The Curse of the Couplets

The Son of Man by Rene Magritte

The Curse of the Couplets

A minister’s office.  There is a knock and the Professor enters.

Minister
Ah, professor, good afternoon.
It’s really very good of you to see me quite so soon.

Professor
Oh, no trouble, Minister, no trouble at all.
I came the very minute that I first received your call

Minister
Then let me bring you up to speed the problem facing here:
Something has been happening, and something very queer.
Something has affected quite the very way we speak,
It’s spread across the nation within only half a week,
It’s very hard to spot, of course, which makes it all the worse –
But each and ev’ry citizen has started talking verse.

Professor
But surely you don’t mean…

Minister
Alas, I rather mean I do.

Professor
But what then made you realise ?

Minister
(on intercom)
Ah, Bridget, tea for two.
(to Professor)
Oh, little things, just nagging doubts.

Professor
You thought you had some pests ?

Minister
We wanted to be certain, so we ran a batch of tests.
We’ve got our finest boffins out there looking for the source.

Professor
But why then did you turn to me ?

Minister
It’s time to alter course.
We need to find an antidote, we really can’t delay.
And that is why I called you in…

Bridget
(entering)
We’re out of Earl Grey.

Minister
Well never mind, well never mind, I’m sure this shall suffice.

Bridget exits.

Professor
I really can’t imagine I could give you sound advice.

Minister
But you’re our finest scholar, you must surely have some clue ?

Professor
Nothing at the moment, I’m afraid.

Minister
One lump, or two ?

Professor
But are you really certain that we’re talking all in rhymes ?
There hasn’t been a mention in the Telegraph or Times.

Minister
We’ve had to keep it hush-hush so as not to cause a panic.
Would you like a ginger-nut ?  Don’t worry, they’re organic.
Of course, it isn’t fatal – no, the country’s not entombed –
It’s just so very curious…

Professor
We’re doomed, by God, we’re doomed !

Minister
Now not to be alarmist, or to overstate things grossly,
You’d never even know it’s there unless you listen closely
To the steady pitter-patter in the rhythm of each sentence…

Professor
We’re doomed, I say !  We must all pray, and beg the Lord’s repentance.

Minister
Professor !  Pull yourself together !  I need you now to think;
There must be something, anything, to save us from the brink ?

Professor
Wait !  There may be something…the problem is systemic.

Minister
The problem is we’ve staring at a bloody epidemic !

Professor
The problem is within the brain and its linguistic centre
Now, usually it’s very good at recognising…

Door knock

Minister
Enter.

Bridget enters and clears the tea things.

Professor
…the diff’rences in how we speak, but something has confused it

Bridget
Shall I clear the paper, too ?

Minister
I haven’t yet perused it.

Professor
We need to shake it up again, with something quite sublime:
By ending ev’ry sentence with a word that doesn’t rhyme !
Now ev’ryone’s aware that there is nothing rhymes with orange…

Bridget
I’ve contacted the builders to come and fix the door hinge.

Professor
Another word that comes to mind – there’s none to find with chimney.

Bridget
That Watkins tries to feel my legs – he said I had a trim knee.

Professor
There must be more, there must be more – I’m sure we’re safe with plinth.

Bridget
That gift I need to buy your son – was it guitar or synth ?
I’ve called the milliners – your wife has found her trilby small.
Will there be something else ?

Minister
No thanks, I think that will be all.

Bridget exits.

Professor
There’s must be more examples, such as anxious, purple, month…

Minister
No rhyme, say you ?  That can’t be true !  Why, surely there is…
There is…
Hah !  You’ve done it !  I’ve stopped rhyming.  How can I ever thank you professor ?  Your suggestion will save the country.  Finally, we can stop the rhyme.

Professor
That’s alright, Minister.  Any time.

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