We were asked to use the character we
developed last time in a story. In theory I'd already done that, of
course. The Portrait of Edna
that I wrote last time certainly met the criteria. But I decided that
was cheating. I wasn't going to allow myself to rest on my laurels. So
I used the character of the nice Edna from one of the shorter sketches
and wrote a story in which...
Everyone hated producing the month end reports. Somehow, each and every month, the accounts always refused to balance and so everybody in the department had to stay late at the office trying to find out exactly where the missing money was hiding.
The problem seemed to be with accounts receivable this month. It was almost 7.00pm, but every desk in the department was still occupied and the gloom that pervaded the office was almost palpable. Phyllis stared despairingly at her computer, and reached out with her finger to poke the screen. The figures she was staring at rearranged themselves both vertically and horizontally, but they made no more sense than they had before. Phyllis sighed. She could tell it was going to be a long night...
Then, just as she was wondering what to do next, the office door opened and in came Edna, the cleaner. Immediately Phyllis could feel the mood of the room lifting. Everybody liked Edna. Sometimes they brought her cakes for her evening tea. Tonight, Edna had a headscarf folded over her formidable curlers, and her whole body was encased in a wrap-around pinafore. The pinny was embroidered with brightly coloured flowers that all appeared to be growing happily in the best quality compost. She positively exuded cheerfulness.
Edna stood in the doorway and pulled a vivid yellow pair of rubber gloves over her hands. She snapped the rubber and flexed her fingers suggestively. "Eh, up me ducks!" she said, surveying them all with a lascivious smile. "Who wants to be done first?"
"Do me!" said Phyllis. "I really need an excuse to get away from this horrible computer. I hate computers."
"Oh, Phyllis," said Edna sympathetically, "surely it can't be as bad as all that. What's the problem? Tell your Auntie Edna all about it."
"It's these accounts," explained Phyllis. "There's forty two dollars and fifteen cents missing, and I can't find it anywhere!" She poked the screen again, and the figures shivered themselves into a different order. "See!", said Phyllis. "It just doesn't add up!"
Edna scrutinised the figures that the computer was displaying, then she snapped off one of her rubber gloves, reached over Phyllis's shoulder, and gently stroked her finger across the screen. A single column of figures rearranged itself and Phyllis gave a little squeak of joy.
"Gosh! It was hiding there in plain view all along," she said. "How did you do that, Edna?"
"It was easy," said Edna airily. "I did what I always do with my husband Billy when he gets a bit stubborn. Computers are really just the same as men, when you get right down to it."
"What?" said Phyllis. "You mean they're both smelly and a bit sticky?"
"No, I didn't quite mean that," said Edna, laughing. "I meant that both men and computers have to be treated in exactly the same way. Stroke them properly in just the right place, and you can get them to do absolutely anything that you want them to do."
Phyllis burst out laughing.
"Oh, Edna," she said, "you never said a truer word."