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The Scrivener: I Want To Finish

'Light blue touch paper and retire immediately' said the label on the firework. So uncle lit the touch paper, went home, handed in his resignation the following day – and he hasn’t done a stroke of work since…

Wordsmith Brian Barratt finds fun in everyday signs and labels, though it has to be said that his title for this column is most unsuitable. When the Scrivener is scribing his entertaining words the reader most certainly does not want him to finish.

For more fun with words visit Brian’s Web site www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/

November 5th used to be Guy Fawkes night. We had a bonfire and fireworks in those days. There were sky rockets, Roman candles, Catherine wheels, jumping jacks, bangers, the lot.
One year, my uncle came to help. He was a careful chap. He always read instructions on labels. Before we started the celebrations, he read out: 'Light blue touch paper and retire immediately'. And that is just what he did.

He lit the blue touch paper and went home. The next day, he went to his office and handed in his resignation. He hasn't done a stroke of work since.

We all thought that our auntie would have to go out to work. But she also followed orders. The first time she used a microwave oven, she saw the command: 'Keep covered'.
Auntie did the right thing — she covered herself with a table-cloth. We haven't seen her face since then. She stayed underneath that table-cloth and refused to come out.
I used to stay with them at weekends. Breakfast was always fun, because they had all sorts of cereals in colourful packets. One morning, my cousin read the instructions printed on the top of a new packet: 'Tear off'. He tore off, and we've no idea where he went.

Off I went to the Missing Persons office. There was a notice on the door: 'Close this door on entering'.

I tried very hard to close the door when I entered. It just didn't work. You can't go in through a closed door, you know. The only solution was the climb in through a window.
The office I needed was on the third floor. I went to the lift. There was sign on the wall: 'In case of fire do not use lift'. So that was that. You weren't allowed to use the lift in case it caused a fire.

Naturally, I felt frustrated, so I went home. I was able to go out of the door, of course, because that instruction was on the outside, not the inside. It was OK to open the door when leaving.

When I arrived home, my Dad seemed to be having some sort of fit. He was trembling and twitching. That worried me. It really did.

'What's wrong?' I asked.

'L-l-look... at... this... label...' he stammered.

I read the label on a carton of chocolate flavoured milk. The instruction was: 'Shake vigorously before opening'. I told him that I thought it would be alright if he stopped shaking now. We could all enjoy a glass of chocolate flavoured milk.

'Where's Mom?' I asked.

'She's in the cupboard under the stairs.'

I went to find Mom. The problem was that she was going to open a packet of nice cakes she'd bought at the shop. But she read the label: 'Keep in a cool dry place'. For the sake of her health, she'd gone to the cupboard under the stairs, which is cool and dry. After some persuasion, she agreed to emerge.
I've nearly finished writing about these events, but I want to check some words in the dictionary I have on a CD. You load up the initial software, and get ready to start looking for a word. The last screen, for you to gain access to the dictionary, has a little button with one word: 'Finish'.

I don't want to finish — I want to start.

Oh well, perhaps I'd better finish my computer session and go out to look for my missing cousin. But I can't. You have to get into a Menu in order to finish what you're doing. The Menu can be accessed only through a button which says: 'Start'.

I don't want to start — I want to finish.

It's a pity you can't buy fireworks now, in the country where I live. Otherwise I'd go out and purchase just one. I'd light the blue touch paper, and retire. Immediately. To a cool dry cupboard under the stairs.

© Copyright 2005 Brian Barratt


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