Let us quell your unease with our favorite platitude, “When God closes a door, he opens a window, but when Tom Floss squints at the mob through his window, Roy boards up the door for him.”

Our story this week is “He Who Ruined Everything” by L. N. Clarke. Cover art by Bo Kaier

Do you long to be a part of the mob? Did this week’s story give you mob-envy? Then do we have something akin to a mob, but less angry, and less muddy, and also sort of just a rough collection of like-minded people who like similar things, and also it smells better. It’s the Drabblecast Patreon! Where you can meet your fellow less muddy, less angry, and collected new friends and get things like early access to ad-free episodes and bonus episodes! Plus with something new brewing in the dark coming to Patreon only.

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He Who Ruined Everything
by L. N. Clarke

Immortality had two major drawbacks.

“You mean like living with the constant fear you might fall into a crevasse, get stuck for millennia, and wind up a nude fossil in a museum?”

Immortality had three major drawbacks. The first was what Tom Floss just said. Thanks for the new recurring nightmare. The second was that, no matter how bright you were, time had a way of proving you wrong. The final drawback was that you had a literal eternity to ruminate on mistakes.

That was the case for old Tom Floss, who was born a very sickly child. His desperate mother stole and fed him the divine codfish prophesied to save the kingdom from devastation—thus granting him eternal life. Because of this, some argued the kingdom itself was the first thing Tom Floss ruined, though fans and followers passionately insist the monarchy’s collapse was not his fault. And besides, it was a happy mistake, as Naughtobelus was better off without kings.

Along with the gift of eternal life, Tom’s mother gave him her intelligence.

“I’m sorry. Could you keep it down? I’m having a hard time focusing.”

His logical genius and open mind made him an authority on everything, regardless of education or prudence. This often led to benevolent blunders. For example, he possessed the capacity to imagine a narrator dictating his life, but not the wisdom to avoid provoking them.


And so, Tom found himself, one evening, lounging in his silken robe when a thumping from below disturbed him.

“Roy?” he called to the trusted friend with whom he shared his two-story home. “What are you doing?”

Roy was a simple and grounded man whose hard-work ethic and perseverance balanced out Tom’s eccentric behavior.

“Boarding, sir!” Roy called up the stairs.

Roy was not Tom’s employee, nor was he treated as inferior. He was simply the sort of person who believed addressing everyone with honorifics made him sound extremely polite. Thus, Tom was sir, the cobbler was ma’am, and the butcher across the street was boss.

When the thumping did not cease, Tom exited his bedchamber and approached the stairwell where he could hear Roy’s answers. “I’m afraid you’ll have to explain that further. I’m not sure I follow without context.”

Unlike other gifted people, Tom was not afraid to admit his shortcomings. That fact alone earned him Roy’s loyalty, as false gods did not impress Roy much.

“Boarding the doors, sir. And the windows. Could use an extra set of hands.”

Tom’s nose wrinkled at the thought of nails thudding into decorative molding, but he gathered his robe and descended to the foyer.

“And why, exactly, are we boarding the doors?”

Roy, a retired carpenter, pushed a spare hammer into Tom’s hand. “There appears to be an angry mob.”

“We’re not angry!” a voice called from outside. “We’d simply like to boil you.”

Tom did not want to be boiled. But curiosity won over common sense, and he peeked through a section of his stained-glass sidelights to get a better look at the speaker.

“Mrs. Winterbother?” he asked.

“I wouldn’t do that, sir,” Roy said and thudded a new board over the sidelight.

But Tom was not through asking questions. He dropped the hammer, hurried to a window, and peered between planks at the crowd outside. It included everyone in town, even the infants, who, he imagined, bore him no ill will at the time.

“And why do you want to boil me?” he asked the folks nearest the door.

Mrs. Winterbother turned with a pleasant smile and said, “Because you’re a persimmon, of course!”

This created more questions than it answered, the first of which was why a person might want to boil a persimmon in the first place. Perhaps as part of a vegetable bisque? But a butternut squash might do just as well.

“I’m not a persimmon,” Tom replied.

He would be lying if he said he never fibbed to get himself out of a pickle. But the situation called for reason, and he was clearly not a piece of fruit.

Mrs. Winterbother’s smile faltered. “But you must be. The sacred book says you are!”

Ah. That answered several questions. The so-called sacred book began its life as a list of platitudes Tom Floss wrote when he was young in years and still knew everything. Over the decades, it expanded to include stories, rules, and clarifications necessary to prevent disaster.

There is no greater warmth than that of love.

Regardless, you still need to cover your buttocks.

The entirety of your buttocks, at least in winter.

Unless you are in a private location or establishment designated for that purpose.

Yes, everyone here has buttocks. Even Janet.

“I don’t have my copy on me,” he said, aware the townsfolk hated it when he admitted he was not omnipotent, “but I’m sure you’re misinterpreting something.”

