The man ran for cover. As he approached the fence the author put out a hand to stop his flight.
“Where do you think you’re going?” the author asked.
“Up and over that fence, if it’s all the same to you,” the man replied, panting.
“You’re planning to confuse your motion, horizontal and vertical, in a single sentence?”
“I’m planning to avoid getting shot,” the man replied. He waved his hand vaguely in the direction whence he had come. “The whole bloody Tenth Guards Army is back there and they aren’t in a laughing mood.”
“You’re safe as long as you’re with me,” the author said. “This is first draft–I can do anything.”
“Then get me over the fence, pronto.”
Without seeming to move, with no consciousness of the passage of time, the man found himself on the other side of the fence.
“Wait a bloody minute!” he said. “How did you punctuate that?”
“Either with a comma, or without one, depending on the sentence rhythm,” the author said. “You were running–no comma I think. Just sprinting in a headlong pell-mell dash.”
“Do you mean to say that the rules of grammar–”
“Are just guidelines. Yes.”
“But which is correct?”
“The one that sounds right. Here, have comfit.”
“What’s a comfit?”
“Dried fruit, nuts, or spices enclosed in sugar candy. Like Jordan almonds. Why? Don’t you know the word?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“I’ll fix it in the second draft,” the author said. “Maybe I’ll offer you a nice slice of fruitcake.”
“But what about the punctuation question?” the man insisted.
“I don’t like the version with the semicolon,” the author said. “Of the others either could be correct depending on the sentences around them.”
“I just used a ‘said’ word that isn’t ‘said’ and you didn’t notice.”
“So you did,” the author replied. “I noticed but didn’t care. You want rules? Aren’t any.”
A bullet zinged by the man’s head; the author had vanished.
“At least I got over the bloody fence.”
The man ran for the safety of the trees.