by Than Pence
Danny tries to help Thomas find a letter from the R.W.U.P - the Right-Word Usage Police!
“No, the date. What’s today?”
“Oh, man. That letter from the police. I was supposed to send a reply by the 12th.”
Danny looked confused, following Thomas from room to room during his search. “A letter about what?”
“About how I used a certain word.”
“What word? Some word in your column? Did you drop an F-bomb again?”
Chagrinned, Thomas stopped searching and chuckled. He finally said, “No, nothing like that. And this isn’t the real police. It’s the R.W.U.P. The Right-Word Usage Police. They’re local. They monitor local publications, making sure writers are using words correctly.”
“And you had to send a reply to them? By snail mail?”
Thomas shrugged. “They like to be old fashioned. And they actually sent it last month, which is why I kept putting it off.”
“So, the R.W.U.P checks local newspapers to make sure people aren’t using the wrong word?”
“Not just newspapers. You should’ve seen their expose on the sign at the gas station on Columbus. I mean, it’s the station’s fault. Who uses ‘except’ instead of ‘accept’?”
Danny shrugged, mockingly. “I… know!” He shook his head. “What’d you do?”
“I used a word wrong in an article.”
“In the title, throughout the piece.”
“Don’t know. That’s why they wrote me. I was given a prompt to write about aubergine. I wrote a piece about how aubergine’s are the recessive genes that produce flaming red hair.”
Danny couldn’t stop chuckling. “You didn’t look it up?”
“I had a deadline to meet!”
“Well, sounds like you had one to meet with these R.W.U.P people, too. Was one more important than the other?”
Thomas hissed. “Actually, this is the second letter. They sent a warning two months ago.”
“How long ago did the article run?”
“And they just now got around to contacting you?”
“Apparently, they’re really busy. The Post has so many errors that the webmasters of the R.W.U.P. website call it ‘The Copy & Post’, like they just copy bad info from the ‘net and post…”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. So, they have a website, and they still send out mailers?”
“They like to be old fashioned, when they can.”
“This is ridiculous. I mean, who cares if you used the word ‘aubergine’ wrong? Maybe it is the recessive gene that gives someone flaming red hair and the R.W.U.P. is wrong.”
“They’re never wrong. These are people who were so overly critical of the grammar and punctuation in their college text books that they dropped out and formed the R.W.U.P.”
Danny began thinking. “Is this some colossal joke?”
Thomas went straight to his computer. After tapping a few keys, a website popped up. It showed a disturbing animation: many people wielding pens like swords and slashing at the English alphabet. It was bloody. “Oh, my!”
“I know. And if I don’t reply to their letter, they’re going to do much worse.”
“What’s that? Cut off your hand?”
“Not my hand... I mean, what good’s a writer that can’t properly write?”
“But they will cut off something?”
“Why do you think there’s so many handicapped spaces in front of the Post?!”
Danny was incredulous. “This is some joke, right? I mean, you’re pulling my leg, right?”
“I wish. And, hey, you can pull my leg as long as I have ‘em.”
“This is crazy! Madness! Just… report them to the police!”
“Oh, no! The police don’t need to get involved! They have as many warning’s as the Post! Have you read those blotters?”
“So, what? They might cut off a leg or foot or something?”
“Might, yes. I may get out with a warning. I’ve read of it happening to first timers.”
“This is crazy.”
“Just… shut up and help find the letter in this mess!”
“It’s quite a mess. You need to clean up around here. Maybe you could’ve found your dictionary and seen what an aubergine was… or checked the Internet.”
“The Internet’s full of lies, Danny.”
“Ah, I see. Well, let’s check something.” Danny typed something. “Okay. It says an aubergine is an eggplant.”
“Eggplant? I guess that’s why Chef Therese requested the article. I just thought she was trying to justify having a Ginger for a son when her and her husband have black hair.”
Danny stared at Thomas. “That’s awful, Thomas. Just… awful.”
Just then, someone pounded on the front door. “Police! Open up!”
“It’s them,” shrieked Thomas, hiding beneath his desk. “Hide!”
More poundings resumed and, in no time, someone outside managed to kick the door in. He was tall, muscular, and wore a saber. Danny was shaking in newfound terror.
“Thomas King! Your brutal misuse of the English language has not gone unnoticed!” Drawing his sword, Danny found himself transfixed, unable to turn away, to speak, to protest or fight. It was a terrifying and mesmerizing experience.
Behind the muscular swordsman came two women toting a large container. The first intruder tore the lid off the container, reached inside, and pulled out an eggplant. “Oh,” uttered Danny.
“An aubergine is an eggplant!” screamed the man. The women, looking disapproving and unapproachable, shook their heads before loudly echoing the man. Then, the swordsman tossed the eggplant into the air, attempting to slice it in half. It caught the blade, but didn’t split. Instead, it soared toward the TV, knocking it over.
The self-styled maniac grabbed another eggplant, and another, tossing each with specific intentions in mind and shouting the same phrase, over and over. Most eggplants were sent flying. One hit Danny’s chest. Some were cleaved and splattered when they hit the ground.
After a few minutes of shouting, sword wielding, and utter insanity, the invaders left swiftly, leaving an atrocious mess in their wake. Danny finally moved toward Thomas. Looking beneath the desk, he made eye contact with his friend and said, “Did you know an aubergine is an eggplant?”
Thomas nodded, tears falling. Danny knew he would never make the mistake again.
Word Count: 1,000