The Fuck’s a Tuffet?

by | Jan 8, 2021 | January 2021 Writing | 10 comments

The Fuck’s a Tuffet?


Little Miss Muffet took another hit from her Juul. It was Friday, which meant English class all afternoon. Instead of walking towards the Arts building, though, Muffet detoured into the woods so she could do a little pipe before Hawthorne. 


When she sat down on a grassy embankment, a spider descended from a nearby tree–a ten-foot wide spider, big enough to hop and skip over a bus. 


She tried to light her pipe, but the spider freaked out and hissed at the flame. 


“Oh, just piss off,” she said to the spider, and it promptly did. 


Once she was high, the spider crawled back. 


“Are you eating fire?” asked the spider, motioning to the pipe with one hairy leg. 


“Go away,” said Muffet.  


“I just want to sit with you on that tuffet,” said the spider. “Seems like a perfect spot.” 


Miss Muffet enjoyed smoking so much—getting high was her new normal, filling herself with fumes was her new way.  


“A tuffet?” 


She laughed. She coughed out smoke.


Spiders were not her new way.



At school, all hell had broken loose. 


Two freshmen rushed up to her and flapped their traps about Mr Karman making out with one of the seniors and getting caught by the principal. 


Miss Muffet took a surreptitious draw from her Juul, eating the vape so that it leaked out of her nose. 


“Ewww, gross,” she said, but she wasn’t really grossed out; Mr Karman was hot with a tush like two boiled eggs joined in holy matrimony.


“In the Biology room,” said one of the freshmen, with an exaggerated wink. 


Little Miss Muffet thought about the spider.


She mouthed the word, “tuffet.” 






She entered the school via the Sciences wing. 



It was dark in the Biology room, except for the hydroponic lights in one corner. 


Little Miss Muffet peered through the little glass window and could just about make out the hunched figure of Mr Karman at his desk. 


It looked like he was bent over his grading, but surely he was staring down into the black chasm of his bad choices. 


Little Miss Muffet knocked on the window—rat-a-tat-tat. 


No response. 


She tried again, but figured she might as well just open the door.


The room was eerily quiet—never was it quiet during class time since Mr Karman operated on a ‘do what you will’ kind of vibe. 


She walked toward him, and he looked up from his black chasm, eyes heavily-bagged–though that could’ve been the dim lighting. 


“Muffet…” he said. “Don’t you have class now?” 


Mr Karman let out a sigh.


“Free period,” she lied, sitting down on one of the student seats.


“Oh,” he said.


“I’m sorry to bother you, Mr Karman, but I had a question…” 


“Now’s not a great time for questions,” he said, suddenly looking like a twelve year old with scared eyes.


Little Miss Muffet leant back in the seat so it groaned, getting out her Juul device and giving it a quick pull. 


She figured Mr Karman wouldn’t notice, let alone care. 


“Now’s not a great time for anything.” 


Mr Karman looked sexy in the wan light, like a figure from an oil painting, all anguish and doom, haggard.


Biology teacher gone awry.



When the bell rang, Little Miss Muffet was already deep in the woods again. 


Hawthorne could wait until Wednesday. 


Hawthorne and his scarlet letter could go screw themselves, 1700s style. 


“You’re back,” said the spider, who was in the same general vicinity as before. 


The spider was one of those fat spiders with tiny legs. Pointless. Dragging its hairy-ass belly across the ground when it moved.


A sorry, sorry sight.


“I’m back,” said Little Miss Muffet, using her fingers to simulate quote marks.


She took her place on the grassy embankment and got out her pipe again. 


“Can I?” said the spider, pointing to the same spot as before.


“Can you what?” 


It blinked its dozen eyes.


“Sit down beside you,” it said. “On that tuffet.” 


Little Miss Muffet sighed, channeling Mr Karman. 


“Look,” she said. “It’s a free country.”


She pushed a nub of weed into the pipe end and lit it, drawing a perfect crackle. 


As she exhaled, her voice changed—became deeper, older, seemingly wiser to what the world was and could be. What it always had been.


“Can I ask you a question?”



