The proofreader’s office is at the back of the house, to the left of the utility room. It has a small window with a view of the garden. There’s a stone bird table in the middle of a neatly trimmed lawn. There are rhododendren bushes and buddleias at the end of the garden and, down the sides, narrow flowerbeds overflowing with white, pink and blue alpine plants. The view is pleasant but not so pleasant as to distract the proofreader.
His attention is entirely focused upon the typed manuscript on his desk. In one hand, he holds a tatty business card. In the other, he holds a red pen. He slides the business card just beneath the line of text he is reading, moving it at a slow pace. Despite his proffesion, he gives the impression of someone who isn’t altogether very good at reading.
He is about ten lines down the page, when the business card comes to a sudden standstill and the hand holding the red pen swoops toward the text.
The proofreader strikes a line through the word ‘absorbtion’. In the margin, paralell to where he has made his mark, he writes the word ‘absorption’.
Then, to no one, he says, “To be fair, that is a tricky one. Absorption. Absor-puh-tion.”
The manuscript is full of tricky words. It’s a piece of editorial about classroom acoustics. The author is an architect and the piece is intended for publication in the Journal of Architectural Technicians.
The business card recommences its slow tracking until it reaches the end of the page. The red pen is not employed again. The proofreader turns the page over to its blank side and places it on a pile of similarly blank pages. The pages aren’t entirely blank, however; here and there, the blushing ghosts of proofreading marks bleed through from the other side of the paper.
Before continuing to proofread the editorial, he puts down his pen and turns to look out of the window. The proofreader knows it is important to rest his eyes, to focus on something further from his face than the surface of his desk.
There is a robin on the bird table, pecking at the seeds and berrys the proofreader placed there that morning. He wonders what the robin is doing there. It’s late June. He seems to remember a time when robins only appeared in the winter months. He wonders if global warming has interfered with the bird’s biological thermostat and it no longer knows whether it’s coming or going. Perhaps, it can no longer distinguish June from November. He considers the possibility that robins have always been around in June.
“Could be I’ve just never noticed them before,” he says.
He looks at the dark, blank screen of his laptop. It would be easy to fire it up and click on the Google icon on his taskbar. In no time at all, he’d be quite the robin expert. Not only would he be fully conversant with the bird’s migratory habits, he’d be familiar with its diet, natural predators, nesting habits, wingspan, body mass and just about everything else robin-related.
The proofreader resists.
If distraction is the enemy of the proofreader, then Google is the proofreader’s arch nemesis. Google is to the proofreader what Lex Luther is to Superman, what Moriarty is to Sherlock Holmes, what Khan is to Kirk.
The Proofreader picks up his red pen and the tatty business card. He gets back down to work.
In the first paragraph, the word rhododendren should be ‘rhododendron’.
In the second paragraph, the word ‘proffesion’ should be ‘profession’.
In the fourth paragraph, the word ‘paralell’ should be ‘parallel’
In the ninth paragraph, the word ‘berrys’ should be ‘berries’. It is also arguable that the author means ‘thermometer’ and not ‘thermostat’.
In the thirteenth paragraph, the name ‘Luther’ should be ‘Luthor’.
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