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Jasper Fforde_Thursday Next_05

BOOK: Jasper Fforde_Thursday Next_05
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First Among Sequels
Thursday Next Book 5

Jasper Fforde

The Thursday Next Series
The Eyre Affair
Lost in a Good Book
The Well of Lost Plots
Something Rotten
The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco
(No longer available)
The Nursery Crimes Series
The Big Over Easy
The Fourth Bear

The Danverclone seemed to hang in the air for a moment before a large wave caught her and she was left behind the rapidly moving taxi.







Jasper Fforde

Illustrations by Bill Mudron and Dylan Meconis Grateful acknowledgment is made to Agatha Christie Limited (A Chorion Company) for reference to
They Do It with Mirrors
© Agatha Christie (A Chorion Company). All rights reserved. Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

For Cressida,
the bestest sister in the world


Author’s Note
Mum and Polly and Mycroft
Acme Carpets
Training Day
The Great Library and Council of Genres
A Probe Inside

Julian Sparkle
Core Containment
The Well of Lost Plots
The Refit
The ChronoGuard
Home Again
Breakfast Again
Aornis Hades
The Goliath Corporation
Austen Rover

The Piano Problem
Policy Directives
The Paragon
Thursday Next
Bound to the Outland
The Discreet Charm of the Outland
Time Out of Joint
Now Is the Winter
Spending the Surplus
Austen Rover
Somewhere Else Entirely
The Bees, the Bees
Senator Jobsworth
The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco

The End of Time
A Woman Named Thursday Next

Author’s Note

This book has been bundled with Special Features, including
The Making of…
wordamentary, deleted scenes, alternative endings and much more. To access all these free bonus features, log on to and follow the on-screen instructions. The year is 2002. It is fourteen years since Thursday almost pegged out at the 1988 Croquet SuperHoop, and life is beginning to get back to normal….




The Swindon that I knew in 2002 had a lot going for it. A busy financial center coupled with excellent infrastructure and surrounded by green and peaceful countryside had made the city about as popular a place as you might find anywhere in the nation. We had our own forty-thousand-seat croquet stadium, the recently finished Cathedral of St. Zvlkx, a concert hall, two local TV networks and the only radio station in En gland dedicated solely to mariachi music. Our central position in southern En gland also made us the hub for high-speed overland travel from the newly appointed Clary-LaMarr Travelport. It was little wonder that we called Swindon “the Jewel on the M4.”

he dangerously high level of the stupidity surplus was once again the lead story in
The Owl
that morning. The reason for the crisis was clear: Prime Minister Redmond van de Poste and his ruling Commonsense Party had been discharging their duties with a reckless degree of responsibility that bordered on inspired sagacity. Instead of drifting from one crisis to the next and appeasing the nation with a steady stream of knee-jerk legislation and headline-grabbing but arguably pointless initiatives, they had been resolutely building a raft of considered long-term plans that concentrated on unity, fairness and tolerance. It was a state of affairs deplored by Mr. Alfredo Traficcone, leader of the opposition Prevailing Wind Party, who wanted to lead the nation back onto the safer grounds of uninformed stupidity.

“How could they let it get this bad?” asked Landen as he walked into the kitchen, having just dispatched our daughters off to school. They walked themselves, naturally; Tuesday was twelve and took great pride in looking after Jenny, who was now ten.

“Sorry?” I said, my mind full of other matters, foremost among them the worrying possibility that Pickwick’s plumage might
grow back, and that she would have to spend the rest of her life looking like a supermarket oven-ready chicken.

“The stupidity surplus,” repeated Landen as he sat down at the kitchen table, “I’m all for responsible government, but storing it up like this is bound to cause problems sooner or later—even by acting sensibly, the government has shown itself to be a bunch of idiots.”

“There are a lot of idiots in this country,” I replied absently, “and they deserve representation as much as the next man.”

But he was right. Unlike previous governments that had skillfully managed to eke out our collective stupidity all year round, the current administration had decided to store it all up and then blow it on something
dopey, arguing that one major balls-up every ten years or so was less damaging than a weekly helping of mild political asininity. The problem was, the surplus had reached absurdly high levels, where it had even surpassed the “monumentally dumb” mark. Only a blunder of staggering proportions would remove the surplus, and the nature of this mind-numbing act of idiocy was a matter of considerable media speculation.

“It says here,” he said, getting into full rant mode by adjusting his glasses and tapping at the newspaper with his index finger, “that even the government is having to admit that the stupidity surplus is a far, far bigger problem than they had first imagined.”

I held the striped dodo cozy I was knitting for Pickwick against her pink and blotchy body to check the size, and she puffed herself up to look more alluring, but to no avail. She then made an indignant plocking noise, which was the only sound she ever uttered.

“Do you think I should knit her a party one as well? Y’know, black, off the shoulder and with sparkly bits in it?”

“But,” Landen went on in a lather of outrage, “the prime minister has poured scorn on Traficcone’s suggestion to offload our unwanted stupidity to Third World nations, who would be only too happy to have it in exchange for several sacks of cash and a Mercedes or two.”

“He’s right,” I replied with a sigh. “Idiocy offsets are bullshit; stupidity is our own problem and has to be dealt with on an individual ‘stupidity footprint’ basis—and landfill
doesn’t work.”

