Do you miss living on the Common? said Blurtso. Yes and no, said Harlan, I’ve never been happier than I am sharing your barn, but there’s always something lost whenever there’s something gained.
What are you looking at? said Harlan. There’s a knot in one of the roof boards, said Blurtso. Yes there is, said Harlan. I wonder how it grew that way? said Blurtso. I don’t know, said Harlan, the wood around it is smooth and symmetrical. A whirlpool in the stream, said Blurtso. Yes, said Harlan. I wonder if the roof is weaker or stronger where there is a knot? said Blurtso. I believe it’s weaker, said Harlan, because when the wood gets dry the knots can pop out. Yes, said Blurtso, now that you mention it, I’ve seen old boards with holes where the knots had been. I guess there’s no good reason, said Harlan, for a knot to remain in a board after it has already asserted its independence by going against the grain. Maybe this one, said Blurtso, asserted its independence by staying.
What are you doing? said Harlan. I’m looking at a piece of straw, said Blurtso. Oh, said Harlan. It’s a very nice piece, said Blurtso, with lovely color and shape. Yes it is, said Harlan. It’s been a while, said Blurtso, since I really looked at something—it’s quite refreshing. How long have you been looking? said Harlan. I’m not sure, said Blurtso. That long? said Harlan.
Everywhere you go, said Blurtso, people are talking about the economic crisis. Do you think we should be worried? Worried about what? said Harlan. About our university, said Blurtso. How are we going to continue offering the services we’ve promised? What services? said Harlan. Our world-renowned classes, said Blurtso. The classes are free, said Harlan. What about our books? said Blurtso. The books are from the library, said Harlan. What about our Thursday evening pumpkin pies? said Blurtso. The pumpkins are from Pablo’s garden, said Harlan, in fact, everything in our university is absolutely free. It’s hard to believe, said Blurtso, what we’re doing isn’t against the law.