Thousand Words Project

Find out what a picture is worth.


“I don’t understand,” said Fluffles. “What’s so special about this place?”

“Hmph! Good question,” said the dark cat behind her.

“Lay off it, Othello,” said another cat. He turned to Fluffles. “This is your first pilgrimage, huh? My name is Poobah. Welcome to the Pipe.”

“Uh, thanks. I’m Fluffles. What’s… going on here?”

Poobah nodded toward another cat, who was stepping away from the group and approaching a large, dark pipe. “Watch. The High Priest will get it started.”

The High Priest sat under the pipe and turned to face the assemblage. “Fellow followers of the Pipe!” he said. “We gather here, as we do, as we must, to pay tribute and prove our faith. The Pipe shall provide, as it has in the past, in the legends handed down from cat to cat.”

“What a crock,” said Othello. The High Priest ignored him.

“‘Provide?’ What does he mean it will ‘provide’?” Fluffles asked Poobah. Poobah opened his mouth to answer, but the High Priest spoke first.

“Child - the Pipe delivers wonderful gifts to those who serve it. The legends speak of birds and mice, cardboard boxes and balls of yarn, and even - to those whose faith is especially strong - tuna.”

“Legends!” sneered Othello. “Anyone can make up a legend. Have you actually seen any of these gifts?”

The High Priest drew back. “My mentor, High Priest Noodle, told me a story about-”

“A story!” Othello laughed. “Here’s a story for you - I’ve been on three of these ridiculous pilgrimages and not once have I seen this pipe of yours give up any kind of gift but rainwater dripping down the side.”

“Ah, yes,” said the High Priest. “The sacred moisture that replenishes body and spirit. It is a common gift, but a gift nonetheless. And if we only have enough faith, we may receive other gifts as well.”

The High Priest turned to the pipe and placed his front paws on it. Poobah leaned in toward Fluffles and whispered, “I’m hoping for ham. I heard one time it was ham.”

The High Priest took a few deep breaths, eyes closed. There was an eerie silence. Even Othello just watched. Finally, the High Priest threw his head back and shouted.

“Oh great Pipe! Your humble servant, High Priest Snugglepuss, is here to pay respects! And though I am hardly worthy to stand in your presence, I beseech you to reward my faith and that of my fellow cats! And to show any doubters the error of their ways.”

Fluffles glanced at Othello, but he was ignoring the speech, staring fixedly at a point halfway up the nearby stone wall.

“Oh Pipe,” continued the High Priest, “Please accept our demonstrations of faith.” And with that he removed his paws from the pipe and stepped to the side. “Who shall be next?” he asked the other cats.

“I’ll go,” said Poobah. He approached the pipe and placed his front paws upon it.

“Oh Pipe!” he shouted. “You are so very noble and large. I could never be as noble and large as you. And I respect that. I also respect ham. Just letting you know. Thanks for being such a great Pipe! I believe in you and your Pipeness.”

Poobah took his paws off and walked back to Fluffles. “You’re up,” he said.

“Me? But I… I…” stammered Fluffles.

“Have no fear, child,” soothed the High Priest. “You are among friends here. The Pipe is ready to receive your tribute of faith.”

“Go on, kid,” said Othello. “This should be hilarious.”

Slowly, haltingly, Fluffles approached the pipe. She stopped in front of it, took a deep breath, and then placed her paws on it.

“Oh, Pipe,” she said.

“Louder, child!” said the High Priest. “Be not shy! How can you expect the Pipe to reward your faith if you demonstrate it so half-heartedly?”

Fluffles closed her eyes. “Oh Pipe!” she shouted.

“Better,” said the High Priest. Othello chuckled.

Fluffles leaned her head back and faced the sky. “There is no denying that you are a great inspiration to us cats! We who, uh, come to tell you how wonderful you are, in hopes that you will reward us for it. Even the ones who come even though they say they don’t believe and are kind of jerks about the whole thing. You bring us together, and that’s pretty neat.”

Suddenly, the wall next to the pipe opened up, and a huge figure emerged. Fluffles recognized it as a Tall One. She’d seen them before - some cats kept them as servants, and the domesticated ones were reportedly quite useful. But never had she been so close to one. She scrambled back from the pipe - but the other cats weren’t retreating.

“The Keeper of the Pipe!” exclaimed the High Priest. “Our faith is rewarded! Praise the Pipe!”

The Tall One’s mouth opened, and strange not-quite-mewling sounds issued forth. Fluffles realized the Tall One was carrying something - and as the figure bent down and placed it on the ground, she craned her neck to get a better look. It seemed to be a broad, round, shallow bowl, filled with-

“Well, I’ll be a doggie’s uncle,” said Othello.

“Milk!” shouted Poobah. “It’s a miracle! Praise the Pipe!”

The cats raced forward, crashing into each other in their urgent dash to the bowl. Squeezing past one another, they managed to space themselves around it, and lapped up the milk eagerly.

The Keeper of the Pipe watched, gently cooing the indecipherable and meaningless words of the Tall Ones.