The Writer had us all in a quandary when he came into the pub last night. He looked like a cat that had eaten ten mice for the dinner. Out of his pocket he took a piece of plastic, smoothed it out until it was a nice circle with a hole in the centre of it. There was a nozzle, so he inflated it into what looked like a ring a child would wear learning to swim. Except that no child would fit into the hole in the middle.
“What’s that for?” says he with the tone of a challenge.
“You’re going to teach your hamster to swim,” suggested the Cynic.
“It’s for keeping the banks afloat,” said Himself.
The Young Lad took it and was turning it over, looking at it front and back, looking through the hole as if a different world might manifest itself.
“It’s a cure for my medical condition,” said the Writer.
“I didn’t know you had a medical condition,” said the Young Lad.
“Oh he does,” said the Cynic. “It’s a social disease, so sit well away from him.”
“You heard of Tennis Elbow,” said the Writer to the Young Lad – who nodded. “And Golfer’s Knee.” The Young Lad nodded again. “Well what I have is Writer’s Arse.”
There was a general guffaw. We had often had to listen to the moans of the Writer complaining about the pain in his rear end. A professional hazard, he called it, a condition of the work he did. An occupational injury. Of one thing we were all convinced, that the rear-end was central to the practice of the literary art. And the Writer had been a prophet of doom, in regard to the same. Many a night he issued admonitions that there should be a public health warning with every advertisement for creative writing classes. And if the numbers of writers in the country continued to swell, there could be unbearable pressure on the public health resources.
“It’s an orthopaedic cushion,” said the Writer. “I could put up with the pain in my arse no longer so I went to the doctor and he prescribed this, an orthopaedic cushion.”
Himself took it to have a look. “So it lets you sit on your hole without sitting on your hole!”
“It makes it easier to do what you’re good at, talking through your hole,” said the Cynic.
The Writer grabbed it back and put it under his backside. He swayed from side to side. “See,” he said. “It distributes your weight evenly.”
“They should distribute them around the bars of Ireland,” said Himself, “full of old codgers who claim they could write a book, but that they couldn’t bother their arse. Now they will have no excuse”.
“Do you think they might prescribe them for readers too?” said the Cynic. “We get a pain in the arse too, you know, from having to read your stuff.”
“They would just write longer novels if they thought our arses would be up to it. Still it could be the beginning of something, of a revolution perhaps,” said Himself.
“How so?” asked the Young Lad, all ears.
“Wasn’t it Edgar Alan Poe who said a short story was a narrative that could be perused at one sitting?”
The Writer nodded.
“In other words he linked the length of a short story to the staying power of the arse. Now if everyone had that cushion, then they could sit for longer and the short story could be extended by what, twenty, or thirty percent. See what I mean. That cushion could trigger a shift in literary genres: what used to be a novella could become a short story to a reader equipped with that cushion.”
“And every novel could become a blockbuster,” said the Cynic. “Don’t be encouraging him. Armageddon is always around the corner. No point rushing to meet it.”