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Once upon a time there was a little girl who ate poets for breakfast. Every morning, she would awake, her mouth already watering, to the delicious sound of verses screamed out in mortal agony. By the time she had her bathrobe thrown over her shoulders, and she had made her way down the stairs of the rickety old two-flat in which she lived, her father would have a plate stacked to brimming with crispy, deep-fried poets.

The girl loved the taste of slow-fried poet flesh more than anything in the world, but that did not stop the day from coming when she looked up from her plate, half full of succulent fingers that had been employed for hours and hours at finding the perfect rhyme for this, or the perfect metaphor for that-- she looked up into the deep, wise eyes of her father, and said:

"Can't we ever have something else for breakfast?"

"What do you mean?" asked her father.

"I mean... just that I can't have the same thing every morning for breakfast because some days it doesn't taste as good as on others, and I like poets so much that I can't stand the thought of them tasting anything but like the best thing I've ever tasted. What if we had the same conversation every morning, wouldn't that--"

"I get your point, lovely daughter," said her father. "We'll see what we can do."

And by the sound of his voice, the little girl knew that her father had everything under control.

*

Days went by, and weeks followed like a knife-thin plume of smoke after a jetliner high in the sky, but still, every morning there was nothing for breakfast but poets. Thin legs wrapped in ragged trousers, thin arms clothed in puffy white sleeves. Heads with dark circles below where the eyes used to be (for father would pluck out the eyes and return them to the market for refunds and other special deals), and hair of all lengths and shades and textures. The little girl couldn't get enough, but at the same time, she had had more than enough, and the need for a variation in her morning diet grew and grew inside her until one morning, as she was peeling the skin from a gaunt poet's torso, she let go a shrill cry and thrust her face into her hands.

"What is the matter?" asked her father, who reached out a hand and caressed her back.

"Oh papa! Oh daddy! I can't eat another poet-- not for as long as I live! I am- I am s-so t i r e d of these filthy, good-for-nothing, pretentious f-f-f-f-fools!"

The little girl then proceeded to wail for half a time or there abouts, and when her fury had subsided, her father took her up in his warm, strong arms and squeezed her gently-rough.

"Daughter," he whispered into her ear, "I need you to be patient with me. I told you once that I would take care of this, and I will. But it's not easy to find a suitable dietary replacement for poets, because they are so very, very good for you when you put them in your tummy."

"But I am so, so s-sick of them, papa!" protested the little girl as a new batch of tears splattered down her cheeks. "If I have to eat one more, I think that I shall die! I need s-s-something different!"

"All right then, daughter. If it is this difficult for you, then I will change it, come what might. I promise, before the week is out, you will be eating something other than poets for breakfast."

And saying that, her father rose, and set her down in her chair, and strode through the kitchen door, outside.

*

The little girl sat at the table, waiting for her father to return. At first, she felt giddy with expectation for what she would find on her plate in the days to come. After a couple of hours, though, her bum began to ache and the leftover poets began to emit a faintly unpleasant smell. So she stood up and busied herself straightening the kitchen. When she was done with that, she got out the dust mop, and rid the walls of cobwebs. Then she made herself lunch and perched in front of the television for a little midday repose.

As will happen on occasion, the tv sucked out her brain, or at least the part of her brain responsible for keeping her in touch with time and the reality and things of that sort. When she came to, her head was aching, her stomach was growling, the house was dark, and her father still hadn't returned. She didn't know what to do, so she took out a blanket and snuggled up on the sofa. She was asleep in no time at all.

When she woke up the next morning, it was not to the delicious sound of poets reciting poems from excruciating pain, but rather to the zzzrk-zzzrk of her doorbell. She was still wearing her morning robe from the day before, which went to her ankles and ended in a frilly purple fringe. She was a bit disheveled, but knew she needed to answer the door before anything else. She stood on her tiptoes to see through the little peering thing on the door, and saw on the other side a young man dressed all in blue and wearing a matching baseball cap. He was holding a brown paper package, and his lips were puckered, as if he were whistling to himself. She unlatched the door and opened it enough to poke her head out.

"Hello?" she asked.

"Special Delivery!" he sang. His voice was clear, and not too high, and seemed as though it could pronounce the most horrendous things in a beautiful way. And because "special delivery" isn't anything especially horrible to hear, but even to a degree thrilling in a kindly way, the little girl found herself straightening up her back and putting on her most cheery face.

"Who's it for?" she asked.

"Why, its for you, of course. Who else would it be for?"

"Um- my father?"

"Ha! Not likely!" proclaimed the blue dressed dude in a strange way. He smiled, flashing a set of crooked teeth.

"W-what do you mean by that?"

The young man cocked his head, and frowned, as if he were trying to remember something. With a cough and a chuckle, he pulled from his back pocket a pad of paper with a pen attached to it by a piece of twine. He handed these to her, saying

"Could you ah sign on line thirty-four?"

She couldn't refuse him, even though she wanted an answer to her question.

"Thanks!" he intoned when her loopy scrawl had filled up line number thirty-four, then he set the brown paper package at her feet, and turned to go.

"Wait!" she called out after him, "What did you mean by that, about my father?"

"Ta-ta!" he sang over his shoulder, and was gone.

*

The girl stared blankly at the space where the blue young man had disappeared, and slowly bent down to pick up the package. As she shut the door, a feeling of bewilderment washed over her. With the package under her arm, she walked to the kitchen to set a kettle going.

In the kitchen, she realized how hungry she was. After checking all the cupboards and the shelves of the refrigerator, she learned that all there was to eat were a couple of poets. She looked around some more, for one of her father's cookbooks, for she didn't know how to go about preparing them on her own.

She did know how to set up the deep fryer, and once she got that going, she fobbed her way through as many guesses and intuitions she could pull out of her head. First, she combed the poet's hair, then she rubbed oil on the soles of their feet and the palms of their hands. Then she took out a plucker, and spent a few minutes trying to dislodge thier eyes. Finally, after many attempts (and hurtful squeals from the poets) she succeeded in plucking out their eyeballs, though she had accidentally popped one, and spilt eye goop on the floor. No matter, she could always mop it up later. She was used to cleaning after breakfast, anyhow.

Then she rolled the poets around in a bit of flour, and dipped them in the fryer. Because she didn't know how long one was supposed to fry a poet (for she had never, not once, woken up early enough to watch her father do this), she kept pulling them out of the bubbling oil every minute or so, to ask how they were feeling, and if they thought they were ready to be eaten.

This whole fiasco made her realize something about poets. Before, when she woke up to the sound of their bawlings, she had thought that the pain they were experiencing was what made their verses so tantalizing to listen to. But as she brought them up from the searing liquid time and again, and politely asked them how they were feeling, she began to think differently.

In answer to how they were feeling, the poets responded eloquently and in precise, if beautiful language. but when she asked them if they were ready to be eaten, they became somewhat sophistic and long-winded, which told her that, in fact, they were not yet done. What the girl realized was that their pain only brought these little creatures to a delicious state, but it was not, itself, the origin of their remarkable tastiness. No, the tastiness was always there, deep down within them. It just needed a little coaxing to fully develop.

And probably because she was paying so much attention to what she was doing, the poets came out just right. She couldn't remember the last time she enjoyed her breakfast so much.


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