Mmmmmm, thought Blurtso, the food here is very good. And these chocolate-chip muffins are excellent! “Isn’t the COOP a great bookstore?” said a co-ed at a neighboring table. Bookstore? thought Blurtso. Is this a bookstore?
Do you have any Kings? asked Blurtso. Go fish, said Pablo. Do you have any Tens? asked Pablo. Go fish, said Blurtso. Do you have any Threes? asked Blurtso. Go fish, said Pablo. Do you have any Twos? asked Pablo. Go fish, said Blurtso. Do you have any pumpkin pies? asked Blurtso. Yes, said Pablo, I have three, in the fridge behind the watermelons.
Sitting in the woods can be suspenseful, said Blurtso. Suspenseful? said Pablo. Yes, said Blurtso, as if something is about to happen. What do you expect to happen? said Pablo. I don’t know, said Blurtso, it’s as if the continual sound of the creek, the breeze on the ears, the deep alterations of light and dark, are all waiting for something… maybe a change in the wind or a change in the sky, a sudden downpour or wild animal, maybe a cougar come to drink at the stream… something dramatic is going to happen. COME AND GET IT!!! called Bonny from the cabin. FRESH SCONES AND PUMPKIN PIE!!!
Today’s question, said Harlan, is “Who ate the last piece of pie?”
I didn’t do it, said Emma Lou.
Neither did I, said Frank.
Why is the last piece, said Morton, more important than the first?
Or any of the other pieces? said Emma Lou.
That’s a good question, said Frank.
It’s not polite, said Chelsea, to eat the first piece, and it’s greedy to eat the last.
If you didn’t get one of the earlier pieces, said Morton, it’s not greedy to eat the last.
That’s true, said Chelsea.
Who determines what is polite, said Frank, and what is not?
Baldassare Castiglione, said Glouster, wrote a book in the sixteenth century called, Il cortegiano.
Il what? said Morton.
Il cortegiano, said Glouster, is a book that describes how an educated person should behave in Renaissance Italy.
A book that defines courtesy? said Chelsea.
“Courtesy,” said Glouster, is “behavior marked by polished manners or respect for others.”
Respect for others? said Frank. That takes us back to “love thy neighbors” and the Upanishads.
Everything that’s worthwhile, said Emma Lou, takes us back to “love thy neighbors.”
Does Il cortegiano say who gets the last piece of pie? said Morton.
No, said Glouster, but it gives an outline of courteous behavior.
There’s not much of that around, said Chelsea.
Courteous behavior? said Glouster.
Yes, said Chelsea, just this morning I was crossing the street—in the crosswalk—and a truck honked me off the road.
I know what you mean, said Morton, I always say hello to people at the bus stop, but they look at me like I’m crazy.
Maybe they’ve never seen a talking donkey, said Frank.
That’s possible, said Morton.
What is Catiglione’s definition of courteous behavior? said Emma Lou.
Castiglione, said Glouster, says that a courtesan should be familiar with classical literature, skillful in athletic competition, adept in writing poetry, able to play musical instruments, accomplished in painting, conversant on philosophical themes, and knowledgeable and graceful in dance; and should be able to do these things with “sprezzatura.”
Gesundheit! said Chelsea.
Thank you, said Glouster, that was very polite, but I didn’t sneeze. “Sprezzatura” is the art of making difficult things look easy.
How do you do that? said Morton.
Practice, said Glouster.
Oh, said Morton.
Can we practice being courteous? said Chelsea.
Yes, said Emma Lou, let’s!
Well, said Glouster, we’re already reading classical literature, so we don’t have to do that, but we’ll have to start practicing sports, poetry, music, painting, and dance.
I love to dance! said Chelsea.
O.k., said Glouster, you can teach dance.
I can whistle and chirp, said Frank.
O.k., said Glouster, you can teach music.
I have a rhyming dictionary, said Emma Lou.
O.k., said Glouster, you can teach poetry.
I can draw circles with my hoof in the sand, said Morton.
O.k., said Glouster, you can teach painting.
How about moose? said Chelsea.
Moose can teach sports, said Glouster.
What will you teach? said Frank.
I’ll teach philosophy, said Glouster.
I can hardly wait to be a courtesan! said Emma Lou.
Me too! said Chelsea.
So what’s the answer, said Frank, to the original question.
The original question? said Chelsea.
Yes, said Frank, “Who ate the last piece of pie?”
The answer, said Morton, is that it’s time to bake a new pie.
That was a wonderful supper, said Blurtso. Yes, said Harlan, it was. But it’s sad to think, said Blurtso, that everything we ate was once alive. Yes, said Harlan, that’s true. I suppose, said Blurtso, that everything that is ever alive is eventually eaten. Yes, said Harlan, it is. Harlan? said Blurtso. Yes? said Harlan. I hope whoever eats me is as nice as you. Thank you, said Harlan, I feel the same way.
Off I go, thought Blurtso, into the Great Unknown. I wonder what I’ll find there? I wonder if it’ll be safe? I wonder if I’ll run into dangerous animals and unfriendly people, and natural disasters waiting to do me harm? I’d rather not run into a dangerous animal, or an unfriendly person, or a natural disaster… hmm… maybe I should reconsider my trip…
Hey… I can’t move. I think I’m paralyzed by fear. Oh no! I’m doomed! What will I do when the animals come? And the people? And the natural disasters? Oh no! I’ll just have to wait here, paralyzed and defenseless! Yes, I’ll just have to wait… and… hmm… and… hey… there’s a clump of grass under my nose… how fortunate…
Mmmm… this grass is excellent! Juicy and fresh! It may be the best grass I’ve ever tasted!
Hey… I finished the grass… what will I do now?
Fortunately… there’s another clump right over there.