"We've been walking for hours, which is good—and I'm only vaguely tired, in the way I always am—but something's not going well."
"Your shoes, maybe. Or have your socks gone down below your heels?"
"No, it's our conversation. And I know it's bad form to talk about the conversation while it's ongoing—it's bad form to talk about any conversation, really, unless it's for class—but I speak up when I'm dissatisfied."
"I dispute that part about conversations."
"Well, I'm dissatisfied and it's due to your conversation."
"I give my part to you. First, you talked about people, you said they were 'slimy' and went on about their sweat and the greases that accumulate on their outsides. Then you moved on to love—the connection still mystifies me—and I didn't listen closely because the subject has recently been distressing me. Then you wanted to talk about nuclear power and I dismissed you. Finally, since the church, you've been discussing patriotism, or nationalism—you didn't want to work out the definitions—while I've, secretly, been thinking about gliders. They have competitions for gliders, they just circle for hours."
"Maintaining a satisfying subject is as much your duty as mine."
"I reject that duty."
"What's the matter?"
"I don't eat well, my shoulder hurts in the joint, I don't play soccer and I don't want to, I can listen to music for hours while staring at the ceiling, my dog has a disease, I don't see enough sky in the course of the day, I vibrate my leg up and down when I'm sitting and haven't yawned for a number of months, the last four strangers I talked to were dull—and I was the one who started the talking anyway!, my ears are too big and my hair doesn't grow evenly, I've been having to get up in the night to pee, and there's something in my heating vent which makes an annoying hum."
"And that's enough to get in the way of our conversation—my conversation? It's a relatively short list in my opinion."
"I'm distracted. You know the conditions in which I live?"
"Your neighbor, Gene?"
"No, I mean the general geography of the place. I have to go far to check my mailbox. Yesterday, it was really cold outside and I was on my bed, thinking, when I came to the realization that I had to have something in my mailbox. I really thought that there was absolutely no way there was nothing in there. Sarah could have written to me, and Robert hinted a week ago that he had sent me something, I was waiting on the sec for a number of reasons, and, plus, I'd sent that mean note to Fime. So I put on my pants, and ran all the way there and I didn't even look in the little window. But when I turned the key and felt around inside, it was empty!"
"Someone's stealing your mail?"
"No, it doesn't really have to do with the mail. That was just an illustration. I used to think I had stopped changing for good, but now I think that maybe—listening to my dog cough all the time and sucking on lemons and forgetting to do my push-ups before bed—I've begun to change again. I used to think people didn't use semicolons when they talked and now I question even that."