The days came and went, and the weeks and months, and despite the rigor of his studies, Blurtseau’s mind wandered. In a real sense, he felt he was being torn in two. On one hand was his life as a warrior, defending his homeland and rising against injustice, and on the other was his growing love for culture and the arts, and for simple things. He reveled in the rhymed worlds of Dante and Petrarch, and the playful mischief of Boccaccio, and his thoughts often turned to Echo and the wisdom of her island. But it was too early to give up the physical rapture that had honed his body into a flawless fighting machine, a machine that fought without forethought, spontaneously parrying with a perfect balance of give and take. Yet now, had his instincts been altered? His equilibrium become unbalanced? Was he incapable of action without thought, without considering consequences beyond borders? Was this the price he paid for the loss of ignorance? For the joys of compassion? And as for his future, what did it mean? Fame and fortune now seemed empty next to a life of art, or a life of shared simplicity. Becoming a Renaissance donkey was not turning him into a harmonious whole, as he had hoped and expected, but was tearing him to pieces as the parts of himself vied, one against the others, for preeminence and control. And then there was his irrepressible sentimentality, as he continued to long for distant days with Pableau, Josette, and Echo.
Do you have any Kings? asked Blurtso. Go fish, said Pablo. Do you have any Tens? asked Pablo. Go fish, said Blurtso. Do you have any Threes? asked Blurtso. Go fish, said Pablo. Do you have any Twos? asked Pablo. Go fish, said Blurtso. Do you have any pumpkin pies? asked Blurtso. Yes, said Pablo, I have three, in the fridge behind the watermelons.
I’m depressed, said Blurtso. Depressed? said Pablo. Yes, said Blurtso, I went all the way to California and I didn’t find Mister Ed. Mister Ed? said Pablo. The talking horse, said Blurtso. Oh, said Pablo, the great white whale. What? said Blurtso. The great white whale, said Pablo. The agonizing obsession, Moby Dick, the one thing you cannot have… the thing that takes over your life until all your pastimes and pleasures lose their appeal. Yes, said Blurtso, that’s it… even the last pumpkin pie I ate… well… it tasted like a head of lettuce. Yes, said Pablo, the agonizing obsession. What can I do? said Blurtso. The thing to do, said Pablo, is not to focus on the object of the obsession, but on the process. The process? said Blurtso. Yes, said Pablo. You went to California. You must have discovered some things along the way. Oh yes, said Blurtso, I saw many marvelous sights, and I met many animals and people. Well then, said Pablo, those are the fruits of your obsession. Yes, said Blurtso, it was a great trip… you know… I feel better already. So do I, said Pablo. I’m hungry, said Blurtso, let’s have a pumpkin pie!
As Blurtso made his way across the land, he paused to consider the travelers who had made the journey before him… the young ones in search of adventure, with optimism and innocence in their eyes; the middle-aged ones, discouraged but not defeated, far from family and in search of a job; the old ones, irretrievably detached, free from the weight of hopefulness, and blown from town to town like leaves on the wind. At night, drawn by the glow of a flame, they would gather in silence, reflecting on the trials behind and considering the trials ahead, until one, reaching into his pocket, would pull out a harmonica, wipe it on his sleeve, and softly begin to play…
I want to help, said Blurtso, but I’ve got to be honest about my abilities. Let me see, he said, I know that I’m not very good at carrying heavy objects, I tire easily and I recuperate slowly. I don’t read and I don’t write, and my hoofs are good for little more than standing on, which I prefer to avoid, if there is a patch of grass nearby. Hmmmm…. my nose is quite good for sniffing, and my ears are quite good for hearing, so I can usually hear when someone is asking someone to give them a hand with something, but of course I don’t have hands and my hoofs are good for little more than standing on, which usually isn’t much help. I’m pretty good company, I guess, if you’re someone who doesn’t move around a lot, or you just need someone to nap with. I’m quite good at that, I believe, taking naps that is. I can take a nap at almost any time and almost any place. And I must be good at other things too, but I can’t remember what they are, because I don’t have a very good memory. But I know I am happy to be of help. I’m quite sure of that. I’m very happy to be of help.
The chickadees are in full throat today, said Blurtso. No, said Pablo, those are blackbirds you hear. Really? said Blurtso. Well… how about that one… now that was a chickadee! No, said Pablo, that was a kingfisher. Really, said Blurtso, a kingfisher? Wow… it sure sounded like a chickadee… hold it… hold it…how about that one… now that was a chickadee! No, said Pablo, that was a red-tailed hawk. A red-tailed hawk? said Blurtso. Hmm, he must have been imitating a chickadee… hold it… hold it… how about that one! That was the most unmistakable chickadee I’ve ever heard! No, said Pablo, that was a duck. Remarkable, said Blurtso. What about that, was that a kingfisher? No, said Pablo. A blackbird? No, said Pablo. A red-tailed hawk? No, said Pablo. A duck? No, said Pablo. A chickadee? No, said Pablo. I give up, said Blurtso, what was it? That, said Pablo, was my stomach growling.