Alice Toklas

Gertrude Stein Teaches Alice Toklas to Type

If you wish to be a good typist you must type this. First there was a fox and how quick her step and how pricking sharp her teeth when she bit which each day she did to live. And there was a dog thought by many to be a good dog as it was from a good family with a large house and property and the family loved the dog but the dog was not of the family for it was a dog which could not talk or be at table or greet guests nor could it make tea or dust or neaten but instead could only spend the day asleep or licking its dog parts in the parlor or dining room without regard to modesty or taste. Sometimes in the warm kitchen in winter it would do this but in summer it would not because the kitchen was too warm.  This story is in summer which is well known as a time of much activity for foxes. The family was not occupied in these months nor in many others and often came together and was the kind of family which was all talk and accustomed to the dog lying there among them. And that is our story which is a story of the dog lying one day some would say in the yard but the family did not say yard preferring instead to say the garden despite there being but a small portion of the considerable lawns devoted to what you or I or anyone who understands a garden would properly call a garden. This was not the property before the large house or leading up to it which the family called the grounds and the dog did not lie anywhere about the grounds for such was unseemly and not permitted. In the rear behind the house or in the garden he did lie however with little attention for his surroundings.  The dog was not a protecting dog and did not much protect the plants or flowers or grass or various items for lounging or most particularly the brood of hens in the henhouse whence came the family eggs and several times each winter a stringy chicken. Instead of protecting on behalf of the family these various signals of ownership or the hens and the eggs which signaled sustenance the dog of this story which is a famous story lay there half-dozing in the summer’s dust not far from the henhouse and indeed you would say near the henhouse and while lying there the dog considered licking its parts but did not have an opportunity to lick its parts for out from amid the squawking hens in the rackety henhouse quickly bolted the fox for she was a quick fox and she leapt like turkey or peacock or some larger bird in the half-flight that is not full flight but the almost-flight of these heavier birds. And reminding one of that kind of large bird the fox almost flew directly over the dog which was a trusted dog and a beloved dog if not a useful dog indeed let us admit it he was a lazy dog for that is what he was and the fox leapt directly over him wantonly with small jowls dripping egg and a diminutive and doubtless stringy hen dead between its little sharp teeth. And so on that day a war began between the quick fox and the lazy dog and when the war was over some were gone and would not come back and some who had gone did come back but were not the same and the ones who stayed were also not the same for none was the same and nothing was the same after this war of fox and dog. Both fox and dog were gone and did not come back. The fox was said to have been a brown fox by which color must have been meant the reddish side of brown typical of the fox similar to the yellowreds and redbrowns of the bricks formed from the orange ochre clay of the undulant fields and the long turning road which leads up the hill to Pienza. You can remember the depth of its color not early but late in the day when the sun lowered and lent some shadow to relieve the appalling light and you could see the sloping fields and wide-turning road in pale yellowred and redbrown clay, not yellow and red and brown apart but red and yellow and brown together, the color of a fox.  Almost orange if not for brown.  If Braque painted the fox it would be too brown and if Cezanne it would be gray. Matisse perhaps could have gotten the color of the fox. Picasso could get the color of the fox because Picasso could do anything but it goes nearly without saying except for this story where it need be said that Picasso would not do it for it would not interest him that being the kind of artist he was especially after Paris in the south when he was rich and did nothing but what he most cared to do. The dog’s color we do not know but this story is why we have the saying which typists learn to type and you now can type regarding the quick brown fox and the lazy dog and the jumping over the dog which the fox undertook heedless of the consequences.

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