Cobol and Dropping had been married for fifteen years now. They lived happily in a brightly coloured teapot on the fringe of a political uprising where they collected Navaho Indians for the enjoyment of visiting spaniels.
Dropping's father had originally thought that she could do better for herself than marry Cobol for he was after all a toilet brush with rather scraggy badger hair bristles. However, the ensuing fifteen years had proved Cobol to be a most worthy husband. He was kind and considerate, well mannered at the dining table and could reach those particularly difficult stains on the upper lip of the U-bend. And when she considered that she herself was a small piece of carpet fluff, Dropping reckoned that as far as matrimonial matters were concerned she'd done all right for herself.
This belief was further compounded by the events that took place on the eve of their wedding anniversary. Cobol had just returned home from a long day's cauliflower baiting when he found his teapot under siege from a marauding army of mules' ears. Without a moment's hesitation he charged towards his home frantically trying to repel the dismembered ears that were flapping wildly about his head. On approaching the teapot he leapt boldly towards its spout, clambered his way into the nozzle and slid down the inside of its length.
There he found his wife in a terrible state of distress.
"Oh Cobol," she wept. "I'm so frightened. They've been attacking the teapot all day."
"There, there," comforted Cobol, "It's okay. I think I know what's causing this."
"What?" asked Dropping.
"Take a look at this," said Cobol. "I got it from a colleague at work today."
He handed her a thin paper book of about a dozen pages. Dropping read the front cover.
"Busty Spanish Squid Charmers?" she queried. "What is it?"
"Read it," said Cobol. "All will become clear."
Dropping sat down and read the book.
It told the story of a deranged woman who was unable to bake potato and pilchard pasties and ended up turning orange and exploding. It told the story of a small pea-green man who lived in a toaster which became infested with Mighty White bread and he had to enlist the help of a golf playing mackerel. It told the story of the son of a bagel stuffer who fell in love with a large breasted Spanish girl who could charm squid.
"I don't understand," said Dropping when she'd finished, "What has this got to do with us?"
"There's more," said Cobol and he showed her another similar looking book. Dropping looked at the title.
"Momp Momp Cark?" she said curiously. "What does that mean?"
"It means we're in deep shit," said Cobol gravely, "Look what's inside it - Tweep, Warple, The Lub-Lub, Pooing, Polly Draperie's Larger Cupboard. And that s not all. There's another book here all about socks. There's loads of this stuff and it's all shite, the insane blatherings of a deeply disturbed mind."
"I still don't see how this relates to our problem," said Dropping.
"Well," said Cobol. "Look at the situation we're in. It has all the hallmarks of the writings of this demented woman."
"What do you mean?"
"Don't you see?" said Cobol. "We're clearly trapped in a Kate Rancid story!"
At this juncture a dramatic chord is supposed to go Da Daaa! somewhere in the reader's mind. In reality the reader probably just went "Oh dear".
"What, you mean we're just characters in someone else's story?" said Dropping.
"But that's ridiculous!"
"Look, think about it," said Cobol. "We're in a teapot, we're being being besieged by mule's ears. We have a substantial collection of Navaho Indians. I'm a toilet brush and you're a piece of carpet fluff and we're married to each other for Christ's sake! That's typical Kate Rancid material."
"Well, what can we do about it?"
"We have to go and see her and get this sorted out."
"Do you know where to find her?"
"Yes. I discovered she lives in Leeds."
I was in the process of skinning up some breakfast when the doorbell rang. I had spent the last half an hour scratting about my untidy room for enough Rizlas and a suitable roach and so could have done without being disturbed, particularly at this unearthly hour. I switched on the T.V. to catch the day's second showing of Home And Away.
The doorbell rang again. I suppose I'd better answer it. It might be someone I can borrow money off 'til my Giro comes. That reminds me. I haven't phoned Mike for a while.
I selected my least smelly skirt, put on a top I'd borrowed from Jane and gave myself an optimistic spray of deodorant. Upon arriving at the door I was surprised to find that there was no one there. Just a toilet brush and a piece of carpet fluff stood on the doorstep.
"Miss Kate Rancid?" spoke the toilet brush unexpectedly.
"Wh-what?" I stammered.
"Miss Rancid. I believe you know why we're here," said the toilet brush.
"You're a talking toilet brush?" I gasped in astonishment.
"Well, yes," it said.
"You can't be," I said, "I haven't had my breakfast yet!"
"Your meal times are of no concern to us," said the brush. "We have other matters to discuss." And with that, it hopped over the threshold closely followed by the piece of carpet fluff.
"And put the kettle on," demanded the fluff.
"Come on, admit it Rancid," insisted Cobol. "We know it's you. It's got your prints all over it."
"Honestly," I urged. "I'd never even heard of you 'til you turned up on my doorstep. And besides, even if I had written you into one of my stories do you think I'd be stupid enough to have you come round disturbing me during Home And Away? After all, if I were writing this then I could just write you away. I could make you do anything I wished."
"Well, if it's not you," said Dropping, "then who is it? And how do we save our teapot?"
"Look," I said, "I might be able to help. There's this guy in Islington, used to lived round here but fucked off to london - Christ knows why. He writes Shite too. He may have some idea about what's going on."
"How do we get there?" asked Dropping.
"I'll take you there," I said. "After all, it seems that I'm tangled up in this story too. And besides, I need to get out of the flat. It's become too untidy even for me to live in."
