1000 Words V: Toast Is Good For You
1st Place Winner
by Uri David Akavia
Story Image: "The Toast Incident"
"Bright was the morning and heavy her heart, when Princess Tabby set
on her fateful quest," said the Bard, looking at the children gathered
around him. He paused, to judge their interest. Seeing their rapt
faces, he straightened his whiskers, and continued.
"For her husband of few years, was sick with an ague. Truth, they had
been married for only a few years, and ye, it had been an arranged
marriage, like many of the time, yet he was very dear to her. Seeing
him shiver listlessly at the corner of their cage tore at her
heartstrings. The Humans came, bearing an ill-smelling physic from
which they miserly dolled out a few drops at a time. Yet it had been
days, and he was not healed.
She looked at him, and she thought her heart would break to lose him.
She paced in place, on a wheel. For their captivity was a richly
furnished one, with many devices providing distractions, including the
fabled device called a wheel. She paced, and pondered all she knew of
the Humans from eavesdropping on their conversations. For in those
days, the Humans were unaware we comprehended their tongue, which only
few of us did. Princess Tabby was one of them, and her knowledge
finally provided her with a guiding light in the darkness of her
This beacon of hope was the phrase 'Toast is good for you when you're
sick.' It had been uttered by the Boy's mother, when the Boy was
coughing, feverish and pale with ill humors. What is Toast, you ask?
The detailed knowledge had been lost in the mists of time, and the
priests debate whether it is food, mineral, or a ghostly thing with no
physical substance. They all agree it was made, or perhaps guarded, by
a monstrous thing called a Toast-Ur. And, indeed, this magical
substance, whatever it may be, is truly good for you, as this story
The Bard paused for a drink of water.
"The Pest, the being that was the Boy's sister, had a young specimen
of a Toast-Ur. Unlike fully grown Toast-Urs, who are fabled to being
thrice our height, twice our girth and length and capable of breathing
fire or killing us by their very tails (the children shivered), this
specimen was not much larger then Princess Tabby, who neither tall,
nor broad for one of the People. Princess Tabby had seen The Pest
holding the Toast-Ur pup, before placing it on the ledge where it
A ledge that was many body lengths away, almost at the edge of her
vision. Princess Tabby escaped out of her captivity, blunting and
hurting her teeth to do so. Up to this point, she did not know if
escape was possible, yet desperation gave an edge to her teeth, and
drove her to it. Yet, escape was not her intention. She would cross
the distance of many body lengths to reach the Toast-Ur, and return to
her prison, no matter how difficult it may be.
While you may scoff at distance seemingly so paltry, you must know
that this distance was not in closed, comforting tunnels. It was on an
open plain, much like the tundra which we avoid. Yet unlike the
tundra, it was covered with the shortest of grass, lacking an ability
to serve as cover. Short as it was, it was just long enough to tangle
Princess Tabby's feet. This Carpe, as the human covering was called,
was also covered in cat hairs..."
At this point the Bard was pulled aside, by the nest-mother deputized
to watch other the children, in fact dragged aside without ceremony or
the respect due his august position. There followed a brisk and
whispered discussion about the difficulties in leading children to
somnolence, on all days in general, and especially after a visit by a
Bard, the definition of a nightmare, the undesirability of having such
a creature ride in the dreams of children, the differences between
stories suited for adults and for children and the reduced payment
available to a Bard that confused the two.
Brisk as the conversation might have been, it must have also been very
forceful, for when the Bard returned, he glanced at the nest-mother
before he spoke anew.
"As the story states, this Carpe was also covered in cat hairs, from a
cat the Humans had removed from the house." The nest-mother gave an
almost imperceptible nod, and the Bard continued "While Princess Tabby
knew that the vile thing no longer shared the domicile of the humans,
and she was not in any danger from the demented beast, its stench was
still present. In fact, it was imbued into the Carpe. Every step was
an agony. Princess Tabby had to fight her nose, that was crying
'Flee!', and her muscles, which were knotted and stiff, listening to
her nose. Her head jerked around, trying to see all around, trying to
hear every sound, that would indicate the Humans had returned, or the
presence of the cat she smelled, despite the comforting knowledge it
had been removed. And yet, she moved forward. Heart racing, drenched
in fear, she moved on, a step at a time."
