What, indeed? thinks Snowman. When dealing with indigenous peoples, says the book in his head—a more modern book this time, late twentieth century, the voice a confident female’s—you must attempt to respect their traditions and confine your explanations to simple concepts that can be understood within the contexts of their belief systems. Some earnest aid worker in a khaki jungle outfit, with netting under the arms and a hundred pockets. Condescending self-righteous cow, thinks she’s got all the answers. He’d known girls like that at college. If she were here she’d need a whole new take on indigenous.
“I was telling him,” says Snowman, “that you ask too many questions.” He holds his watch to his ear. “And he’s telling me that if you don’t stop doing that, you’ll be toast.”
“Please, oh Snowman, what is toast?”
Another error, Snowman thinks. He should avoid arcane metaphors. “Toast,” he says, “is something very, very bad. It’s so bad I can’t even describe it. Now it’s your bedtime. Go away.”
“What is toast?” says Snowman to himself, once they’ve run off. Toast is when you take a piece of bread—What is bread? Bread is when you take some flour—What is flour? We’ll skip that part, it’s too complicated. Bread is something you can eat, made from a ground-up plant and shaped like a stone. You cook it… Please, why do you cook it? Why don’t you just eat the plant? Never mind that part—Pay attention. You cook it, and then you cut it into slices, and you put a slice into a toaster, which is a metal box that heats up with electricity—What is electricity? Don’t worry about that. While the slice is in the toaster, you get out the butter—butter is a yellow grease, made from the mammary glands of—skip the butter. So, the toaster turns the slice of bread black on both sides with smoke coming out, and then this “toaster” shoots the slice up into the air, and it falls onto the floor…
“Forget it,” says Snowman. “Let’s try again.” Toast was a pointless invention from the Dark Ages. Toast was an implement of torture that caused all those subjected to it to regurgitate in verbal form the sins and crimes of their past lives. Toast was a ritual item devoured by fetishists in the belief that it would enhance their kinetic and sexual powers. Toast cannot be explained by any rational means.
Toast is me.
I am toast.