What’s that? said Alex. It’s something I wrote for my Literature class. Your literature class? said Alex. Yes, said Blurtso, the assignment was to imitate a twentieth century American author. Who did you choose? I chose Hemingway, would you like to hear what I wrote? I’d love to, said Alex.
“I suppose that’s that, said Nick.
“I suppose so,” said Jim.
“I would have thought it would be longer,” said Nick.
“Or shorter,” said Jim.
The wind was in the trees and the wind was on the roof and Nick slumped in his chair and Jim slumped in his chair. The darkness grew until the voices were only two dark chairs talking. The voice of Nick’s chair said, “I suppose this is what the room sounds like when no one’s here.”
“Yes,” said the voice from Jim’s chair, “the sound of the wind on the walls of an empty room.”
“Do you suppose this is what death is like?” said the voice from Nick’s chair.
“Two voices in an empty room?” said Jim’s chair.
“Two voices,” said Nick’s chair, “with no objects to distract them.”
“And no words,” said Jim’s chair.
“Two voices and the wind,” said Nick’s chair.
“Two voices and the wind,” said Jim’s chair.
“Or just the wind?” said Nick’s chair.
“Or just the wind,” said Jim’s chair.
The dark chairs sat in the sound of the wind and were dark.
A donkey, a donkey! cried Alex. My kingdom for a donkey!
Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer
by “BlurtZo de la Brava Espada”…
Maybe you should try to find her, said Alex.
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.
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.
What? said Blurtso. I can’t hear you over the leaves.
Why is everyone staring? said Harlan.
Don’t mind them, said Alex, they’re just zoonophobic.
What? said Blurtso. That cloud, said Alex, it looks like a human. Where? said Blurtso. There, said Alex, can’t you see? That’s its head, and those are its eyes, and those are its ears, and that’s its body and arms and legs… Of course, said Blurtso. And what’s the big dark cloud that looks like an outhouse? That? said Alex. That’s Dick Cheney.
I think I’ve gained some weight, said Blurtso. Maybe, said Alex, you should do some crunches.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…
Whew, said Blurtso, that was a once in a lifetime experience.