The Bard paused for dramatic effect. "She finally reached the end of
the Carpe. Now, she needed to climb to the ledge that held the
Toast-Ur pup. There were many Human made materials leaning on this
ledge, and leading to it, making her climb possible. While this task
was not an easy one, it was but a trifle compared to what she had
already successfully completed. She reached the Toast-Ur, and spoke
thus: 'Please sir, may I have some Toast?' For Princess Tabby was a
courteous person, as befitted a member of the true nobility. The
Toast-Ur did not reply, neither by words or deed. Princess Tabby
waited a brief amount of time, and then spoke again: 'Please sir, it
is a matter of life and death!' The Toast-Ur, yet again, did not
reply. Princess Tabby then spoke hotly: 'I will attempt to get Toast,
with or without your cooperation!'
When the Toaster did not reply, Princess Tabby took a deep breath, and
attempted to push the Toast-Ur of the ledge, a first step in getting
it to her enclosure. She would have been prepared to move only Toast,
which she assumed would be smaller and easier to carry, yet that
option had failed when the Toast-Ur refused to react. She pushed the
Toast-Ur off the ledge.
At this point, the Toast-Ur reacted with violence. Its tail whipped
around, wrapping around Princess Tabby's body and pulling her off the
ledge with it. Princess Tabby gasped as her vision became dark."
At this point, one of the children began to cry. "No! She was
unharmed," cried the Bard, glancing at the nest-mother again, trying
to prevent this trickle from becoming a deluge. "She was unharmed, yet
she was no longer conscious. When she awoke, a most welcome sight
greeted her. Her husband, who had apparently recovered and followed
her, was staring up at her with a bemused expression. This proved to
her that Toast, or at least the quest for it, had been good for her
husband. At this point she spoke the words that would be immortalized
in our book of Proverbs, and in our language: 'Look, never mind how it
happened. Just get me down.'"
Out of all the stories that were submitted this year, this is the one that
I think does the best job overall of achieving what it sets out to do. The
idea of taking the Epic Quest and turning it into a hamster's hunt for
toast is definitely not one that had occurred to me when I saw the
picture, and the fact that the story is recounted by an honest-to-goodness
bard -- complete with the appropriate flowery language -- added an extra
layer of humor to what was already a pretty funny story concept.
The punctuation was not precisely right -- quotations marks were clearly
never intended for the purpose they're put to here, since they must encase
about 90% of the story within them -- and there were a few spelling
errors, but overall these technical flaws were minor. Artistically, there
were occasional bits of awkward phrasing, but overall I was pleased: I
liked the integration of the archaic language; the often dry and subtle
wit, particularly when the mother is threatening the bard with the
consequences of giving the children nightmares; and the use of mis-spelled
words (e.g."Carpe", "Toast-Ur") and subject-appropriate units of
measurement ("body lengths") to remind us that these are animals who may
not always be familiar with human concepts and inventions. The image of
the naive Princess Tabby courteously addressing the toaster is one of the
funnier mental images I've had recently, and I thank you for it. :)
If there's anything that bugs me about the story, it's that we have no
idea why such a tiny toaster would ever be made in the first place -- or,
if it's a child's toy, why it would be made with an electrical cord. You
also didn't address the existence of that little piece of toast that's
wedged up against Tabby's body in the picture; I find it somewhat
implausible to think that such things actually exist. :) That's only a
minor quibble, though; on the whole this is a fun, quirky, and highly
amusing little story with an unusual style, and I'm happy to name it as
the champion in this year's 1000 Words contest.
Final Score: 44 out of 50
Copyright 2006 by Uri David Akavia. If you want to post this anywhere else, please ask for permission first.
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