tell me I can come out.
Word count: 1484
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– – –
I owe a debt of gratitude to Alan Baxter and Rob Diaz who beta read a particularly awful second draft, likened to a succession of stand up jokes (Rob) which weren’t particularly funny or compelling (me!) Al and Rob’s comments helped me to craft my dog’s breakfast into an actual story… with some vaguely funny components.