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It’s the Thought that Counts

Christopher stared gloomily at the empty white expanse presented to him by his word processor. Experimentally he rippled his fingers over the keyboard.

Dkfjgh oyhfksakdlj

appeared on the screen. Christopher looked hopefully at what his fingers had written. No – the words meant nothing to him. He deleted everything and resumed staring blankly at the empty page.

His office door opened and his wife Elizabeth walked in. She glanced at his computer screen and said, “I’m glad you aren’t working, I need you to pop down to the shop for me. I’m in the middle of baking and I’ve run out of cinnamon. Be a dear and fetch me some, would you?”

“I am working,” protested Christopher, who was not in the mood to go shopping for Elizabeth. He had a story to finish. Or, more accurately, he had a story to start.

“I see no words,” Elizabeth pointed out.

Christopher conceded defeat. “Do you want cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon?” he asked.

“Ground cinnamon, please,” said Elizabeth.

Elizabeth did all her spice shopping at a local Indian grocery store. She claimed that their spices were fresher and cheaper than the rather sad range offered by the supermarket. Christopher had been there with her several times and he had a nodding acquaintance with all the staff. So when he went in to get the cinnamon he was rather surprised to see a new face behind the counter. “I’d like some cinnamon, please,” he said.

“Certainly sir,” said the man. “The woofle dust is over there, in the bulk spice rack. Help yourself to as much as you need.”

“Woofle dust?” queried Christopher.

“Sorry sir,” said the man. “I meant to say cinnamon.”

Christopher went over to the bulk spice rack and scooped some brown powder into a plastic bag. The label on the container said “Woofle Dust” but it smelled like cinnamon and so he decided that was probably what it was. He took the bag up to the counter where the man weighed it and quoted him an absurdly low price. He paid it, and headed home.

“Here’s your cinnamon,” he said to Elizabeth.

“Thanks,” she said and soon the delicious smell of baking filled the house.

Christopher went back to staring at his blank screen. It was starting to have a hypnotic effect on him. Occasionally he imagined that he could see words floating across it all by themselves but whenever he concentrated on them they vanished, leaving no trace behind, and the screen remained just as blank as before.

His office door opened and Elizabeth came in carrying a tray on which stood a pot of coffee and a plate of warm cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven. “Morning tea time,” she announced. Then she frowned at the coffee pot and said,” Well, morning coffee time anyway.” She poured Christopher a cup of coffee and they both tucked into the cinnamon rolls.

“Oh that’s good,” said Christopher appreciatively through a mouthful of crumbs. “The woofle dust must really be extra special.”

“Woofle dust?” asked Elizabeth.

“I meant cinnamon,” said Christopher. “Woofle dust is what the chap in the shop kept calling it and the name has stuck itself into my head.”

“Woofle dust,” said Elizabeth thoughtfully. “I like that name. Have another woofle dust roll.” She offered the plate to Christopher and he eagerly helped himself to one.

“So what are you working on?” asked Elizabeth, gesturing at the blank screen.

“I’ve been commissioned to write a story,” explained Christopher, “but every time I sit down in front of this damned machine my mind goes completely blank. Not a thought in my head. “It’s very depressing.”

“Have another woofle dust roll,” suggested Elizabeth. “Maybe it will help.”

As Christopher chewed on the roll, she poured him another cup of coffee and left him to his own devices. Christopher didn’t even notice her leaving. Ideas were starting to chase themselves around his mind, each one building on the next. They dovetailed together, painting a picture in his head that would make a marvellous story once he described every detail in words. He turned to his keyboard and began to type rapidly.

* * * *

Christopher emerged from his study later that evening clutching four pages of single spaced typing. “Look at that!” he cried, handing them to Elizabeth. “I actually managed to finish something halfway decent.”

“I told you the woofle dust would help,” said Elizabeth complacently. “I think it must have had an effect on me as well. I’ve come up with a marvellous idea for redecorating the lounge, and I want to completely reorganise the garden. There’s far too much wasted space in it and I’ve worked out how to use it all much more efficiently.”

“Sounds good,” said Christopher vaguely. “The only problem now is that I’ve got four more stories to write before the end of the month and I’m going to need all the help that I can get given the way my mind isn’t working at the moment. Can you bake some more of those rolls, please? I think I need a lot more woofle dust”

“Sorry,” said Elizabeth. “We’ve eaten all the ones I baked today and I’ve run out of cinnamon again. Perhaps you could go shopping tomorrow and buy some more?”

“Definitely,” said Christopher. “The more woofle dust we have in the house the better. Don’t you agree?”

“I do,” said Elizabeth. “What a shame you bought so little of it last time.”

* * * *

The next morning Christopher went back to the Indian grocery. He was pleased to see one of the regular staff standing behind the counter. There was no sign of the man who had served him yesterday. “Hi,” said Christopher, “I’ve come to buy some more woofle dust, please.”

The man behind the counter looked puzzled. “Woofle dust?” he asked. “What’s that?”

“You’ve got it over there in the bulk spice section,” said Christopher. “I bought some yesterday and now I want some more.”

“Show me,” said the man. “This I’ve got to see.”

They walked over to the bulk spice bins together and Christopher took him straight to the bin he’d helped himself from the previous day. But everything had changed. The label on the bin didn’t say “Woofle Dust” any more, it said “Cinnamon” and although he checked every bin carefully, not one of them had a label saying “Woofle Dust”. There was pepper, paprika, cumin and coriander, lots of exotic names and tantalising smells, but no woofle dust. Not a grain.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” said Christopher. “It was here yesterday. I bought some.”

“No, no,” said the Indian man, shaking his head. “That’s simply not possible. The shop was closed all day yesterday because we had to go to a funeral. There was no woofle dust in the shop and even if there had been, the door was locked and there was nobody here to serve you. Nobody at all.”

And that was when Christopher realised beyond a shadow of doubt that the four stories which were due at the end of the month were never going to get written.

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