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.
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.
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?”
Jonathan Cardew’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Cream City Review, Passages North, Superstition Review, JMWW, Smokelong Quarterly, People Holding, and others. He is the fiction editor for Connotation Press and contributing books reviewer for Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. He’s been a finalist in the Best Small Fictions, the Wigleaf Top 50, the Bath Flash Fiction Award, and he won a travel toothbrush once at a boules competition in northern Brittany. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.