The aunt Margaret problem
I was woken early one morning by the ringing of my back door bell.
"How strange," I thought, "The bell hasn't worked for decades."
I quickly dressed and rushed downstairs to find my aunt Margaret waiting for me.
"I noticed your bell didn't work, so I invented a new bell," she said. "Solar powered obviously."
"Thanks aunt Margaret. I wasn't expecting to see you."
"Well I was trying out the new hover-yacht I invented and thought I'd take it for a bit of a spin by visiting my favourite nephew, get to see your latest inventions."
My aunt Margaret is a mad keen inventor and has always encouraged me to become likewise. If she knew I was really a successful writer she'd be ashamed of me, she hates the creative arts, so for many years now I have kept up the pretence by borrowing Alun's inventions and passing them off as my own.
"Of course Aunt Margaret, but we should take tea first. Or coffee. Or perhaps you'd prefer to invent your own hot beverage."
"An excellent idea, I will invent a new hot drink that tastes of happiness. This is Happy Island after all. Anything for you?"
"I'm happy with tea," I said.
I left Aunt Margaret inventing happiness and rushed round to Alun's house.
"I need your latest inventions," I said. "My aunt Margaret is visiting."
"I'll need your latest stories, Jed," Alun said. "My aunt Margaret is visiting." Alun's aunt Margaret is a great fan of literature and Alun has kept up the pretence that he is a writer by passing off my stories as his own.
Luckily I carry my latest stories with me at all times, for just such an emergency.
"This is a short story about ducks taking over the world, and a poem about ducks taking over the world, and there's this, a political treatise explaining why the world would be a better place if the ducks took over."
"Excellent Jed, these are my latest inventions."
"What's this one?"
"This is a gravity tuner. You fit it to your scales. If you want to maintain your perfect weight, it will adjust gravity accordingly by reducing or increasing the force of gravity until your weight is just right."
I quickly rushed back to my house with Alun's inventions, just in time, Aunt Margaret had just finished inventing happiness.
"Your tea Jed, are you sure you don't want any happiness."
"I'm fine thanks."
"Anyway, your inventions, you must show me."
I showed her the adjustable scales.
"Excellent Jed, a chance for me to be my perfect weight again. Anything else?"
"I've invented the trouser press."
"The trouser press already exists, Jed," Aunt Margaret said.
"Not like this," I said. "You can press anything and it becomes a pair of trousers. Pass me that stick of rhubarb."
I pressed the rhubarb into Alun's invention, watched it pass through the device and took out a pair of newly-pressed trousers from the other end.
"That's amazing Jed, rhubarb trousers, and in my size as well. I just need a rhubarb top to go with them - I don't suppose you've invented a shirt-press?"
"I'm afraid not, aunt Margaret," I said.
"Oh well, I'm sure I'll invent one over the weekend. Do you mind if I borrow a spoon."
We were interrupted by a hammering on my back door (Alun clearly didn't know about the doorbell).
"It's Auntie Margaret, Jed," Alun said. ""She says that you really need to work on the endings to your stories, they're trite and contrived."
"Okay, I'll do a re-write, add it to the pile in the re-write room. The fourteenth pile on the left - that's the priority side of the room."
"Auntie Margaret!" said Alun, spotting my Auntie Margaret.
"Oh yes," I said, "I've not introduced you. Alun this is my Auntie Margaret,"
"No it's not," Alun said, "This is my Auntie Margaret."
"I'm everybody's auntie Margaret," my Auntie Margaret said. "Everybody needs an Auntie Margaret to help them work on their weaknesses. Alun couldn't write so much as a 500,000 word epic novel if he tried and Jed couldn't invent a pair of hover boots if you gave him a pair of boots and a full jar of hover."
"So you've known all along," I said.
"Of course," said Auntie Margaret. "Auntie Margarets know everything."
"I don't understand," said Alun. "I've only just left you in my house. How can you be in two places at once?"
In answer, Aunt Margaret help up a spoon.
"I've invented a teleportation device that works on the basis of the interconnectedness of all spoons," she said. "It means I can be in as many places at one time as I need to be. As long as there are spoons present."
"That's amazing," I said. "But why is the cat levitating?"
"The spoons are levitating as well," said Alun. "And so am I."
"I'm levitating too," I said, not wanting to be left out.
"Oh dear," said Auntie Margaret. "I think I might have been a trifle ambitious in setting my perfect weight. I'm afraid I've accidentally turned off gravity. Has anybody seen the scales?"
"I saw them floating up the stairs," said Alun. "Quick Jed, after the bathroom scales. If they reach the skylight window before we do we'll never get our gravity back."