Maybe you should try to find her, said Alex.
Hey… there she is! What’s wrong? She’s limping… she must have injured her hoof! Oh no! Where was I?! Why wasn’t I there to help her?! I could have caught her when she fell! I wonder how she got hurt? Maybe she tripped on a crack in the sidewalk? Or stumbled when stepping off the curb? Or maybe she’s a gymnast? Yes, she’s a gymnast, a world-class gymnast… and she was hurt performing a dangerous dismount… but managed to stick the landing… and her team won the meet… and she took the gold! Yes, that’s it. I’m sure that’s it. Wow, that Lizzy is really something!
Where are the others? said Pablo. They’re inside, said Blurtso, sleeping off the pumpkin pie. Yes, said Pablo, not many animals have the constitution of a donkey. That’s for sure, said Blurtso. How’s life in Cambridge? said Pablo. Fine, said Blurtso, I saw an amazing jenny three weeks ago. Really? said Pablo, What’s her name? I don’t know, said Blurtso, I think it’s Lizzy. You think? said Pablo. Yes, said Blurtso, I’ve never spoken with her. Why not? said Pablo. Because I don’t know what to say, said Blurtso. Why can’t you say whatever comes to mind, said Pablo, and just be yourself? Because I want her to like me, said Blurtso, and she might not like me for myself. Why would you want to be with her, said Pablo, if she didn’t like you for yourself? Because she’s incredible, said Blurtso. That doesn’t make sense, said Pablo. No, said Blurtso, I suppose it doesn’t, but maybe I could convince her to like me. That would be the worst thing to do, said Pablo, because then you’d have to spend your life continuing to convince her, and you’d never be yourself. Perhaps, said Blurtso, but at least I’d be with her. Maybe not, said Pablo, she might eventually realize you’re a fake. Yes, said Blurtso, you may be right. So, said Pablo, what do you think you’ll do? I’m not sure, said Blurtso, I think I’ll do everything I can to convince her to like me. Yes, said Pablo, I thought so.
What are you doing with so many pumpkins? said Blurtso. We’re swapping them, said Pablo, for food and supplies… the cellar is already full. Is Harlan coming tonight? Yes, said Blurtso, he and Alexandra are taking the train. Good, said Pablo. I hope they like pumpkin pie.
What a lovely cabin, said Alex. Yes, said Harlan, it’s very sturdy. I’m glad you like it, said Pablo, Bonny and I are happy you could come. How long have you lived here? said Alex. Seven months, said Bonny. Do you miss the city? said Alex. Boston? said Bonny. No, not really. Concord has all we need. Like what? said Alex. Like paints and canvass, said Bonny. We produce everything else. What do you do for entertainment? said Alex. We sing, said Bonny, or read, or tell stories around the fire. That sounds great, said Harlan. Can we hear a story tonight? Of course, said Bonny, Pablo knows some really scary ones. Scary? said Harlan. Yes, said Bonny, but not too scary… Ditto gets nightmares.
Once upon a time, not long ago, there was a donkey, a giraffe, an elephant, and an insane woodsman.
What’s the matter? said Alex. I haven’t been sleeping, said Blurtso. Why not? said Alex. I keep thinking of Lizzy. Lizzy? said Alex. Yes, said Blurtso, a donkey I saw on campus. What’s so special about Lizzy? I’m not sure, said Blurtso, there’s just something about her… I think I’d give anything just to brush against her. Really? said Alex. Yes, said Blurtso, and it’s driving me mad. Like in the poem, said Alex. The poem? said Blurtso. Sure, said Alex, the sonnet by Shakespeare: “By day my limbs, by night my mind for thee and myself, no quiet find.” Yes, said Blurtso, that’s it. Shakespeare sure knew donkeys.
Hmm, I wonder what kind of donkey Lizzy likes? I wonder if she likes grey donkeys? Or brown donkeys? Brown donkeys are more colorful, but color isn’t everything. I wish I were a brown donkey. I wonder what else she likes? I wonder if size matters? I know I’m not tall, but I have big ears. I wonder if I’m handsome? I don’t think I’m ugly. Of course, there’s not much I can do, I am what I am. Maybe I should get a haircut…
I suppose when you see someone you like, and you don’t know them, you fill in the spaces with what you hope to find. Of course, you can make reasonable assumptions. For example, she was walking when I saw her, so she must enjoy going for long walks. And she was looking around, so she must like to sit and look at things. And of course, everybody likes pumpkin pie, and whipped cream, because everything’s better with whipped cream. I wonder if she likes to watch the ducks? This much is certain… she’s an attentive, pumpkin-pie eating donkey, who loves long walks, probably watches the ducks, and thinks everything is better with whipped cream. She also appeared to be simple, but intelligent, and unhurried and content—I think I detected a bounce in her step—and she was clearly enjoying the grass beneath her hooves. I wonder if she likes music? I wonder if she plays an instrument? Maybe she plays the trombone. If she plays the trombone we could play duets together, and travel the world earning our passage from place to place. I wonder what her favorite music is? It’s probably Für Elise. I wonder if that’s her name? Elise? Or Eliza? Or Liza? Or Lizzy? Yes, Lizzy is less pretentious. Hmm, I wonder what she reads? I wonder if she reads Shakespeare? Maybe she’ll join our barnyard company. Then we could stage “Twelfth Night,” and she’d be Viola and I’d be the Duke, and after many mishaps we would live happily ever after.
I can’t stop thinking about a jenny I saw at school yesterday. I saw her once, passing on the lawn, and I can’t get her out of my mind. I wonder who she is? I wonder if she’s a student? It’s exciting to think of her, but it’s tiresome, because there are so many other things to think of. But no matter what I do, all I can think of is her. And I don’t even know who she is. I’ve seen other jennies, here and there, and now and then, but none like her. I’m dying to keep thinking of her, but wish I could stop. I’ve been here all day, while the hours passed, with the birds and the trees and the shadows and sounds, and I haven’t seen a thing, not a single thing, because I can’t stop thinking of a jenny I saw once, and may never see again. It’s times like this that make me wonder… if any of us have control over anything we do.
I am mortified, said Blurtso. What? said Alex. Poor Jane, said Blurtso, and poor Mister Bingley. Who? said Alex. I never saw a more promising inclination, said Blurtso, he had grown quite inattentive toward other people, and is not general incivility the very essence of love? What? said Alex. I am mortified, said Blurtso, I am humbled, I am grieved, and hope against hope that Wickam and Lydia will be married. I have been so ungenerous to Mister Darcy, and now we owe the restoration of everything to him. What on earth are you talking about? said Alex. And what’s that book you’re reading? It’s Pride and Prejudice, said Blurtso, by Jane Austen. Oh, said Alex. You are too generous to trifle with me, said Blurtso, if you will take another cup of tea, please, tell me at once. Another cup? said Alex. Why yes, I shall accept your offer, with gratitude and pleasure.