This afternoon I spent a pleasant few hours laying a Truss trap. Not far from Lynne’s house is a bus stop. On the outside wall of the bus shelter, on the side facing her house, I affixed two signs. In bright and gaudy letters that could be read from some distance away, one said, ‘The bus stop’s here.’ The other, equally prominent, read, ‘The bus stops here.’ I settled on the bench, lit up a joint and awaited developments.
I awote awhile, thinking how pleasant it all was. “This awoting’s a’wight,” I said to myself. “Nothing like a bit of awoting to awhile away a whale of a wait.” Then I snoozed a little. When I woke up I realised I had, in fact, been taking alcohol, not cannabis. Thank heavens for that. Imagine what brain-screwed nonsense my thoughts would have been if thunk under the influence of the devil’s hippyshit. As it was, I could boast later about how much not-a-drug I‘d consumed, how embarrassing the effects had been, how ill I’d felt afterwards. I was normal! I was one of the lads! “Football, spanner, Transit van,” I chanted to myself, just to be sure. Yup, no question about it, I was okay.
Shortly afterwards the curtains twitched in Lynne’s window. Moments later she was bearing down on me like an irresistible force spoiling for an encounter with an all too movable object. I held my ground, and my crotch too, just in case. “Is this sign yours, young man?” She glared at it. “The bus stop’s here. This is where the bus stops. NO apostrophe required.” And she took out a thick black marker pen and savagely scribbled over the offending mark. “And what about this? The bus stops here? The bus stop is here? Why, you seem to have missed out the apostrophe. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a man who gets drunk in bus shelters.” And she added an apostrophe with such force that I was at a loss for an adjective to describe it. It did give me a mild erection, though.
Her eyes returned to the first sign. She raised her marker as if to re-insert the apostrophe, then froze. I could see her mouth moving slightly as if she were silently reciting a mantra, possibly a rhyme that would remind her of the rules of apostrophe usage. “If at first a space you see, put in an a-pos-tro-phe. If the usage is in doubt, just you scrub the damn thing out.” Something like that. Sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, of course, as is any mnemonic for the hard of thinking. “One over two-pi root el-cee, gives you the res’nant fre-quen-cy” is one of my favourites. What’s yours?
Now we’ve given her a little time she’s looking at the lower sign again, pen still poised, mouth still remembering. “So, what are the rules exactly?” I ask innocently. She turns slowly to face me. “Well, if you mean ‘the bus stops here’, as in ‘this is where the bus stops’, then no apostrophe is needed. But if you mean ‘the bus stop is here’, as in ‘this is where the bus stops’, you should … that is to say, if you mean …you … I …”
“I see,” I say earnestly. “If I want to say that this is where the bus stops, I either do or do not need an apostrophe. Possibly both, but probably neither.” As I walk away she is weeping softy. The alcohol is making me strangely inclined to stagger into traffic and I feel a strong desire to urinate in a doorway. I decide to have taken cannabis after all, it’s far more civilised. The afternoon ends very pleasantly and I have no never-again hangover to look forward to. An apostrophe on being normal, I’ll take the high road every time.
It’s all in a day’s work for Satan, of course. Oh, how I wish I were he. Or, as Ms. Truss would say these days, “Ow I wish I was im.” I don’t know where she puts the apostrophes.