  1. Meg Tuite

    This has all the great ingredients! Nursery rhyme, outstanding first and last sentences, humor, and tension throughout and the dialogue moves the reader through the story effectively and truly unique. And of course, a signature title: “the fuck’s a tuffet?”
    “Little Miss Muffet took another hit from her Juul.”
    ““Ewww, gross,” she said, but she wasn’t really grossed out; Mr Karman was hot with a tush like two boiled eggs joined in holy matrimony.” Love the simile!
    “It looked like he was bent over his grading, but surely he was staring down into the black chasm of his bad choices.”
    ” Mr Karman looked sexy in the wan light, like a figure from an oil painting, all anguish and doom, haggard.
    Biology teacher gone awry.”
    “Hawthorne and his scarlet letter could go screw themselves, 1700s style.”
    “It blinked its dozen eyes.”
    So much attention to detail throughout this beauty.
    And the ending brings us full-circle to the question, the title.
    you said you were having trouble getting back into writing, Jonathan? Well, you’re back and with that wildass signature voice!
    Why not send this lovely out? Great work! LOVE IT!

    • Jonathan Cardew

      Hi Meg!

      Thanks so much for your positive comments. This came out in one go (with some revision after) and I am really glad you enjoyed the quirky tone and premise.


  2. jennifer vanderheyden

    Hey Jonathan! Lovely to be in a round table with you again. The only thing that would make this piece better would be to hear you read it. Brilliantly creative…I love that the title is a question, the piece ends with a question, and there are many questions throughout. And of course nursery rhymes are questionable. I also like the many references to eyes, which brings me to my favorite line: “It blinked its dozen eyes.” And then there is that Hawthorne/ inappropriate sex vibe, and the smoking. You have a lot going on and it all works. Thank you!

    • Jonathan Cardew

      Likewise, Jennifer!

      Glad this one tickled you. I often sit down and think, ‘I must write a serious story,’ but I prefer to write these kinds.

      Look forward to reading your work in this roundtable.


  3. Constance Malloy

    Hi Jonathan, this is fantastic fun! So much going on. I could quote lines, but it would pretty much be all of them. But here’s one that still has me laughing. “Hawthorne and his scarlet letter could go screw themselves, 1700s style.” I can’t get Lake Bluff’s Mr. Karman out of my mind, and that makes this piece all the more funny. I, too, would love to hear you read this. Thanks!

    • Jonathan Cardew

      Haha, yes, it was the first teacher name that came to mind! I liked the ring of it for this story.

      Thanks for reading!


  4. John Steines

    Greetings Jonathan. I love this. So fun to dive into this contorted nursery rhyme. I love how you stick with it too. I’m not sure I could do that. Every time ‘tuffet’ comes up I giggle. I guess the question is the title with ‘What’ in front of it, just I’m not sure if that is the question she meant to ask Mr Karmen. I was waiting for her to come on and make a proposition. You hold a consistency in tone that feels and sounds like High School. That consistency is quite remarkable. The whole thing is a hoot. Thank you.

    • Jonathan Cardew

      Hi John! Glad to be here in this workshop with you. Thanks for reading, and your comments. I went back and forth between “What the Fuck’s a Tuffet?” and “The Fuck’s a Tuffet?” Settled on the latter because it felt more striking as a title.


  5. David O'Connor

    “a little pipe before Hawthorne” I’m in! I wonder if you could think of something more descriptive for, “hell had broken loose.” Love this: “Biology teacher gone awry.” Another moment, “scared eyes” popped out as could do more work. Overall, I love the Alice in Wonderland/Kafka/Borges absurdity with important undertones. The friction between Muffet and the hot but troubled Karmen works. I’m teaching this term and wished I had a Juul and a spider to talk to in the park behind the school–really captures the Sisyphean nature of teaching. The spider coming back creates a good arc. So ready, so good, a world created so economically, witty, and a pleasure to read.

  6. Sara Comito

    Hey Jon, you’re always so good at subverting expectations. Hell no, that spider doesn’t frighten Muffet away (and dispensing with the Little Miss) after first mention just adds to her toughness. A somewhat jaded loner, a seeker – I would have loved to be a partner in crime if she’d have me. And that the spider seeks knowledge from her is so cool. Spiders always occupy the dark role, but here he’s gazing with wonder at the darkness through the eyes of this young stoner. The fuck’s a tuffet? Indeed.

Submit a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest