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Journal of Distraction - by Michael Kelly

Week 3 - Wednesday

'Love and Staple-Guns.' What a great title for a film. I would watch it, anyway.

What a lovely thing is a stapler! They do make me happy. Such a perfect piece of design - you wish, do you, to join together two things which were not previously joined? Voila, one almost sexually satisfying squeeze and it is so. I know that somewhere some evil modernist is already at work to eradicate them and replace them with something horrid and electronic which will bore you shitless and not work at all and require three weeks of night-school to master. Or like some genetically engineered animal with staples for teeth, a little modified hedgehog or possum or something which will just crawl around your desk biting things that need stapling, and shitting Tippex over anything that needs correcting. That would be cute actually. But they will have to prise my staple-gun from my cold dead hand.

You have all watched Office Space, I hope. I would definitely do what the Milton character in that does if someone threatened my stapler.

I think I must celebrate the man who invented the stapler. At school we had this box full of cards dramatising or giving potted resumes of the lives of various great inventors and innovators, Edison and Stephenson and Jethro Tull or whoever, and you would read them and answer little questions based on the text. The man who gave the world the stapler should definitely have been there.

Austria, Winter 1848

Two lonely figures trudged across a snowy wilderness towards a small town on the banks of the Danube, huddling together for warmth as an icy wind howled around them.

'God grant we may be in time,' the taller figure, a woman, muttered as they staggered exhaustedly onto the bridge leading to the town fort. With one hand she held her companion, a boy - lean and malnourished yet with a certain unmistakable nobility in his features. The other was clenched tightly around the thing she had not let go of these many days - a thing she had raised to her lips to kiss on more than one occasion during their lonely trek.

On the other side of the bridge the woman struggled the last few feet through the wind and the snow and banged on the door of the fortress with the last of her strength. An impressive-looking captain answered it and looked at her grandly down his moustaches.

'My name is Magdalena Staple,' the woman panted. 'This is my young son, Karl Johann. You hold my husband inside on suspicion of revolutionary activities. He is to be shot tonight. But he has been proved innocent! I bring the pardon from Vienna!'

Triumphantly, she raised up the papers in her right hand and passed them to the soldier, who fought back a tear at the sight of the two tattered figures and the thought of his own wife and child.

Yet the bureaucracy of the Habsburg Empire was inflexible and merciless.

'I am sorry,' he said. 'The pardon must be signed in triplicate. But there are only two copies here!'

The woman looked in disbelief. There had been three copies of the pardon when they set out from Vienna!

'Mutti - look!'

Then she saw. Within the last few faltering paces the third piece of paper had slipped from her treacherous grasp. It lay now scant yards behind them, fluttering poignantly on the bridge. As she watched in horror the wind whipped it about and picked it up...


She dashed towards it but the cruel wind blew the life-saving document further from her. Despairingly, she clawed after it. Suddenly a particularly savage gust of wind blew her off the bridge and into the icy river. The paper floated longer than she did.


Sadly the captain shook his head and patted the horrified young lad on the shoulder. 'Ah, me. If only those three pieces of paper had been securely joined together this would not have happened. Now I must go in and shoot your father.'

Because of a stray piece of paper Karl Johann Staple was alone in the world, an orphan twice over.

Karl Johann never forgot...grew to manhood obsessed with finding ways to join pieces of paper to other pieces of paper and keep them joined...early experiments with fuck-off big nailguns, wounded himself in many terrible ways... diligence, perseverance...years of patiently endured poverty... Sabotage and assassination attempts by agents of his rival, Friedrich Paperklipp...yes, yes, I see it all...

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