Error 404 (part 1)


“Good morning, Bank, Lucinda speaking, how may I be of service today?”

“Hi. Lucinda. I’m having trouble getting money out-“

“May I take your name, sir?”

“Umm, yes, my name is B. I tried to take some money out yesterday-“

“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t find your name on our database; could you spell it for me please, sir?”

“Yes…B. I’m definitely a customer of yours.”

“I’m sorry sir, but it’s not showing; are you certain you bank with us, sir?”

“Well yes. I’m definitely a customer of yours, I’ve been a customer for years; I have a Bank card with which I’ve been able to draw out money before.” B. fumbles in his back pocket for the card; it’s nestled between a note from his sister and a receipt for a book.

“Do you have the card on you, sir?”


“Could you read the long number on the front of the card out to me please, sir?”

“Of course.” B. clears his throat.

“Could you repeat that, sir?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“My apologies sir; could you read the long number on the front of the card out to me please, sir?”

“Yes, it’s 3840, 2765-“

“I’m sorry sir, but the system isn’t recognising these numbers, could you read them again for me please, sir?”

“Yes, it’s 3840-“



“2……7……6……5, no I’m sorry sir it’s no good, the system doesn’t recognise those numbers.”

“I have more numbers; could I read you them?”

“No sir, that wouldn’t make any difference at all; we have no accounts on file that begin with those numbers. Is that definitely your card, sir?”

B. looks it over. His name is on the front. The bank’s name is on the front. The bottom right corner plastic covering is peeling ever so slightly, as it has been doing for the past month. B. checks his other pockets for other cards. He hasn’t any other cards; he isn’t a customer of any other bank.


“Let me just get my superior, sir. See if we can’t straighten this out for you.”

“Thank you.” The hold music starts to play – The Köln Concert – odd choice; it clashed horribly with the music coming from the lounge of the hotel. B. shifts in his seat, scratches behind his ear, and lets out a long, deep breath, which ends in the sound a horse might make, were it so inclined.

B. glances around the lobby; he spies an old couple who’ve been coming here for years; they smile and audibly greet every member of staff who passes by; the greeting is heartily, if professionally, returned; not a flicker of recognition cross any of their faces; the pattern is pleasing to the old couple; this is the wallpaper they’ve chosen every year for these two weeks of their life; the dyes used to colour it may subtly change, but the pattern will remain, and it’ll never go out of production.

“Good morning sir, I am Lucinda’s superior and I understand there seems to be a problem accessing your account?”

“Hello, yes, I tried to take some money out yesterday-“

“Yes sir, Lucinda filled me in, and the card you have begins with the numbers 38402765?”

“Yes it does.”

“What may have happened sir, is that your account may have been altered during the cleaning we had last week-“

“The cleaning?”

“Yes sir, the cleaning; our systems get cleaned every now and then for security purposes; I won’t bore you with the details, they’re over my head anyhow; but suffice it to say sir, all areas of our systems are thoroughly cleaned, and in the process of putting them all back together, one can very occasionally find that a small part has been put back in the wrong order; it is then a simple case of finding where that small part and all that’s associated with it has got to, sir.”

“Is this common?”

“No sir, in fact I’ve never come across it until today, sir.”

“How do you know that this is what’s happened?”

“It has all the hallmarks sir, but please don’t worry, we have trained individuals who can sort all this out for you, sir.”

“How long will it take?”

“No time at all sir, I’m sure; what you need do sir, is to write to us at your earliest convenience, stating the problem as you understand it, let us know your contact details so that the appropriate member of staff can contact you and deal with the problem as soon as possible, sir.”

“Can you not take my details to the relevant department?”

“Would that I could sir, would that I could, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Your letter will be dealt with in the appropriate manner sir, when it arrives at the appropriate department.”

“Will the appropriate department’s system recognise me if my details have been put back in the wrong order?”

“Absolutely sir; they will have access to the residual code, which is never wrong.”

“But to which you do not have access?”

“No sir; protocol, sir; for your own good, sir.”

“I see.” Not seeing.

“Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?”

“No thank you, goodbye.”

“Goodbye, sir.”