An intelligent person, according to Tom, did not assume others were less so. Instead, it was best to approach disagreements from the perspective that someone lacked data. This philosophy led to mistakes, but none worthy of becoming a jerk.

“I’ve run out of planks, sir,” Roy interrupted. “If you want, I can break down the couch.”

“What? No!”

It was not a couch. It was a chaise lounge required for Tom’s mental health. That, the silk robe, his blackout curtains, and the nine identical music boxes on pedestals in every room. What good would it do him to escape a mob and wind up with no way to escape his own thoughts?

“And lo,” a man’s voice declared near the window, “the rain ceased, the floods drained, and the clouds burst apart. The undying one, a persimmon, emerged from within the boiling water to the cheers of faithful worshipers!”

“That’s definitely wrong,” Tom muttered.

Nonetheless, it reminded him that three days prior, in a thunderstorm, he had promised to mediate a squabble over a barn that blocked the flow of rainwater—diverting it directly to the center of town. How easy it was to forget the struggles of his neighbors when his own home was safe and dry. There was likely a platitude for that, which the town would misconstrue to mean his head was an egg and his feet were bananas.

 “I take it you need my help with a flood?” he asked the front door, which thumped from the opposite side. “I could show you where to dig a trench?”

“No time for that,” Mrs. Winterbother said. “Sheep are floating through the schoolhouse wearing hats washed from the haberdashers. But don’t worry! We’ve brought a cauldron and some kindling to get this sorted in a jiffy!”

The thought of the townspeople hauling a cauldron large enough for Tom’s whole body uphill in the rain to his residence quashed all hope that they might reconsider. It was hard enough to change one person’s mind after they labored toward a faulty solution. Convincing a whole crowd to throw away work was as productive as asking them to eat their foreheads.

A pane of glass shattered in the sitting room precisely to the beat of the thudding door.

“I’m so sorry!” somebody squeaked with embarrassment. “I’ll pay for the damage!”

“No need!” Tom called.

Roy cleared his throat. “Seems to me, sir, if you want this house to stay in one piece, you’re going to have to get in the pot.”

“What, and let them boil me?”

“Seems like.”

Tom pondered the proposal because he respected Roy. But also, because he learned over the years that people took rejection much better when they felt their opinions were fairly considered.

“It’s true. We could prevent some damage if I went along with the town’s plan. However, their plan has some obvious flaws. For one, getting boiled hurts. Also, it wouldn’t stop the flood. Still, I’ll keep your suggestion in mind.”

He meant it. If there was one thing Tom Floss learned from his blunders, it was never to deal in absolutes. That kind of thinking led to sacred rules such as never wear purple outside the home—something Tom insisted upon long ago when wumblebats beset the town. A century later, with wumblebats extinct and no purple-loving predators about, he still could not convince the locals that the rule was no longer relevant. What he intended as a safety precaution had become a permanent law against fashion.

The town’s reasoning was understandable if you considered they thought he was a god capable of bestowing the secrets of longevity should they listen to his commands. Tom may or may not have encouraged this thinking occasionally, to his great shame.

 So, imagine, if you would, a literal god presented you with instructions and told you following them might earn you an extra ten to twenty years of life. Then, sixty years later, that same god returned and said, “Never mind, that one doesn’t work.” You might have a hard time accepting that news. Or you might even mistake it for a test. Very understandable, in Tom’s opinion. Understandable, but completely wrong.

“I’m going to find my copy of the book,” he told Roy, then clutched his robe and dashed up the stairs.

The book was exactly where he left it because, well, of course it was. It was a journal, not a grimoire, and therefore would not ambulate. Unfortunately, he could not recall its location for the extremely long life of him. And it took him several excruciating minutes to spot it stuffed beneath stacked boxes. While he searched, the door thudding increased, accompanied by a scraping sound.

“Roy,” Tom called, book in hand, “what are you doing now?”

“Barricading, sir.”

That required no explanation, though Tom shuddered at the thought of heavy furniture gouging his gorgeous hardwood floors. Still, he hurried to help Roy push a cabinet in front of the unboarded exit.

“The planks on the entrance are still holding,” Roy said, “but I’m afraid they may have damaged the jamb.”

“Jam!” Tom exclaimed. “That’s something you’d boil a persimmon for.”

“Not if it’s the tannin sort.”

“Well, I assumed I wasn’t the tannin sort. Why, do I look like the tannin sort to you?”

Roy shrugged. “Is that what they plan to do with you? Make jam?”

“Let’s find out.”

Tom moved to the foyer and sat cross-legged a safe distance from the thudding door. He opened his book and flipped through the pages, searching for any mention of fruit.

“Mrs. Winterbother?” he asked.

The thudding ceased.

“Yes, undying one?”

“I have my copy of the sacred book, but can’t find any mention of a persimmon. What page was that passage on?”

