The 9-Page Butchery by Meike Ziervogel

Peirene is alone in the office. And disaster has struck. The Nymph is pacing up and down, trying to breathe deeply. She knew it! It was an accident waiting to happen. And she didn’t prevent it. Turned a blind eye, hoping against her better judgment that this event would never occur. She was stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

She rummages through boxes, finally finds what she’s looking for: her freedom fighter outfit, including the guns. Last month she promised Meike to put them away for good. Peirene tests the trigger. Maybe she should go back on her words? No! She withdraws her hand. She’s an honourable Nymph, she keeps her promises.

But something has to be done. She has to do something. Where would it end?! Only an act of bravery can now avert the inevitable.

She prints out Shadows on the Tundra. The text is set and waiting to go to the printers, so deleting anything is no longer possible. And that Peirene wants to avoid at all cost because Alex would only tell Meike, and Meike mustn’t know because she created this misfortune in the first place.

Peirene works methodically. She removes every 20th page, 9 in total, then she prints new page numbers and glues them over the old ones. Finally she scans it all back in and saves the file that will go to the printers. Deed done. A beautiful feeling of job satisfaction.

******

‘What on earth has happened to Shadows on the Tundra,’ I shriek. Frantically I click through the file. It doesn’t look right. And sure enough there are 9 pages missing.

A couple of hours later the correct file is restored. I breathe a sigh of relieve. Luckily I had checked on the file one last time.

It’s only then that I notice that Peirene has been unusually quiet. And it dawns on me who might have committed this act of barbaric page butchery.

‘Peirene, did you cut these pages?’

‘We only publish books under 200 pages,’ she responds defiantly. ‘My reputation is at stake. I can’t allow a manuscript of 208 pages to go to the printers.’

‘But we discussed that an exception should be made this time. This manuscript was buried in a glass jar for 50 years. Do you remember? An extraordinary piece of Gulag survival literature.’

Peirene doesn’t reply. A heavy, silent atmosphere prevails for the rest of the day between us.

When I walk into the office the following morning, I find Peirene doing something very unusual indeed. Knitting!

‘One sock nearly finished!’ Proudly she holds up a bright pink woolen sock. ‘I overreacted by cutting the pages, ‘ she then admits with an apologetic smile. ‘Like you, I want to publish this book even though it’s too long. I have cold feet about losing our identity. So since I can’t do anything about the 9 extra pages, I decided to do something about my cold feet. Shall I knit you a pair too?’ she then offers.

I’m delighted by the idea. My feet are cold too because the heater in our office is broken. I choose purple wool for my new pair of socks and can’t wait to wear them.

By Meike Ziervogel

Image by Mark B. Schlemmer, creative commons.

This blog was originally published on 19 February 2018 as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher.

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