The long, drawn out dialling tone clashed horribly with the music coming from the lounge of the hotel. B. replaced the handset, rose slowly, and walked to reception. He asked for some sheets of writing paper and a pen. And some envelopes. The hotel would stamp them appropriately when it came time to post them.




Dearest B.,

I’m so dreadfully sorry to hear of your money troubles; don’t let the swines give you the run-around; stand your ground and demand your rights, and only threaten them with the police as a last resort, and if you’re sure they won’t call your bluff; Uncle’s legacy still plagues us all.

On the lighter side I’m keeping well. I can’t hunt any more, not that I really enjoyed it when I was able; I miss the gossip mostly, and the thighs. I’ve inveigled the services of the Postmaster’s youngest daughter, please don’t think ill of me; she’d be wasted on a boy of her own age, and soiled by any of the “respectable” men about town. She’s so sweet and intelligent and funny and tender and soft in all the right places, I couldn’t let her be ruined. Am I trying to convince you of this, or myself? I don’t care; I’m almost convinced that I love her, and I can tell that she adores looking after me; I’m an enviable mistress.

Ah! That is her now; I must see to her.

All my love all ways,


P.S. I’ve remembered the name of the book; À rebours.




75 Comments Add yours

  1. You’re nuts! So much yellow

    1. My nuts are a completely normal colour thank you…is it too much yellow? seriously…I value your opinion.

      1. ahaha!

        No, the yellow suits your personality! Thank you for valuing my opinion. Wow. I’m humbled

        1. So what exactly is a yellow personality? Nothing like the belly I hope…oh humble one.

        2. ahaha, funny, jolly but not like Santa Scottish..

        3. You make me laugh, it’s a Santa with a drink

        4. That’s just Santa isn’t it? I’m just like Santa…in fact I’m going to turn my blog red.

        5. There you go, for Christmas?!

        6. Did i make up a word sir disappears a lot?

        7. No…I was only joking…and I like to keep you on your toes!

  2. Donald Miller says:

    Truly a unique reading. Loved it. Art.

    1. Thank you very much, but I’m not Art…I hope that doesn’t take away from your enjoyment!?

  3. Trent Lewin says:

    Dear Mr. Babbage. Fantastic beginning. Compellingly readable; didn’t want it to stop. Keep going, anxious to know where this goes.

    1. I can tell you now…absolutely fucking nowhere.

      1. Trent Lewin says:

        Well let’s see about that shall we.

        1. We bloody will…shit, I have to write it then don’t I…

        2. Trent Lewin says:

          Yes indeed, let’s see the next bit.

  4. WilderSoul says:

    (No thanks, not today, I’m not in the buying mood, and besides I am broke)
    It’s RED!
    Error 404… oh dear.
    How long to wait for Part II?
    I expect there will be some red tape involved…

    1. You don’t like the red? How long to wait for Part II?

      And I’m sorry my emailing has been so crap; I’ll explain all later.

      1. WilderSoul says:

        I like the red – it sets off the yellow gravatar so nicely! Wondering when a splash of blue might arrive on the scene. Part II – of the Error 404 story… (or was it really PMAO who wrote it?) 😉

        1. I’m trying to say that you have as much idea of when the next part is coming as I do!

        2. WilderSoul says:

          I am so bad at reading between the lines 😦
          Found someone who is willing to have their poetry subjected to a humorous review…

        3. Excellent! I have to admit though that I’m handing my notice in today, so after this week I have no idea what my internet availableness will be.

        4. WilderSoul says:

          Oh my goodness! I hope you have work come to you in the way you like it, real soon!

        5. So do I, but I might become a househusband…

        6. WilderSoul says:

          Wow… really? Really truly? I wish you all the best, and your kids too! Bringing up those kids is the most important job in the world. 🙂

        7. She can earn more money than me, but I will have to make a concerted effort to love cooking…or at least tolerate it.

        8. WilderSoul says:

          It’s an upside down world. What sort of job would you be most happy doing? I reckon your writing is top-class.

        9. If I could write and draw I’d be a happy man; failing that, anything that gives me a bit of travel, even if just around the UK.

