The Breeding Habits of Biros

13 Nov

In 1935 Ladislas Biro journeyed to South America. There, in the wilderness of Argentina, he discovered a species of worm previously unknown to the Western world. Hard shelled and secreting a thick, dark slime, it was considered merely a pest by the locals, but Ladislas could see its potential.

Ladislas rushed back to Paris and lodged a patent for his new ‘invention’. Soon, the world was introduced to the Biro, a new kind of writing implement that wrote (or rather, left its thick, coloured slime) on almost every surface, and worked constantly, without refilling, for up to two years – that being the average life cycle of the Argentinian worm.

Mr Biro was no fool. He understood that if people discovered the true nature of the new pens, not only would he be a laughing stock, but people would simply breed the worms, and there would be no more income to be had from export. He thought the risk was small, however; Biros were both expensive and reliable. Why would any household have more than one? Even if they did, what were the chances that they would have both male and female, and would keep them together for any length of time?

Ladislas’ gamble paid off, and he lived out the rest of his wealthy life without discovery. Those who came after him, however, were not so cautious. Greedy to expand they lowered the price and flooded the market. Soon people were giving away specially bred sloganed versions for free, and betting shops were importing a dwarf variety by the thousand, and what Ladislas had feared came to pass: Left alone in drawers, desk tidies and pencil cases, the worms started to breed.

Ladislas Biro had anticipated an outcry, investigations, the ripping up of his patent and mass breeding programmes, but none of this came about. Instead people merely shrugged, said to themselves “I must have picked up another free one without noticing”, and went on with their lives, resigned to always having too many Biros. Around the world, Biros bred prolifically, rearing their young in the nooks and crannies of modern life, and mankind went about its business in total ignorance – until now.


Liked this? Try Office Life (and Death), a collection of funny short stories.


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