Written by Big M
Hung. “I thought you were writing another episode?”
Big. “Err, yep, suppose so.”
Hung. “ You know, you mentioned Foodge’s head in a box.”
Big. “Yeah, I did mention that.”
Hung. “Well, get going!”
Foodge was at his usual place behind the coffee machine busily bringing her up to a full head of steam in readiness for the anticipated influx of customers.
Hung. “Hang on. You’ve started nearly every episode in the last few months with Foodge at the coffee machine.”
Big. “Well, so what, it makes the writing easier.”
Hung. “You know that I’ve been in strife with the Fictional Union of Characters!”
Big. “Wasn’t that the Union of Fictional Characters?”
Hung. “Yes, but they renamed themselves to get a better acronym.”
Big. “Well, FUC certainly has a ring to it.”
Hung. “There are regulations around the use of two dimensional characters in stories. You’re running a risk of only using a two dimensional character in a one-dimensional plot thereby undermining said character’s dimensions. In effect they can simply disappear.”
Big. “I’ll try again.”
Granny was woken in the middle of the night by Foodge’s groans and flailing limbs.
Hung. “That’s better already.”
“Come on, darling, you’re having a nightmare.” Granny soothed.
Foodge managed to pull the pillow from his face. “I dreamed that my head was stuck inside a box.”
“What, like a disembodied head kept alive by a mad scientist, as in the movie, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, or like someone had smashed your head into a box?”
“Dunno, I could still feel my limbs.”
“That could be phantom sensations.” Granny pondered.
“Does it matter now?” Foodge turned over to try to get back to sleep.
“It sort of does. Could you hear anything?”
“Yes, there was a humming sound behind my head, you know, pumps and so forth.” Foodge pulled up the duvet, even though it wasn’t particularly cool.
“Yes, umm, those two fellows that pop in occasionally, um, Hung and Big M.”
“What did they say?’ Granny was becoming anxious.
“Something about two dimensional characters and one dimensional plot lines.” Foodge suddenly started snoring loudly.
Granny didn’t get back to sleep, but sat up wondering what all this meant.
Foodge was back at his usual station behind the bar. Merv slipped a middy along the bar. “Get that into you, it’ll put lead in yer pencil.”
“Love a stout, especially first thing in the morning.” Foodge skulled the dark liquid.
“It’s Granny’s new Porter.”
“What’s a Porter?”
“It’s essentially a type of stout.”
“Right.” Foodge pushed the empty glass along the bar, which Merv quickly refilled (the glass, not the bar).
Foodge raised the glass to his lips but his eyes were transfixed by the most beautiful face he’d seen in his life. She really was a long cool woman in a black dress (as the song goes). She was tall, slender, slightly athletic, with black hair, emerald eyes and pale, almost alabaster skin. “Morning!” He blustered, with the glass still in front of his face.
Merv was just as enchanted, but somehow, maintained some composure. “Good morning, madam, can I be of assistance?”
“What a darling man.” She enthused. “I’m hoping that you can help me.”
“Yes, yes.” Foodge and Merv leaned forward.
“I’ve lost my husband.”
A flicker of hope flared in Merv’s heart. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“No, he’s not dead, he really is lost. I haven’t seen my Alexander for months. He said he was coming to the Pig’s Arms to help out for a week or so and hasn’t been back.”
Merv was slightly crestfallen. “Alexander you reckon? Never ‘eard of him.”
“You may know of him as Sandy?”
“Doesn’t ring a bell.” Both Foodge and Merv shook their heads.
“He sometimes dresses as a priest and claims to be from the Generic Brand Church.”
“Oh, of course, Father O’Way, or FOW as we sometimes call him.” Foodge motioned to the coffee machine.
“Thank goodness, no, I won’t have a coffee, I wouldn’t mind something stronger…perhaps from the top shelf.”
Merv picked up on the hint and decanted from the South Sea Islands Blue Label.
“You know that he’s not really a priest, he just dresses that way to avoid the risk of becoming a one dimensional character. The problem is that we all run that risk in the Fictional Character Industry.”
Foodge nodded carefully, as it took his brain a little while to catch up. “You don’t think we’re all characters in some sort of fiction?”
“That’s like Descartes’ Brain in a vat idea, where some evil demon has placed a brain in a vat of nutrients and connected the nerves to various inputs to make the person think they are still alive.” Merv postulated while pouring Mrs O’Way a second drink.
“Yes, I was dreaming about this only last night, that I was a brain in a box.” Foodge motioned for a third Porter. Merv quickly obliged.
“We can’t be just fictional characters, because we’re here all of the time, talking, moving, eating and drinking. I can’t see how someone could make all of that up?” Merv wrinkled an already much troubled brow.
“Do you ever have people who seem to wander in for what seems to be minutes? They often have outlandish descriptions of themselves or their experiences.” Mrs O’Way sounded like she was on to something.
“Yes, we do.” Foodge looked slightly comical with a beery moustache. “Big M and Hung would be the primary candidates. Hung seems to appear and disappear at will while Big M always claims to have travelled by steam train.”
“That’s exactly the sort of character I’m talking about. Almost like ghosts trying to manipulate the living.” Mrs O’Way was interrupted by a tall man, who planted a kiss on her cheek.
“I hope you aren’t telling tales out of school, darling!” Grinned O’Way.