Dear Mr Key, writes Poppy Nisbet, I have been commissioned to write a book entitled Fifty Anecdotes About Cream Crackers, and to date I have managed to find only two true life cream cracker-related stories which are even mildly entertaining. In your piece on the cardboard sign “Depressed Horse Never Knew Saucepans” you write “It was not the cream crackers which unhinged me, as they have done before.” I would be very interested to know about the earlier unhingement to which you allude, as it could provide invaluable material for my book.
Well, Poppy Nisbet, Poppy Nisbet, I am happy to oblige, as they used to sing in the old folk song “Poppy Nisbet”. To ensure my reply is as helpful as possible, I consulted my papers to winkle out each and every cream cracker unhingement reference, and I find that there is not just the one incident to report, but several.
Before going into any detail I think it is important to point out that in these unhingements there is no connection whatsoever, in either a literal or legal or moral or incoherent sense, between the snackfood treat commonly known as a cream cracker (a sort of glorified water biscuit) and the use of the word “crackers” as a euphemism for mad, crazy, nuts, insane, deranged, bedizened, or, indeed, unhinged. I am glad we have cleared that one up at the outset. I know from experience that all sorts of misunderstandings can occur when readers think that there is a link, either fearsomely strong, as with an iron chain, or more fragile, as with a gossamer thread, between the snackfood and the mental or emotional condition. That there can be such a link, I do not deny. Consider for example the case of the German railway sleeping car attendant Ravilious, who was driven crackers by crackers by dint of the word association, just as, later, he was to suffer abasement in a basement and to be abused on a bus – though what he was doing aboard a bus, when loyalty ought to have limited his mode of travel to the German railway system, is a mystery. Not an ineffable one, perhaps, such as the nature of God or the alignment of certain tree clumps, but a mystery nevertheless, and one which you, Poppy Nisbet, Poppy Nisbet, may wish to investigate when you have finished writing Fifty Anecdotes About Cream Crackers, assuming of course you do finish writing it, and do not simply abandon the project through lassitude, blockage, or persistent cramp.
If you do abandon the book, one excuse you will not have is a lack of material, because I see, on looking through my papers, that I can furnish you with no fewer than forty-seven cream cracker unhingement yarns. As you already have two in the bag, as you say, then you need find only one more to tot up the anecdote-count to a half-century, and, foof-la!, there is your book, done and dusted.
I realise it may beggar belief that one man can lay claim to forty-seven separate episodes of unhingement by cream cracker, but I insist that I speak the truth. After all, for what possible reason would I lie to you, Poppy Nisbet, Poppy Nisbet? I am unlikely to benefit from having my anecdotes retailed, in your book, presumably under cover of anonymity, an anonymity I will wish to preserve for insurance purposes. In fact I would suggest that you invent forty-seven different fictional characters to act as the supposed protagonists of the events to which I shall make you privy. You can be quite explicit about such a manoeuvre, by which I mean you need not pull the wool over your readers’ eyes by pretending that, say, Mr X or Ms Y or Dr Z stand in for three different “real” people. You may want to make it blatantly obvious that you are using made-up names by co-opting forty-seven fictional characters who already exist, invented by others, as I did when writing my as yet unpublished manuscript Forty-Seven Lightly Fictionalised Accounts Of Ineffably Mysterious Tree Clump Alignment Shenanigans. The true life heroes and heroines of these tales are disguised by obviously fictional names: Emma Bovary, Martin Chuzzlewit, Tyrone Slothrop, Peason, Josef Bong, Raskolnikov, Winnie Verloc, Lupin Pooter, Dolores Haze, Ravelstein, Arturo Ui, Winston Smith, Grimes, Pinkie Brown, Geoffrey Firmin, Steerpike, Pointsman, Grabber, Myra Breckinridge, Molloy, Pangloss, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Roger Thornhill, Guy Secretan, Ilya Kuryakin, Clare Quilty, Lemuel Gulliver, Doctor Slop, Sara Lund, Inspector Truscott, Ned Stark, Cissie Colpitts, Sebastian Dangerfield, Giles De’Ath, Ronnie Bostock, Ebin Willoweed, Hans Gruber, Wendy Hale, Chance Hale, Watt, Prince Zaleski, Roger Ackroyd, Evadne Mount, Arthur Gordon Pym, De Selby, Mike Hammer, and the man with the twisted lip. You are quite welcome to use the very same pseudonyms in your forty-seven accounts of my cream cracker unhingements, although you may of course wish to pick your own, or even make them up entire out of whole cloth, if that is the kind of thing you like to do, when fighting off lassitude, blockage, and persistent cramps. I know I do.
Earlier I described cream crackers as glorified water biscuits. It may be of interest to you, Poppy Nisbet, Poppy Nisbet, that, when looking through my papers, in addition to records of forty-seven unhingements by cream cracker, I came upon no fewer than fifty-three derangements by water biscuit. Yes, yes, I know, that too beggars belief, but there you go. I can only speak as I find. It occurs to me that if, in spite of all, you are unable to come up with a fiftieth anecdote for your cream cracker tally, you could renegotiate the deal with your publisher and instead give them Fifty Anecdotes About Water Biscuits. I have all the material you will need, and instead of having to root around desperately trying to track down a fiftieth diverting and entertaining and instructive cream cracker story, you would simply have to discard three of my water biscuit tales. Alternatively, I could do that for you, sending you just the fifty you need, each one guaranteed to be a full and true account of an occasion on which, for a variety of reasons, I underwent a spell of derangement due to a water biscuit, or in some cases water biscuits plural. That is the kind of stuff which I think would make any publisher happy, or at least any publisher worth his salt.
I am not going to digress upon the salt content, or lack of it, in cream crackers and/or water biscuits, as that way madness lies, or, if not madness, then at the very least unhingement or derangement, as I know to my cost.
So, Poppy Nisbet, Poppy Nisbet, let me know by return of post which road you wish to go down, the Avenue De Cream Crackers or the Boulevard Du Water Biscuits. I will then send you a very lengthy screed, which you may fillet or primp, as you so wish.