Joe looked at his companion in disbelief. "There's an answer
in here?" he asked. Before him was a large cardboard wooden box full
of things. "In here?"
"Yes, yes of course, they're all there, everything you
need to know." Elroy, Joe's companion wore a purple wool coat,
buttoned all the way up, and a baseball cap turned around backwards.
He was sweating profusely. "Where were we? Oh yes, well, when I was
ten my mother was sent off to reform school, and I stayed home
taking care of myself, mostly, which gave me lots of time for
daydreaming. Oh the ideas I concocted in those days! Sometimes
I amaze even myself!"
"Sounds easy enough," Joe muttered under his breath.
He rolled up his leaves, still looking funny at the box of things
and things, and dove right in. A chicken leg, uncooked. Dried
morsels of something or other, best not to know. A shark?
Surely not, but then, what else gives off that certain
peculiarly odor? A shark it must be then. Teeth. Lots of them,
"I used to pretend I was a monkey. Of course, that was easy."
He paused a moment. "Our house had lots of trees," Elroy explained.
Joe picked up a squirrel. "There must have been lots of
these around, eh?"
"No, not actually. Squirrels quickly learned to stay away."
One rubber ball, yellow. Matches, used.
"Oh, well, those aren't really answers. I just, um, ran out
of trash bags."
"So this seaweed isn't trying to tell me something?"
"No, you can just throw that away here, and that pencil,
also, is kind of meaningless, and-"
"But I need a pencil! Can I have it?"
"Well, sure, if you really want it, but don't expect it to be
terribly useful, it's solid wood, no lead anywhere. It's just had
the tip painted black.
"Anyway. We had neighbors once. They didn't like me
much. Thought I should have been in school or something.
I tried to explain that my mother was in school, and we couldn't
very well both go at once, now could we? Anyway, they didn't stay
long before they found amazing opportunities for the leaving."
Elroy took off his cap to scratch his head and examined something
on the tip of his finger before recapping his head and moving on.
"I used to eat insects."
"That's not surprising," said Joe, knee-deep in rubber bands
and bits of saltine cracker. "Didn't everyone?"
Elroy looked at the collection of items Joe had excavated
from the pile, and turned up his nose a bit. "Rather a motley
grouping, aren't they? Let's see what else there is in here. Hmm."
He dug quickly through the box, throwing pieces of garbage left and
right. When he grabbed a long fluorescent yellow snake, he paused a
moment and inspected its tail, seemed dissatisfied, and put it
down as well, where it promptly slithered off into the bushes.
"Well, I can't believe it's not here. What else?" He sorted through
the box in this manner for some time, until all that was left in it
were unidentifiable bits of this and that that had been smushed
together in the bottom. Joe was occupying himself with a ball of
foil he had found.
"I think," said Elroy, "that this is a trash can."