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Three Clubs

by apcharman 

Posted: 20 May 2008
Word Count: 182
Summary: Short and light-hearted. An exercise from a recent writing course.

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Bartholomew Butterworth took five steps to reach the concierge's desk. He removed his gloves, finger by finger, transferred them, along with the lead and his cane, to his left hand. He touched the small brass bell then gave it a sharp and deserved smack.

The concierge emerged from his cubby-hole eating what sounded like a cucumber sandwich.

"Yef, fir?"

Butterworth asserted his authority with no more than a raised eyebrow and a self-enforced silence. The concierge caught up quickly, swallowing his snack and wiping his hands.

"Sorry sir. How can I help?"

"Where am I?"


"Simple enough question, man. Where am I?"

"Army and Navy Club, Pall Mall, sir."

Butterworth addressed his dog.

"Archie, you're a dolt!"

"Sir?" answered the concierge.

He lifted his eyes so the poor man could see he was blind.

"I'm a member of three clubs and the stupid animal never could tell one from the other."

"Which animal is that, sir?"

Bartholomew raised the lead high enough to be sure there was nothing on the end of it.

"Oh hell's teeth. This really is the end!"

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Comments by other Members

Cornelia at 11:26 on 20 May 2008  Report this post
Really funny! I liked this a lot.

Two minor points:

Loved the first paragraph with its clipped precision, but didn't understand the word 'deserved'. How could the bell deserve a smack?

I liked the names and the language - I'm a great Jeeves and Wooster fan and this catches the mood and tone. Calling Archie a dolt was spot-on.

'sounded like' is great - an abvious clue but the ending came as a complete surprise.

swallowing his snack and wiping his hands.

Two 'ings' so close together is not good. Maybe - wiping his hands he swallowed his snack. (I liked the cucumber sandwich touch )


Katerina at 11:30 on 20 May 2008  Report this post
Ha ha, that's funny.

Heaven only knows where the dog has gone!

Love the name - Bartholomew Butterworth, does he eat Worthers Originals

apcharman at 11:36 on 20 May 2008  Report this post
Thanks Shiela,
Useful comments. (You have to be Bartholomew Butterworth to know that the bell *deserves* to be smacked)

Thanks, also Katerina - glad you liked this.

Cornelia at 11:51 on 20 May 2008  Report this post
Sorry, I didn't realise this was part of a longer piece.


apcharman at 12:05 on 20 May 2008  Report this post
It's not part of a longer piece. I mean to say that in Bartholomew's view of the world, the bell deserved a smack.

Shani at 12:35 on 20 May 2008  Report this post
Hi Andy
This was a fun piece.

self-enforced silence.

I liked this phrase because of the sibilants which brings a snakey air of menace

The concierge caught up quickly, swallowing his snack and wiping his hands.

With this sentence you could consider using either present or past participles depending on the tone you want to put forward - I don't mind there being a number of present participles in one sentence.

I loved the last line

Thanks for a good read


Cornelia at 13:20 on 20 May 2008  Report this post
Yes, but why? Presumably he approves of these clubs, so it can't be temper. Does he think the concierge deserves a smack for being so slow? He doesn't know that in advance, does he? How does he know where the bell is located?

Don't answer if you can't be bothered. I was just curious.


Nik Perring at 16:07 on 21 May 2008  Report this post
Ha! Loved it. The best line, for me, would have to be:
eating what sounded like a cucumber sandwich



apcharman at 11:43 on 22 May 2008  Report this post
Hi Shiela,
To feed your curiosity, I have been reading James Wood's "How fiction works" and he spends a chapter or so on how characters can be signalled very quickly with one or two choices about how their actions are flavoured.
The example Wood gives (which I take as my cue), is "Ted watched the orchestra through stupid tears."
His focus is on the word "stupid". Clearly, since tears cannot actually be stupid, the turn of phrase is being used to a different effect that just straight-forward reporting. Despite the supposedly objective position of the narration (3rd person), the narrative has an insight into the perspective and world-view of the character. It is Ted who thinks the tears are stupid; or rather he thinks himself stupid for being moved to tears by the music. Wood's example does not spell that out, it simply presents the world as Ted sees it.
So, in my own clumsy way, I'm trying to do something similar. When Bart smacks the concierge's bell, he does so with a particular style. And because he is irredeemably arrogant, he reasons that anything that has been designed to be hit, obviously deserves to be hit. If Bartholomew Butterworth smacks a bell, he smacks it as though the bell deserves it.
In my thinking, if this piece was to work at all, it had to be set-up as humorous right at the start. My intention, in adding that "deserved" is to flag up Bartholomew's character and the nature of the story right at the beginning.
As far how he knows the bell is there... well actually he felt for it. What I wrote was, "He touched the small brass bell, then..." But if I'd written he felt for it, I'd have given the game away. Cheating?


rosiedlm at 16:38 on 26 May 2008  Report this post
Andy, I loved this and laughed out loud at the end. I really want to read more Bartholemew adventures because I just think the character needs to be written about.

eating what sounded like a cucumber sandwich.


BTW. The deserved smack of the bell really set the scene for me...

Lovely stuff,

Cornelia at 13:22 on 10 June 2008  Report this post
Thanks, Andy, for explaining. I think the example is a good one and I understand your dilemma. It's interesting when fiction throws up these challenges and I agree entirely with what James Wood says here. I narrowly resisted buying his book at Waterstones, deciding 'Writer's Marketing Handbook' is what I need just now.

You never know how your reader is going to react is the trouble. More/less discerning readers may not have a problem.

I'm in favour of early signals about characters.

In the story I've just posted there's something similar. My heroine wears a blue dress, blue being a symbol of spirituality. Will people pick up on that? Her name's Alice, a hint at the sense of displacement she feels - to underline it I've even said that where she's waiting is 'a different world' whilst hinting at her indecision by showing a diagram as a map with puzzling pathways. I'm assuming that women's mag. readers will pick up on the 'Alice in Wonderland' reference. For all I know the readers will be as obtuse as I am - wondering why a hotel desk-bell deserves a smacking and not connecting it with the person doing the smacking.

The name Alice came to me naturally - it was only when I thought about it that I realised why, and decided her dress would be blue.

There's a another reference you'll be too young to get but the intended elderly readership might - a song with first line that goes: 'In your sweet little Alice-blue gown'

I tend to pick up literary echoes, which is why I picked up on the ambience of your story, which I think you've captured exactly. At the sentence level I may have been too picky.

I still don't think 'deserved' for the bell works in the same way as 'stupid' in Wood's example.Perhaps it's because 'stupid' is the subject's view of himself whereas 'deserved' seems to be attached to an insensate object, i.e. the bell. The subject can't see himself as 'deserved' that is, deserving a whack, whereas the example person could arguably be 'stupid'.

I think 'slammed the stupid bell' would work better as reflecting the man's view of all bells, or anything else that requires him to make an effort. This 'transferred epithet', as I believe they are called, is so common as to be a cliche. I can see why you'd want to avoid it.

You'd think, being blind, he'd be grateful for the bell. Still, as you say, that's not in his nature.


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