The Posing Author

One man sits reading with a book in his hand. On the back cover is a large photograph of the author posing. The author is John Cleese.

John Cleese strides on set and walks past the other man. His head swivels as he spots which book it is. He gives a wide grin, and sidles up to the man.

"Good book?" he asks.

"No," the man says without looking up.

Cleese clears his throat rather loudly. The man looks up. Cleese makes some awkward motions, and then says, "I was talking about that book...right there." With arms folded he points a finger at the book and gestures with his head.

"What other book is there?" the man asks, irate.

"Do you like it?" asks Cleese.

"No," the man says. "Not at all."

Cleese is frozen as he tries to decipher this, and then he laughs, loud and forced before nudging the man. Then he steps back and says, "Really?" in a rather desperate voice.

"I haven't read such rubbish in a long while," the man says gruffly, returning to the page he'd been reading.

John Cleese remains, fidgeting and glaring. He clears his throat again. "Do you know who I am?" he asks.

The man looks up. "What?"

"Do you know who I am?" Cleese asks in a high-pitched voice.

The man looks back to the book, flips it over and looks at the photograph on the back. "This is you here ain't it? You in the eight by eleven glamour photo."

Cleese's eyes bulge. "It's not a glamour photo," he says with clenched teeth.

"Well, it certainly isn't a mug shot now eh? Eh? Eh?" The man laughs knowingly.

"No. it isn't. I was posing. But the book. Why don't you like it?"

"It's far too preachy."

Cleese, who has been leaning closer and closer until his hands are on his knees, throws himself back now with an "Ah!", and whirls on his heel. "Preachy?" he declares. He stands then with his back to the man, muttering to himself. "Preachy!" he repeats. "Of all the ignorant..." The man goes back to his reading.

Cleese finally whirls around again. "Right!" he says. The man looks up. "Why are you reading it then?" The man glares. "The book. If you think it is rubbish. Why read it? Why waste your precious time with one of the few great pieces of literature in the English language? Why don't you go scuttle back to whatever finishing school your mamma sent you to, and have at it with your superior games of 'let's all sit in our penthouses and tear apart the work of the struggling artists'!"

The man frowns. "I want to finish it."

"Ah ha!" Cleese cries, jumping to a wide stance with a wild grin, stabbing a finger at the man. "So it's captivating!"

"Hardly," the man retorts. He looks at his wrist watch. "I have an hour to kill before my flight."

"An hour to kill? An HOUR TO KILL?" Cleese cries. "Right! Right! So why don't we read books we don't appreciate and complain incessantly! Then we can kill two birds with one stone! Right!" Cleese goes suddenly calm and demanding. "Gimme that," he says.

The man stares. "Give you what?" he asks.

"The book. Give it. Come on. Come on." Cleese stands upright, staring forward with his hand out, his fingers motioning.

The man refuses. "No. It's my book."

"Your book?" Cleese explodes. "No it's not! It's mine. You didn't slave away for months to get it published! You didn't endure the dungeon master mistress banging on your skull to get a real job!"

"Ya, but I paid for it," the man says.

John Cleese grabs the book and tries to pull it from the man's grasp. "Give it here!" he cries. "You don't deserve it! You don't have the brain capacity to properly appreciate the subtle--"

The man bonks him on the head and he falls to the floor.

"Right then," the man says, rising to his feet. "You want the book?" he asks, threateningly.

John Cleese drags himself across the floor by his palms and then rises to his feet like a doll being inflated, facing away from the man. Then he puts on a polite face and turns. "What did you say?" he asks sweetly.

"If you want the book," the man repeats, "Then give me a refund," he finishes.

Cleese stops dead. "Give you a what?" he asks.

"A refund. I paid for it. You wrote it. I don't like it, I give it back to you, and you give me a refund."

Cleese is flabbergasted.

"Right. That's what I thought," the man says, returning to his seat. Cleese continues to sulk and lurk in the corner.

A new man walks on set. "'Ello Jim!" he says to the other man. He brushes past Cleese and walks to his friend. Cleese looms up behind the two. The newcomer turns round.

"What are you doing?" he asks. "Do I know you?"

Cleese turns meek. "Me? Me? I was just...asking a question."

"A question? What question?"

"Have you..." He leans forward trying to point at the book.

"Have I what?"

"Have you read...uh...that book. That one there. The one in his hand."

The man turns. He chuckles. "I tried," he says. "Too preachy."

John Cleese plugs his mouth with his fist, trying not to scream. He turns around to do this without being seen, but the man watches him like a troubled psychiatrist.

When he has regained his composure he turns around again.

The newcomer narrows his eyes. "Do I know you?" he asks.

Cleese straightens up. "Nope," he says.

"I swear I know you," the man returns.

"Eh Trevor," Jim says. "He's the author of the book."

Trevor squints and then laughs. "Hey, I didn't fully recognize you. You got your hair straightened."

"I what?" asks Cleese.

"Just that your photograph is all prettied up. You're not wearing half the amount o' make-up as in the photo." Trevor turns to look at the photograph with Jim. They tap on it, and whisper, and laugh.

Cleese lets his eyes go wide. "Right!" he roars. "Right! Come on then! Why don't we all just laugh and point at the struggling author who can't afford a decent photograph! Come on now! Laugh!" He begins laughing really loudly and forcibly. "HA! HA! HA! Laugh! That's right! HA!"

The two men are standing watching him. "Do you think you're funny?" asks Trevor, stepping forward and rolling up his sleeves to reveal two strong arms covered in tattoos.

Cleese turns on a dime. "Nope," he says meekly. "I was just laughing along with you two. Funny picture eh?"

Trevor stands down and the two friends go back to flipping through the book. Cleese slips up behind them to look, muttering softly. "Ah yes, isn't that a laugh?" he asks snidely.

Finally Trevor turns to face him again. "You still here?" he asks.

"Me?" asks Cleese. "Of course not. I left three minutes ago."

Trevor narrows his eyes. "My friend and I want some privacy."

He begins to turn around, but Cleese asks, "To do what?"

"I beg your pardon?" asks Trevor.

"What are you going to do when I'm gone? Tear the book up? Spit on it? Piss on it?" Trevor gives him a deadly look. "Well I don't know what sort of blasphemous actions you lot do to books that don't meet your prissy standards."

Trevor pushes Cleese back with a finger. "We only do half of what we do to the actual authors if we catch them sneaking around," he says. There is a tense moment.

"Right," Cleese finally says. "What time is it? I must be going," he announces. Then he strides from the set.

He stops on the edge and stares back at the two.

The two are discussing the book, but they soon set it down on the table and forget about it with their backs turned. Cleese sneaks on set and walks up to the book with giant crane-like steps.

He gets to the book, picks it up, and is about to leave when Trevor and Jim turn around.

Cleese shoots straight up on his heels, and holds the book to his chest.

"What do you think you're doing?" asks Trevor.

Cleese is frozen, he mutters a few high-pitched words, and then, like a mime, he takes out a pen, smiles, signs the front cover of the book, performs a sweeping bow, drops the book on the ground, and runs from the scene.


The End

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