Would he write a short story? Could he write a short story? Why the hell should he write a short story? It seemed to be a lot of trouble to go to. For what? Nobody was ever going to publish it and it certainly would not make any money.

Well, at least it would be easier than a novel. That must be one hell of a long grind. A poem would be even shorter, though? Poets are born, not made. What about a play? Dialogue is tricky enough. No, it would have to be a short story. What would it be about? Does it have to be about anything? Some people get away with bloody murder nowadays. The bottom line is, if she can write in her spare time, so can he!

He, he, who in God’s name is he? Why not admit it is I and not he. Is it not always so? How could anybody write without putting something of himself in? Or indeed of herself? Who could imagine Portrait of the Artist without Joyce, A Day in the Life without Solzhenitsyn, or Farewell to Arms without Hemingway?

Hold on a minute, hold on a minute: Joyce, Solzhenitsyn, Hemingway! Just who do you think you are?

This is getting more and more confusing; first it was “he,” then “I,” and now “you.” There seems to be a split personality around here somewhere. I had better stop talking back to myself and get this thing under control or I will never get started. Come to think of it, does anything ever get started? Or, for that matter, does anything ever end? Just all middle—flabby, fleshy middle.

Such pretentious rubbish! What started this whole business anyway? Oh yes, that prize-winning short story of the wife’s. Who was it who said, “A gift from God is a stupid wife”? Or was it “a silent wife.” Not that it matters, but I must do something to bolster the old male ego anyway.

Or must I? Is this male-ego thing not just something women have played upon down through the ages to manipulate us? It enables them to feel superior and treat us as children. They use it far more subtly than we do women’s vanity. Why not strike a blow for men’s liberation and thrust responsibility upon them. Hillary for president! You will never patronize us again.

I must call you to order again. Your imagination is running away with you. What a plethora of pronouns in the previous paragraph. I, us, them, they, we, you, and now you are talking to yourself again. Is there a psychiatrist in the house? Not to worry. You have got to be mad to retain your sanity in this crazy world.

Now, about this short story—shall it be erudite and complex or simple and clear? Erudite! Come off it, you just about know the meaning of the word. All right, all right, simple and clear it will have to be, not that that is going to be an easy task. It means that you will get away with less. There is nothing like a bit of complexity to cloak a basic lack of talent. Within limits, though—there is a little boy in every crowd. Come to think of it, why not erudite and simple? Is the learning process not circular? The man who is truly wise has traveled from simplicity through complexity and back to simplicity. Once he realizes that all other objects are merely extensions of himself, being observed through his senses, and having therefore no existence of their own, he concludes that nothing really exists except existence and sees the futility of complexity. Hush! Is that a little boy’s voice I hear?

OK, so, simple and clear it is going to be. Will it, however, come to a definite conclusion, or will it be open-ended, leaving something to the imagination? What a horrible thought. God knows what the imaginations of some people would do to my innocent little story. When Donald Duck’s tail can be taken as a phallic symbol, you have to watch your step in case you put your foot on it. Oops, sorry, Donald!

What about a moral? Should it have one? Normally, I would say yes, but in a world engulfed by moral crusades of one sort or another, I hesitate to add my tuppence halfpenny’s worth.

Do you realize that you have as yet given no thought to the actual story line? Yes, that is a bit of a difficulty now that you mention it. How do you pick a story from the infinite number of them available? As I am thrown into total confusion when asked to choose between red or white, how can I hope to select one? Ah, well, it was a nice idea, and I do have an urgent appointment on the first tee.