How To Tell If You Are In An E. Nesbit Novel -The Toast

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Previously in this series: How To Tell If You Are In A Terry Pratchett Novel.

You are poor now. So very poor. You have left London and can now only afford a large house in the countryside, a rambling garden, and three (yes, only three) servants. Understandably, the degradation of this crushing poverty is very difficult for your dear Mother, but she bears it nobly.

You have between two and four English siblings with whom you get into jolly and/or dreadful scrapes. They all love eating buns.

Like seriously you are all of you obsessed with buns, they play a very big role in your life.

You are actually eating buns right now, buns that you have picked from a bun tree, a form of plant life on which baked buns organically grow.

It is a hot English summer afternoon. The bees are buzzing in the garden, and something small and magical is rather indignant with you, and you have grown quite hungry and cross and tired. Soon your issues will be resolved and you and your siblings will all have a lovely supper of cold mutton, and cold tongue, and cold chicken, and cold ham, and bread and butter, and buns, and sticky pudding, and cocoa-nut ices, and prunes, and ripe tomatoes sprinkled with salt, and Turkish delight, and a siphon of soda water. Then tomorrow someone will do something pretty dumb and the cycle will repeat itself.

You have softened the heart of a British menial with your forthright manner and confiding ways.

You begin all adventures by donning your “going-out things.”

You and your siblings have again endangered the family baby.

You had only sixpence, and you’ve already gone and spent it on fireworks. What else could you do? It is Guy Fawkes Day, and the garden will not fill itself with flame.

You have a saintly and literary Mother named “Schmee Schmesbit,” who makes a living writing children’s fiction and poetry because your Father is drunk or dead or in the City working or in jail somewhere or something. Whatever, he’s gone is the point; he’s not around.

The only real guidance and supervision you will ever receive comes from a talking Noah’s Ark figurine. Or like a parrot or something. Not your parents. Never your parents, or any adult tasked with looking after you.

You have a grumpy maid somewhere in the house who is always getting on your jock. She is probably named Eliza or perhaps simply Cook. She is the way she is because no one loves her. No one at all. Soon you will order her to make you a toffee pudding, or maroon her in a distant magical land for her own good.

An adventure has gone poorly and you and your siblings are once again stuck underground.

You are a painful racial caricature redolent of the worst in smug Edwardian prejudices. Or a dragon that climbed out of a book and ate a Prime Minister. Whichever.

You are being chided by a magical bird.

You have encountered and been profoundly changed by an encounter with Julius Caesar, or a Megatherium.

You have been to London once on your own. There you purchased threepenny worth of ha’penny buns, and spoke with an individual of a social class lower than your own. This was thrilling.

You are a hook-nosed man very much in love with money. Oh, no, you are not Jewish! Nothing like that. Just a typical, run-of-the-mill, swarthy, dirty, hook-nosed moneylender who’d rather watch a poor man starve than part with a shekel, who has — I cannot emphasize this enough — a long, curved, hook-like nose. Like a falcon’s beak or a fish hook or something else extremely, very hooked.

The adults in your life keep information about you, your family, and your current circumstances a secret from you. These are large, important secrets that have a profound impact your daily life and future. You are grateful to the adults for their consideration.

You are young, yet you know one thing, if you know anything: dragons are dicks.

Illustrator: Megan Piontkowski is an artist and illustrator living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She does a variety of editorial illustrations as well as fabric installations and embroidered pieces. She also hosts The Feminist Tea Party series.

Victoria Don is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She is currently working on a young adult adventure novel featuring Asian American protagonists, wolves, boarding school, freeways, the desert, hereditary magic, underground murder syndicates, complicated family dynamics, and that weird dead LA light.

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