"He'll be in," I said confidently, "It's nearly eight o'clock so we may have to wait 'til Star Trek's finished before he answers the door."
"He watches Star Trek?" exclaimed Cobol.
"What a tosser."
"I can't wait to . . ."
"No, listen," I cautioned. "Just let me do all the talking. This guy's an advanced idiot. He needs to be dealt with, er, carefully." Finally, the door opened.
We did the jumping-up-and-down dance (a tradition that neither of us have had enough courage to admit that we don't want to do anymore) and gave each other an obligatory hug, but that's about as far as it goes. Mike knows that his chances of getting off with me are about as good as mine are of getting off with him. It's not that either of us are particularly fussy, it's just that we all have to draw the line somewhere.
I stepped into Mike's neat tidy flat and into the immaculately pristine kitchen. How anybody could live like this I just don't understand. It's not natural. If the Good Lord had intended us to have clean kitchens, He wouldn't have given us tea bags, pasta shells and Bolognese sauce now, would He?
I placed Cobol and Dropping on the toxically clean kitchen table. Who knows what traces of Ajax lurk menacingly on that surface?
"Mike," I said. "I'd like to introduce you to Cobol a toilet brush and Dropping, a small piece of carpet fluff."
"Oh, er, that's nice," said Mike pleasantly.
"Aren't you going to say hello to them?" I asked.
"Of course," said Mike. "How ill-mannered of me. Hello Cobol. Hello Dropping."
Cobol and Dropping, however, remained as inert as, well, as a toilet brush and a small piece of carpet fluff.
"Cobol. Dropping," I hissed. "Say hello to Mike."
"Maybe they're a bit shy," said Mike failing abysmally to hide the sarcasm in his voice.
"Er, yes," I said a little nervously.
"Tea?" he said.
"Please," I replied.
I sat down and watched as Mike filled his spotless kettle and switched it on. Then he took two cups from the cupboard and placed an Assam tea bag in each. There's something disgusting about using a cup straight from the cupboard without having to rinse it out first. Afterall, that cup may have been standing for days gathering dust, whereas if you were to save washing it until when you really needed it then you'd know it was clean.
"Only two cups?" I said curiously.
"How many do you want?" said Mike.
"Well, four altogether."
"Of course. Cobol and, er, Dropping was it, will want one too?"
His smarminess was beginning to annoy me.
"You know damn well they do!" I snapped. "Come on, Mike. I know you're the author. You're deliberately keeping them quiet just to make me look stupid."
"Well, what if I am the author? You've been nagging me to write to you for ages."
"To me, not about me!"
"Yeah, well. It's just a bit of fun. You know how it is."
"Not for me, it isn't! Well, I'm not standing for it, I tell you."
"I'm afraid you have no choice. I am, as you said, the author and I can make you do anything I want."
"That's what you think!"
"That's what I know. I made you come here with a toilet brush and a piece of carpet fluff. I can send you back with a stuffed aardvark on your head and your arse painted orange. I could even make you not get your tits out."
And to prove he was wrong I threw off my top and started to unfasten my bra.
"What's the matter with my bra?" I demanded as I struggled with the fastener.
"I'm afraid, it's stuck." said Mike smugly. "You won't be able to remove your bra."
I grabbed the cups and gave a mighty upwards tug. Incredibly, I was unable to pull my bra up from my pert bouncy bosoms.
"You bastard, Mike," I spat. "No one has ever before stopped me getting my tits out."
"Well, now you know what it's like to be a character in a story," he said.
"Is that what all this is about?" I said.
"Yes," he said. "We're both writers, Shite writers at that, and I think we need to give a little consideration to the characters we use in our stories, characters that we enslave and manipulate at our will, and at the end of the story casually discard without a thought for their futures."
"Aw, come on Mike. That's getting a little sentimental."
"No, no, hear me out," he insisted. "Take for example The Tale Of The Infested Toaster. A giant mackerel saved Luggage's toaster from the ravages of the Mighty White bread, but in the end it split into slices and was made into sandwiches."
"You've killed fish too," I challenged. "What about The Star That Lost Its Twinkle?"
"Oh, I admit I'm equally as guilty. That's why we need to do something about it."
"Yes, but characters like the mackerel and Pembroke and Muriel are entirely fictional. I'm real. I actually exist."
"Yes. But you're not actually here. We're not actually having this conversation. You are at home reading this story some days after I wrote it and sent it to you. In many ways, you are a fictional character yourself."
"Hang on a minute," I said, "If you're the author and I'm a character, why do you write me in the first person and yourself in the third?"
I had to admit she had a point. I guess it was time to change persons again, even if it just added to the confusion. To be honest, I had once again written myself into a mess without any real idea how the story was going to turn out. But I'm a writer. A professional. I shall find a way out, even if it involves killing a few more fish.
I looked at Kate and took pity on her. I had dragged her all the way to London only to have a pointless argument with her.
"We could always go for a happy ending," she suggested.
"Good idea," I said. "Wiggle your hands about like they do in Wayne's World when entering a dream scene."
Beside us, a beach bar beckoned, upon which stood a brace of fruit laden cocktails that the barman had freshly prepared for us. He then proceeded to skin up the fattest spliff imaginable, which with our libations enabled us to put our heads into that perfect state for writing more Shite.