There was a shuffling that Tom took to be the sound of people sharing soggy texts.

“Page five-twenty-six,” Mrs. Winterbother said.

A story, then. That was unfortunate. The stories were Tom’s least favorite sections, as they contained words about him, not by him, and therefore he could not control their message.

“Reminds me of a certain narrator.”

Hush, you.

Roy drew near. “What was that, sir?”

“There’s nothing about persimmons on this page. Just an account of when I fell in a well and some farmers rescued me with a rope. Pretty sure they added it after I issued the rule regarding handrails. Though, hmm.”

Roy had been around Tom long enough to understand hmm was the end of a thought, not the start of an explanation. And so, he was unsurprised when Tom stood and approached the window without another word.

“May I see the passage in question,” Tom asked, “on your copy of the book?”

More shuffling occurred near the entrance, followed by the shlop shlop of muddy boots trampling his begonias. Someone slapped a page against the glass—thankfully without shattering it—and Tom squinted at the dampened paper.

The first thing he noticed was the most alarming. The page on the glass had printed text. He had never seen a printed copy before, and for a good reason—the town had no press. That meant someone traveled to a city with a handwritten copy of the sacred book and had a printer replicate it.

There were rules against that. Many, in fact, because Tom Floss did everything in his power to keep the false religion from spreading. Hopefully, it was a one-time defiance, and the town still obeyed health and safety decrees. Despite everything, he remained convinced that some of his instructions might help them live longer. Likely, in a hundred years, he would curse himself for thinking that.

“I see the passage,” he shouted through the glass, “but it doesn’t match the page in my copy.”

To prove his point, he presented his handwritten version to the glass. A good deal of murmuring ensued.

“Yours does mention water,” Mrs. Winterbother said.

“Water in a freshly dug well, into which I slipped while surveying the site. That’s not the same as a flood, is it?”

Gears turned. It was difficult for most people to accept that they had made a mistake, even with proof, but slightly easier to admit that somebody else had deceived them. That was the angle Tom hoped to exploit, though he loathed the reasoning behind it.

“If I may wager a guess,” he said gently, “it seems the clue is in the color orange. Note in my copy where it mentions my skin was caked in mud when I emerged. The mud in the story was orange in color, and persimmons also have orange skin.”

Mrs. Winterbother took some time to think while the others wrung rainwater out of their clothes. “So, what you’re saying is, you’re not a persimmon.”


“You’re more like a mud ball.”

“Let’s start over. It’s apparent to me that your sacred book has been copied to another language and back, resulting in severe mistranslations. The well is a cauldron, my skin is a fruit, and I haven’t a clue where the flood came from.”

“So, your skin is the fruit.”

“In the mistranslation only. My actual skin is un-boilable. At least, not to the point of becoming a jam. The heat won’t damage my body at all. Why do I feel like I’m losing you again?”

“Oh, no. I get it. You’re more like a kumquat.”


Someone butted into the chat. “He isn’t a kumquat. He’s a persimmon.”

“No, he’s a kumquat,” Mrs. Winterbother argued. “And we have to get him into a well so he can tell us why the flood started.”

Tom groaned. “It started because one of you built a barn exactly where rain flows to the river, and instead of re-gradating the surrounding soil, you came to me to make them move it.”

“Well, if you already know the cause of the flood, why do you need to go into the well?”


“Hold on,” the interrupting person said. Upon closer inspection, it was the baker. “I don’t accept any of this. He’s a persimmon. It says so right here.”

Mrs. Winterbother crossed her arms. “He just told us your version is wrong, and he happens to be the undying one.”

“Not my undying one, he isn’t. My god is absolutely not a kumquat.”

Tom deflated exactly as he imagined a boiled persimmon in a cauldron might.

“If you don’t believe in our god, you can’t be part of our religion!” Mrs. Winterbother shrieked.

“Fine with me!” the baker replied.

Roy stepped behind Tom and peered through the glass. “Looks like the rain has let up, sir.”

“Indeed. Remind me when this dies down to pen up some storm water management rules.”

“Seems to me you’ll have to write two sets.”

They watched as the fruit-related spat expanded from a disagreement to a full-blown fight, converting Tom’s well-tended flower garden into a massive mud wrestling pit. Still, it was difficult to be upset while the cauldron rolled away, forgotten. Tom exhaled, overwhelmed by the mess, but the sensible Roy hoisted a hammer.

“Guess we can remove these boards,” Roy said, and cheerfully popped a nail free.

Tom dismissed his spiraling thoughts and searched the floor for the spare hammer. “A fantastic plan, my friend. And when we’re through, let’s discuss a vacation. Surely, there’s somewhere on Naughtobelus where nobody’s heard of this silly religion.”

Roy paused his nail-popping and glanced out the window at all the discarded, twice-translated books. “I wouldn’t be too sure of that, sir.”

Tom pried a nail from a plank and scowled.