Herman Melville’s Toast

(Now where’d that butter go?)

Herman Melville liked to eat toast in the afternoon, but never for breakfast. It took a lot more work to make toast before toasters, you know. On this particular Thursday, Herman Melville had made some toast and then promptly lost it. (Hint: look to the beard! (OK, that was a little strong for a hint…)) It’s true Herman Melville had a delightfully full and lustrous beard, a veritable ocean of beard, if you’ll forgive the impish comparison.

Perhaps others, when losing their toast, might shrug philosophically and move on to the rest of their day, perhaps even eating an apple or a biscuit instead. Not so, Herman Melville. His eyes bulged out in a fearsome way and that one vein on his temple, the one everyone feared would be his undoing, throbbed in a troublesome way.

“Where’s my toast!” Herman Melville said. The universe did not answer. Some grubby little urchins outside his window burst into song and dance. It was pretty amusing, and normally Herman Melville might have joined in, but this toast was serious business, not to be trifled with.

Herman Melville slammed a cupboard and scraped a chair roughly across the floor and then tripped over a small settee. Herman Melville’s spectacles went flying. As he fell, Herman Melville’s ink-stained hands grasped for anything at all, found the table’s tablecloth and grabbed instinctively. The butter dish, three forks, a butter knife, a steak knife, six candles (unlit), a stained towel, a tin coffee cup, and the morning newspaper all clattered to the floor, with the exception of those things that made other noise than clattering.

Herman Melville sighed, face planted in a couch pillow, left leg tangled in the table cloth, mysteriously. Rage and desperation certainly did lead one to a sorry pass, Herman Melville thought, and took a bite out of his toast. Would you believe that he’d been holding it one hand the whole time? Writers, I tell you! (You got me, you got me. The “hint” was a total fake out.)

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