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The Publisher Demands (standard:drama, 1038 words)
Author: Brian CrossAdded: Sep 22 2008Views/Reads: 2052/1226Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A handbag left in a pub leads writer John Bunting to revise the end of a story.

The Publisher Demands 

Todd Butchers had a split personality, more than that he lived two
lives; a shy, retiring type most of the time but his other self was 
vindictive, volatile, aggressive – in fact he possessed the makings of 
an unmitigated killer - 

John Bunting slammed his hand on the keyboard, slurped his fourth cup of
coffee, he'd reached a crucial part of his story when suddenly Mrs 
Doubleday his cleaner had marched in muttering something about frogs 
and tadpoles. 

It didn't fit in somehow and now crucially his chain of thought was
broken, even more so now she'd commenced the habitual nose blowing 

And then the phone rang to compound his frustration, ‘John Bunting – yes
– who's calling? You've found what? I'm sorry but that's impossible, 
you see my wife's in Cornwall. 

‘You're certain –‘ Bunting slapped a hand across his face then glanced
at the clock, ‘okay,' he sighed, ‘I'll call and collect it.' 

It was enough to suffer Mrs Doubleday's distractions, now he had to
contend with some numbskull who reckoned he'd found his wife's handbag 
in a pub ten miles away. Well, it was April 1st; if he found some 
prankster was wasting his time there'd be hell to pay. His publisher 
was pressing him hard to complete a collection of short stories, if he 
failed to deliver this week the deal would be quashed. 

And who did he know who'd play a practical joke? 


Fifteen minutes later Bunting pulled up at “The White Duck” in
Micklewater and hurried into a sparsely populated pub, the landlord of 
which greeted him with reverence. 

‘John Bunting the writer sir? I read your –‘ 

‘Yes, yes, Bunting waved impatiently, I find this very difficult to
believe but you claim to have found my wife's handbag.' 

‘I didn't find it; she left it on the seat over there. One of my staff-'

But Bunting wasn't listening, his frenzied fingers were flicking through
the contents – it was her handbag alright, had to be – her credit 
cards, business cards – but she'd phoned him from Cornwall only the 
previous evening, wasn't due back for a week. 

‘Did you see her, what did she look like?' 

‘Oh, quite tall, long dark hair, wearing a white trouser suit.' 

‘White trouser suit,' Bunting repeated, it was one of her favourites. 

‘A dimple in her left cheek,' the landlord added. He'd certainly studied
her well and yeah – it was her to a tee. What the hell was going on? 

‘Did you see which way she went?' 

‘I didn't see her leave, Mr. Bunting,' the landlord said, but by the
look on his face Bunting thought there was something else. 

‘She wasn't alone?' 

‘No, there was a guy with her.' 

Bunting fingered his neck, it was becoming clammy, what was she up to?
His inclination was to go; although the pub's customers seemed not to 
be listening he felt part of a soap opera. Nonetheless he stayed and 
ordered a pint. Margie might just show up for her handbag with the 
mystery companion. 

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