        10. WilderSoul says:

          Heeeyyy… we are not so different. I would love to write and draw and travel – I call it a ‘portable income’ and feel certain that I can get to it somehow via blogging. Wouldn’t you set up an internet connection at home?

        11. If we got more money maybe…there are many things on the list before ‘internet’ though.

        12. WilderSoul says:

          Yes.. like food 🙂

        13. WilderSoul says:

          Wine would keep you from your writing, drawing and travel dreams?

        14. I’m weak…what can I say…

        15. WilderSoul says:

          You’re honest. 😉

        16. WilderSoul says:

          Would you like to be a penpal or something?

        17. That is a very romantic idea, but are sporadic emails ok for the time being? Not having time makes me write the catch-ups more frequently than having lots of it!

        18. WilderSoul says:

          Oh, I thought you were going to be completely completely completely out of touch completely, you know, like, totally. Not romantic at all, really. Yes of course sporadic emails will be ok! Better, in fact. 🙂

        19. No; the internet lives at the in-laws; it’s not like we’re moving to Norfolk.

        20. WilderSoul says:

          Wonderful! Then movie production will take place at the in-laws? Do they like to be in front of the camera? Perhaps they could be written into lead roles… ! 8)

        21. They wouldn’t take direction well…

        22. WilderSoul says:

          Will they run the show then? We just need to turn up in costume?
          Seriously though… will you still be able to some sort of thing with other funny people? Sometime?

        23. I’ve no idea; possibly; or I may sneak up on you all from behind one day…

        24. WilderSoul says:

          Whoa…. with a yellow rose in your hat????
          Haha… I hope that would be a more pleasant encounter than poor old Kendall.

        25. Of course with a yellow rose in my hat! I won’t be checking you out before I decide to say hi!

        26. WilderSoul says:

          haha… hadn’t thought of that! So it will be a surprising young man with a yellow rose in his hat sneaking up on me. (Maybe a little advance warning?) And will I get to meet your lovely wife and family?

        27. Virtual sneaking really…cheaper.

        28. WilderSoul says:

          I have covered my webcam… 😉

        29. WilderSoul says:

          (looks over shoulder…) Where are you?
          (looks out window on to street…)

        30. WilderSoul says:

          (shuffles nose, rubs feet…)

        31. WilderSoul says:

          I’m glad. You make me laugh too. May you have laughter wherever you go, dear friend, little bro.

        32. WilderSoul says:

          (Psst… Trenton… I had a funny time at a mysterious meeting today in which your man with the yellow rose in his hat kept popping into my mind – never mind Uncle Art murdering my character in his Nano Novel, I had to meet a man with a rose brooch!)

        33. I know; I saw the link and laughed heartily!

        34. WilderSoul says:

          Haha! I am glad to hear it… laughter is highly infectious, and I’m glad you caught it too. 😉

  5. I loved it… I didn’t get it… or understand it… but I am not surprised since you are much smarter than me…

    1. Behave yourself; Donald Miller thought you’d written it…

      1. I keep telling you you are too smart for me…

        1. Just because you can’t understand something, doesn’t make it smart…

        2. Well… maybe… but how would I know???

        3. Thanks… please do…

  6. Linda Vernon says:

    Trenton this is the best thing I’ve read since re-reading my own comment I just left on your I’m “quitting” post. No seriously though, it was wonderful. So deliciously British. Oh I hope you’ll do an audio of this one some day! Good luck on finding your dream job. Or good luck on being a househusband. Maybe that will end up being your dream job!

    1. I’ll always remember where I parked the blog, so should I have the time I’ll be back to audio the shit out of it!

      And thanks for liking the story.

      1. Linda Vernon says:

        Well that’s true, but I feel I hardly knew ye Trenton Babbage. I hope you do come back. This world needs more people like you who truly excel at audio-ing the shit out.

        1. Well that’s very kind of you; I will always think of you when reading random stuff out loud in front of bemused strangers.

        2. Linda Vernon says:

          And I wouldn’t want it any other way!

  7. elroyjones says:

    “and lets out a long, deep breath, which ends in the sound a horse might make, were it so inclined” love this.

    1. And I love you, but I’m on serious catch-up down your end!

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