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Jassy Mackenzie

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Surviving without the X

I’m lying in bed this morning, typing away on my laptop, 20,000 words into the first draft of book number three when – just like that – my X key stops working.

Horrors! Perhaps I can force it into action.

I press down on it hard. Nothing happens. I press harder still, shoving it with all my weight. My computer makes an ominous cracking noise. Then my finger slips and I type a row of Cs.

I snatch my hand away. Don’t panic. Keep thinking. What to do?

I scroll back through my narrative until I find the elusive letter, innocently sitting inside the word “next”. I copy it and paste it. Then I paste it again and again until I have a supply of ten X’s. I feel uneasy. They may not be enough. So I start making changes to my narrative.

Xavier, my creepy villain, obviously has to go. I rename him Malcolm Snodgrass. And he can no longer use an axe as his murder weapon. Rather than brutally hacking people to death, he will now stab them with a stiletto dagger.

My once-sexy heroine becomes curvaceously attractive. She doesn’t have sex any longer either; she shags. Or sleeps with men.

But what to do about the tense scene at the emergency exit of the aeroplane, when Xavier executes Xuli, his Xhosa henchman, with a box of explosives, as an example to the other six existing gang members?

Aaaaargh. It can’t be done!

I phone my loving partner Dion, who’s working on his building site down the road.

“Come quickly, my darling. I need you. I have a problem with my X.”

A minute later, I hear the squeal of brakes and he bursts into the house. “Which one?” he cries. “Is it that filthy Italian? What’s he done to you?” He strides over to me and leans close. “Builder’s Warehouse has just delivered a ton of cement,” he tells me, gazing adoringly into my eyes. “We can make him sleep with the fishes, my love.”

“No, no, my angel.” I point to the offending key. “This is the problem.”

A minute later, after some dextrous manipulation with a pin, he has fixed it.

“My princess,” he tells me, “there was grit under your X. In future, you must keep the laptop closed when you are not working on it.”

“But the cat loves to sleep on the keyboard, my angel,” I tell him.

“I know, my precious,” he replies. “But you must be strong, and tell the cat no.”

He sprints out of the house. With a squeal of rubber, he is gone.

I return to my novel.

Two hundred and fifty words later, the S stops working…

 

Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    November 28th, 2008 @10:13 #
     
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    Jassy, this is a priceless first post. Thanx! You may not have known it, but you strayed into Oulipian territory there:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Void

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    November 28th, 2008 @10:24 #
     
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    xxxxing funny

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 28th, 2008 @10:41 #
     
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    Welcome, Jaxxy. Your angel will be glad to hear that I used our cat to clean up the glass of wine I recently spilled into my keyboard. All pets should have a purpose.

    Excellent start, by the way.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    November 28th, 2008 @10:53 #
     
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    Hah hah. Ridiculous.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    November 28th, 2008 @10:54 #
     
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    Dear Jassy, I am torn between delight at this post, and ire at Richard's pet with a purpose. PS: Groom your cat regularly. This will make it, and your stories, less gritty.

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    November 28th, 2008 @11:06 #
     
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    Jassy, I'm glad you're bringing sexxy back. But your "s" - the most common consonant in the English language! Quelle horreur. Better change your sleuth to a detective, quick.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 28th, 2008 @11:08 #
     
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    I have a self-grooming cat. It's his only saving grace.

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  • <a href="http://www.jassymackenzie.com" rel="nofollow">Jassy</a>
    Jassy
    November 28th, 2008 @11:13 #
     
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    Richard and Helen - thank you for your excellent, if conflicting, advice on petcare. And Fiona - using detective instead of sleuth is a stroke of genius. It will save hours of cutting and pasting!

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  • <a href="http://mysite.mweb.co.za/residents/mumble/" rel="nofollow">Michael Rolfe</a>
    Michael Rolfe
    November 28th, 2008 @11:30 #
     
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    A good funny story always needs an earnest geek to spoil it, so:

    Hold down the Alt key.
    Type 120 on the number pad (not across the top of the letters)
    Release the Alt key, and up pops an x

    Or 88 gives you the capital.

    Or 115 for s and 83 for S.

    What did the Italian do? Was he swarthy?

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    November 28th, 2008 @11:30 #
     
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    Jaffy, you could of courfe go completely medieval and ufe 'f' inftead of 'f'. And fo keep the fexy in.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 28th, 2008 @11:36 #
     
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    I'm going to have to go with Ruftum'f idea, Mumble. (Mainly because the cat ate my Alt keys.)

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 28th, 2008 @11:40 #
     
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    Damn, I sucked that one up, didn't I.

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  • <a href="http://www.jassymackenzie.com" rel="nofollow">Jassy</a>
    Jassy
    November 28th, 2008 @11:42 #
     
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    Thankf for thif outftanding fuggeftion. It workf, and the wordf look interefting, too!

    (And yef, Mumble, the Italian waf fwarthy...)

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    November 28th, 2008 @12:15 #
     
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    I want Mumble'f brain so I too can memorife those key ftrokef...

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    November 28th, 2008 @13:38 #
     
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    ˙˙˙uʍop ǝpıɟdn llɐ ʇno ǝɯoɔ ʇ,uɟǝop ʇı ǝɹnɟ ǝʞɐɯ ʇɟnɾ 'ʎɟɟɐɾ

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 28th, 2008 @14:06 #
     
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    Ruftum'f under hif defk again. Talking funny.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    November 28th, 2008 @14:38 #
     
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    Writing is inhibiting. Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink
    this pidgin script. I sing with nihilistic witticism,
    disciplining signs with trifling gimmicks - impish
    hijinks which highlight stick sigils. Isn't it glib?
    Isn't it chic?

    I just stumbled across this in the course of my paid work:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/product-description/1847672396/ref=dp_proddesc_0?ie=UTF8&n=266239&s=books

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    November 28th, 2008 @15:04 #
     
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    Hyfterical laughter. I firft tried giggling,but decided I needed all the vowelf I could get.

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  • Maire
    Maire
    November 28th, 2008 @15:36 #
     
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    Thank heavenf it'f the weekend - which of you can efcape the keyboard and get out into the fun?

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    November 28th, 2008 @15:51 #
     
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    Now eunoia.

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