Tears were streaming down Judy’s face. I put a consoling arm around her shoulder.
‘It’s okay,’ I said. ‘This is for the best.’
‘But why did she have to say such a cruel thing? Doesn’t she know what you’re like? Surely she knew that you’d immediately go out and try it.’
I couldn’t deny that she was right. When Missy M left a comment on my blog and mentioned that I’d have to be dead before I’d be recognised as a great blogger, I could see there was only one thing I could do. I’d brought the step ladders up from the basement and found a good strong length of hemp rope in the garage. I’d been busily setting these up in the hallway when Judy came back from the hairdressers.
‘What are you doing, Richard?’ she asked.
‘Hanging myself,’ I replied, busy with the noose.
She laughed, I think expecting me to finish the joke. Only this was no joke. I explained about Missy M’s comment and the reasons why I thought it best not to go on with my life.
‘I’m cashing in now while my credit’s still good,’ I explained. ‘These Stephen Fry episodes might never be bettered. I think I’ve reached the peak of my creativity. I better end it all now.’
‘But what about the show?’ asked Judy, obviously thinking about herself.
‘You an always get David Dickinson,’ I said. ‘You know you’ve been itching to get him on the sofa. It’s be the Judy & David show from now on. And people will be left to remember me as the blogger who put Proust to shame with his productivity.’
‘Proust? You’re not setting yourself any high goals.’
‘And why should I? That business with Stephen Fry has taught me well.’
‘Oh, that reminds me. Has he woken up yet?’
‘Still sleeping,’ I said, getting back to the job of putting thirteen twists in the noose. ‘To be honest, Jude, that’s why I’m thinking of doing myself in now. Before he wakes up.’
‘You’re still worried where he’s going to stick that hat?’ She nodded. ‘I understand. Perhaps you want some help kicking the step ladders away.’
I climbed down and looked at the old girl. She was taking it a bit too lightly.
‘You don’t think I’m going to do this, do you?’ I asked.
‘Oh, of course I don’t.’
‘But I am.’
‘I am,’ I said and as if to prove the point I hung the noose around my neck. ‘It’s okay,’ I said. ‘This is for the best.’ That's when Judy started to cry.
I was just about to began the slow walk up the stepladders when I heard the sound of somebody whistling Wagner. That's when Stephen Fry emerged from the back of the house.
‘My, my,’ he said. ‘I seem to have intruded on a rightly odd moment of married bliss. Hanging yourself again, Richard? Thought you’d given that up with the vasectomy.’
I explained to him about Missy M’s message and he listened with unusual good humour for a man who had earlier threatened to give me a rectal examination via my old ocelot hat.
‘Oh you silly thing,’ said Stephen. ‘Take that blessed noose from your neck and consider no more this idle speculation about your greatness. You are great now, Dicky. You are greater, almost but not actually, than I. Think no more about your readers. Know only that I read you.’
‘I thought you were going to give him his hat back,’ said Judy, wiping away the tears. ‘I thought you were angry with him.’
‘A sleep perchance to dream, ay there’s the rub,’ said Stephen, cryptically. ‘No, my temper has waned and I feel better off without those silly Americans. I fancy something to eat. You don’t mind if I use your kitchen. Shall I make omelettes for three.’
‘Cheese omelettes?’ I asked.
He patted me on my shoulder. ‘The sweetest cheese omelettes you’ll taste on this side of a knotted piece of rope and a stepladder.’