What are you going to do when you finish your novel? said Harlan. I don’t know, said Blurtso, I suppose I’ll have to buy a pipe and a tweed jacket.
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.
Harlan? said Blurtso. Yes? said Harlan. Do you think anyone else stays awake like we do, talking in the dark? Yes, said Harlan, I’m sure they do. What do you think they say? said Blurtso. They tell tales, said Harlan, of what they did during the day, or say silly things like children who can’t sleep, or say sad things about the sorrows they hope to change, and then they sing lullabies to each other, until they forget their sorrows, and sleep like children who can sleep.
Isn’t it amazing, said Blurtso, how people can spend so much time building something, then never look at it when they’re done? What do you mean? said Harlan. This treehouse, said Blurtso. Alex and I built it almost two years ago, and when we were building it we selected the boards with the greatest care, then measured and cut them, nailed and braced them, then raised the pole with the house on top, and then we climbed up and never really looked at it again. What’s this nick in the rail? said Harlan. That? said Blurtso, that’s where I dropped the skill saw when my ice cream fell out of its cone. There’s a nail missing here, said Harlan. Yes, said Blurtso, it kept poking out, so I removed it. What are these scratches? That’s from my screwdriver, said Blurtso, when I was screwing down the floor boards. And this stain? That’s the grape juice I spilled when I was using the nail gun. And this burned spot? That’s where I set down the circular sander with the power on. You do beautiful work, said Harlan. Thank you, said Blurtso.
Harlan? said Blurtso. Yes? said Harlan. Do you think we’ll ever see our snakes again? I don’t know, said Harlan. I wonder, said Blurtso, what else we’ll never see again? It’s impossible to tell, said Harlan, what will be gone in the morning. Harlan? said Blurtso. Yes? said Harlan. I’ll do what I can to be here in the morning.
Harlan? said Blurtso. Yes? said Harlan. Are you awake? said Blurtso. Yes, said Harlan. What do you think about politics? said Blurtso. Politics? said Harlan. Yes, said Blurtso, all the corruption, manipulation, and self-serving contentiousness. I don’t think politics is any different than anything else, said Harlan. What do you mean? said Blurtso. I mean that everyone, said Harlan, does what is in their own best interest. Everyone? said Blurtso. Sure, said Harlan. But some people, said Blurtso, are more compassionate than others. Yes, said Harlan, that’s because they define themselves differently. What do you mean? said Blurtso. Some people have a very small definition of themselves, said Harlan, they think of themselves as a narrow, individual entity, and they act in a narrow, individual way. Others think of themselves as a family group—immediate or extended—and act for the benefit of the family. Others think of themselves as an ideological group—a nation or religion—and act in terms of that ideology. Others go beyond borders, and think of themselves as the entire human race, or the entire planet, and act in the self interest of all humans, or of all nature. But everyone is still acting in their own self interest, it’s just that some selves are bigger than others. Hmm, thought Blurtso, I wonder how big my self is?