I was thinking of the debacle in Cornwall, where twenty thousand tons of half-wittedness was buried in the sixties, only to percolate to the surface two decades later when the residents started to do inexplicably dumb things, such as using an electric mixer in the bath and parting their hair in the center.

“What if,” Landen continued thoughtfully, “the thirty million or so inhabitants of the British Archipelago were to all simultaneously fall for one of those e-mail ‘tell us all your bank details’ phishing scams or—I don’t know—fall down a manhole or something?”

“They tried the mass walking-into-lamppost experiment in France to see if they could alleviate
la dette
” I pointed out, “but the seriousness under which the plan was undertaken made it de facto sensible, and all that was damaged was the proud Gallic forehead.”

Landen took a sip of coffee, unfolded the paper and scanned the rest of the front page before remarking absently, “I took up your idea and sent my publisher a few outlines for self-help books last week.”

“Who do they think you should be helping?”

…and them, I suppose—isn’t that how it’s meant to work? It looks really easy. How about this for a title:
Men Are from Earth, Women Are from Earth

Just Deal with It.

He looked at me and smiled, and I smiled back. I didn’t love him just because he had a nice knee, was tall and made me laugh, but because we were two parts of one, and neither of us could imagine life without the other. I wish I had a better way to describe it, but I’m not a poet. Privately he was a husband and father to our three mostly wonderful kids, but professionally he was a writer. Unfortunately, despite winning the 1988 Armitage Shanks Fiction Award for
Bad Sofa,
a string of flops had left the relationship with his publisher a bit strained. So strained, in fact, that he was reduced to penning point-of-sale nonfiction classics such as
The Little Book of Cute Pets That You Really Like to Hug
Darndest Things Kids Say.
When he wasn’t working on these, he was looking after our children and attempting to rekindle his career with a seriously good blockbuster—his magnum opus. It wasn’t easy, but it was what he loved, and I loved
so we lived off my salary, which was about the size of Pickwick’s brain—not that big, and unlikely to become so.

“This is for you,” said Landen, pushing a small parcel wrapped in pink paper across the table.

“Sweetheart,” I said,
annoyed and
pleased all at the same time, “I don’t do birthdays.”

“I know,” he said without looking up, “so you’ll just have to humor me.”

I unwrapped the package to find a small silver locket and chain. I’m not a jewelry person, but I am a
person, so held my hair out of the way while he fastened the clasp, then thanked him and gave him a kiss, which he returned. And then, since he knew all about my abhorrence of birthdays, dropped the matter entirely.

“Is Friday up?”

“At this hour?”

Friday, it should be noted, was the eldest of our three children and the only boy. He was now sixteen, and instead of gearing himself up for a successful career with the time industry’s elite operatives known as the ChronoGuard, he was a tedious teenage cliché—grunting, sighing at any request no matter how small and staying in bed until past midday, then slouching around the house in a state of semiconsciousness that would do credit to a career zombie. We might not have known he was living with us if it weren’t for the grubby cereal bowls that mysteriously appeared in the vague vicinity of the sink, a muffled heavy metal beat from his bedroom that Landen was convinced kept the slugs from the garden and a succession of equally languid no-hopers who called at the door to mumble, “Is Friday at home?”—something that I couldn’t resist answering with, “It’s a matter of some conjecture.”

“When does he go back to school?” asked Landen, who did most of the day-to-day kidwork but, like many men, had trouble remembering specific dates.

“Next Monday,” I replied, having gone to retrieve the mail that had just fallen through the door.

“Exclusion from school was better than he deserved—it’s a good thing the cops didn’t get involved.”

“All he did was throw Barney Plotz’s cap in a muddy puddle,” said Landen reflectively, “and then stomp on it.”

“Yes, but Barney Plotz was
it at the time,” I pointed out, thinking privately that the entire Plotz family stomped on in a muddy puddle might be a very good idea indeed. “Friday shouldn’t have done what he did. Violence never solved anything.”

Landen raised an eyebrow and looked at me.

it solves things—but not for him, at least not yet.”

“I wonder,” mused Landen, “if we could get the nation’s teenagers to go on a serious binge of alcohol-inspired dopiness to use up the excess stupidity?”

“It’s a surplus of stupidity we have, not stereotypical dreariness,” I replied, picking up an envelope at random and staring at the postmark. I still received at least half a dozen fan letters every day, even though the march of time had, fortunately, reduced my celebrity to what the Entertainments Facilitation Department termed Z-4, which is the kind of celebrities who appear in “Whatever happened to…?”

articles and only ever get column inches if arrested, divorced, in rehab or, if the editor’s luck is really in, all three at the same time—and have some tenuous connection to Miss Corby Starlet, or whoever else happens to be the
célébrité du jour
. The fan mail was mostly from die-hard fans who didn’t care that I was Z-4, bless them. They usually asked obscure questions about my many adventures that were now in print, or something about what crap the movie was, or why I’d given up professional croquet. But for the most part, it was from fans of
Jane Eyre,
who wanted to know how Mrs. Fairfax could have been a ninja assassin, whether I
to shoot Bertha Rochester and if it was true I’d slept with Edward Rochester—three of the more per sis tent and untrue rumors surrounding the factually dubious first novel of my adventures,
The Eyre Affair
. Landen grinned. “What’s it about? Someone wanting to know whether Lola Vavoom will play you in the next Thursday film?”

BOOK: Jasper Fforde_Thursday Next_05
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