The Wordsmith’s Local

The following story was written in response to a call for bloggers for this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival. I didn’t get the gig but I still reckon the story I submitted is worth an airing on these pages. It responds to the Festival’s by-line; Enquire Within.

On the Worderfront

Lars considered the invitation scrawled in texta on a sheet of cardboard. Seeking writers. Experience a must. No enthusiasm necessary.

The queue, in response, stretched to the next corner. The hack journalists were easiest to pick, hunched in their gabardine grey, paper-bagged bottles slipping guiltily in and out of deep pockets.  Plot-bound novelists, mired in stories that refused to resolve, gritted their teeth against the city wind. Poets smiled and snarled, smiled and snarled. Blogged-out bloggers checked themselves on Twitter.

The ancient door to which the note had been Blu-tacked remained obstinately shut. Someone should have told them at the end of the line. Someone should have maybe taken control.

A flat-bed truck took the corner fast and the back of the queue peeled around after it like a whipping tail. Within moments the street was chaos. The hard-nuts and thugs of Wordsmiths Local #7 looked passionlessly down on the milling crowd. They picked out a few familiar faces; writers who’d done them a favour long ago, spun a story for them, a word in the right ear. They dragged the chosen aboard the truck and handed each a ticket. A day’s work.

Joey Carter was known as Booker to everyone in the writing projects and the length of Ellipsis Street, where lives passed looking out on the worderfront, watching texts from abroad being unloaded and new words from the city taken on board in their place and sent out to the hungry world. Booker held the last of the jobs above his head—maybe twenty if the crowd was lucky. The mob surged. The big man tossed the precious tickets high, where a gust sent them flitting and dancing along Ellipsis. The crowd gathered itself and charged as one in pursuit. The weakest fell beneath stampeding feet.

Lars watched and waited. One ticket rose in an updraft. The crowd shot beneath it. He tracked the small square of paper as it spiralled across the cobbles before settling on top of a police call box. Lars strolled across. Picked it up. Turned it over a few times. The only distinguishable mark on it was the quill and scroll emblem of the all powerful Local.

Chloe Eddington had once been a gun editor herself but she was out of favour now. She’d given Lars his first break. As he turned back he saw her staring up at him from the street where the pack had trampled her. She raised a desperate arm his way. He felt the ticket, barely thicker than air but real enough. There was a story in it if he wanted.

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