The visitors came upriver. All identified themselves as a group of Toastmasters, public speakers. They’d heard about the discovery, and wanted to know more.
I remember getting the call from Fred down at the boathouse. He reminded me it was visitors’ day here at Crumpetworthy Park. I got out of the bath, dressed, and walked across the grounds to see who had managed to find their way here.
By the time I arrived at the boathouse, Fred had produced garden chairs for the group and was brewing up a pot of tea.
“Visitors,” said Fred with a nod to the assembled group. Two punts and a rowing boat were tied up on the riverbank.
I thanked Fred for this explanation and addressed the group.
“Good morning and welcome to the International Institute of Not Doing Much. I’m Arthur Bing-Chumply. The membership committee has asked me to come down here and give you an overview of what to expect today.”
“We’re interested in the book,” said their leader, who introduced herself as Felicity Tabletopic.
“Ah! The Way of Slow,” I said knowingly, our jewel in the crown. The ancient original is buried in our archive.
“No,” she said, “The Book of Toast.”
Their knowledge of the book’s existence came as something of a shock. Among our precious archives, the History Department had only recently uncovered the ancient founding text of Toastmasters. How on earth did word get out about that?
“And what might that be?” I said.
“We want to know about the founding of Toastmasters,” said a muscular man who looked like someone you don’t want to argue with.
“You tell him, Dennis,” said an elderly woman in a big hat.
I know a thing or two about Toastmasters, at least the story they tell their membership.
“I believe Ralph C. Smedley founded Toastmasters in 1924,” said I.
“That’s only the official version,” said the woman in the big hat. I later learned her name was Gloria.
Muscular Dennis said, “Well, um, there’s another version, isn’t there?”
At this, the other nine Toastmasters became very animated.
“He said ‘um,'” said one.
“And he said ‘well,'” said another.
Toastmasters learn to speak clearly and eliminate filler words.
“Please calm down,” said Felicity.
Felicity Tabletopic looked familiar. Could that be her real name? She was about thirty-five, wore big boots, and a flowery dress.
But I said nothing because she may have been an undercover IINDM agent assigned to Slow Outreach.
“Where did you hear about this version?” I asked.
Felicity looked at me. “They’re all new members,” she said.
They flashed their membership cards, and I was satisfied.
“So, you’re not interested in the visitor tour?”
“No,” they all said in unison.
“You don’t want to know about the secrets of slowing down?”
“No!” they all said, louder this time as if I were deaf.
I took them across the bridge, gave them the standard nine-course lunch on the East Terrace, and asked Thomas Torpid to brief them.
“We are still translating the text,” said Thomas. “But here is some background:
“In ancient times, the weather was not as it is today. Back then, plagues of frogs were common. Mana bread would fall from the sky. We’ve translated this much:
“Yeah, I say unto you. And lo it came to pass that a terrible storm gathered up in the East. Wonder Bread fell from the skies in great slices. And through that nighttime storm came Tim. He was an honest and shy man, a man nobody ever took any notice of. Slices slapped him around his person, but he did proceed upon his way until a bolt of lightning set fire to a nearby bush.
At that moment, a seared slice of bread struck him in the mouth. And he did eat of the burned bread. In an instant, he gained the VOICE OF POWER.
He arrived home, and the people did listen to Tim. And he called the new bread TOAST. And the people did call Tim the TOASTMASTER and listened to what he had to say. And Tim spoke with clarity and communication and of the secret of persuasion.”
At this, the Toastmasters were in awe, for they, at last, knew the secret of public speaking.
Arthur Bing-Chumply, Slow Outreach