The following is just a day-in-the-life anecdote that can be read in, of and by itself. It does, however, refer to characters found in another story, namely Yellow and Pink (New York, NY: Ferrar, Straus & Giroux, 1984) by William Steig.




Yellow & Pink



. . . At the end of a fine but long day, Yellow and Pink remained.  Yellow leaned against a tree stump.  Just then, as you may recall, a man who needed a haircut "came shambling along, humming a tune." He carried off the two.  This much we know.  We do not know where they were taken or what was said or who the man was.  It seems that we are free to speculate.  For all we know, the following matter is what was discussed.  For all we know, what wasn't discussed is what was really the matter . . .


Shambling Man: I would like to show you both something.


Pink: How exciting!


Shambling Man: Well, you ought not get too excited.  It is really nothing.


Yellow: Come, come.  Nothing is nothing.  Something to show us is definitely something.  And something is anything but nothing.  That is, no nothing is something.  And no something is nothing.  So show us what you will.  We are excited no matter what.  


Shambling Man: But that's just it.  I wish to show you nothing.  I have heard of one empty box in the empty closet of an empty room in some empty house off No Such Street.  Inside the empty box is half a hole.  Within the half hole lies nothing.  There nothing lies; this is the truth.    


Pink: I know of No Such Street.  No place looks quite like it.  But how can an empty closet hold an empty box?


Shambling Man: Well, a full closet can fit no more--no room for socks, no space for a box.  If an empty box is to fit in some closet, an empty closet would seem the best bet.  


Pink: But a closet containing a box cannot be considered empty. 


Yellow: Yet a box of nothing can hardly be considered full.  A closet full of a box full of nothing is a closet full of nothing.  And if you ask me, a closet full of nothing is an empty closet.


Shambling Man: I do not wish to ask you anything.  I wish to show you something: that is to say, nothing.  Will you not join me north to No Such Street?


Pink: I have no interest in nothing.  If you have nothing to show us, then I have no time neither.


        Shambling Man:  Could I interest you in a life of pure joy?


       Pink: Of course. 


       Yellow: Who would not wish for a life of pure joy?


       Pink: Nobody.


       Yellow: OK, maybe nobody, but what does nobody know?


       Pink: Nothing.


       Shambling Man: My point precisely.  What could be more appealing than a life of pure joy?


       Pink: Nothing.


       Shambling Man: So, then, nothing is extremely appealing.


       Yellow: At the moment, indeed, I find nothing appealing.  I also find nothing clear.


       Shambling Man: We think alike.  I find nothing perfectly clear.  Hence, I repeat my request to visit No Such Street.


       Yellow: Well, I would certainly prefer not to sit and stare at these walls.


       Pink: Right.  We are in the mood for excitement.  A fruitless journey is certainly better than nothing.


       Shambling Man: Do not forget: Nothing is better than a life of pure joy.


       Pink: But from those two points, it seems that a fruitless journey is better than a life of pure joy.


       Yellow: Somehow, that cannot be right.


       Shambling Man: Yet somehow, it cannot be wrong.  Please, I beg of you.  Let's stop bickering about nothing.  Let us go see some of it instead.


       Pink: Perhaps.  Perhaps we will join you.  Perhaps we will travel to No Such Street.  Perhaps we will visit the empty house with the empty room with the empty closet with the empty box with the hole with half missing.  Perhaps we will examine the remaining half hole and perhaps we'll find nothing.  Then again, perhaps we will not.  One never knows where one never goes.


       Yellow: Say we do.  Say we travel to No Such Street.  Say we peek in the half hole in the empty box in the empty closet in the empty room in the empty house.  Say we peek and find nothing there.  What then shall we do?


       Shambling Man: Glad you asked.  Once we've found nothing, the fun's just begun.  Once we've found nothing, we wrap it quite tight.  We wrap it in darkness and we steal off in the night.


       Pink: If we must, we'll protect nothing with everything we've got.  But for what purpose? What point? To what end will we keep nothing?


       Shambling Man: To watch what happens next.


       Yellow: What could happen next? What could happen to nothing? I've never seen something happen to nothing.


       Shambling Man: Nor I as yet.  Legend nonetheless states that in some cracks between moments, for some reasons no one can grasp, nothing becomes something.  You might say "no way," you might even say "bull," but occasionally empty just turns into full. 


Pink: Now we've gone too far.  There's no turning back.  Nothing comes from nothing.  That's an obvious fact.


Yellow: Pink's right.  Something cannot come from nothing.  All big somethings come from small somethings.  Small somethings come from somethings smaller still.  Even a speck of a smidgen must sprout from a seed.  And a smidgen speck seed must be tiny indeed.


Shambling Man: Nothing comes from nothing.  That certainly seems impossible to dispute.  To make something, then, it would further seem that we must start with something.


Pink: But if we need to start with something in order to make something, that's not really making something.  That's already having something and watching it continue to be something.


Yellow: Well, perhaps one kind of something can sometimes become another kind of something.


Pink: I am sure that it can.  But say we really want to make a fresh something, no matter what kind.  If we start with something, we have not really made something.  We've only changed it from one kind to another.


Yellow: So it appears that if we wish to make something, we must in fact begin with nothing.


Shambling Man: Nobody could have put it better.  Now can we please go visit nothing and watch it become something?


Yellow: Fine, we're game.  Nothing appeals more.  But by what dark arts will nothing become something? If nothing is nothing, whence comes the first move?


Shambling Man: From what spark comes the fire? Fair question, my friends.  The answer is deceptively simple.  To turn nothing into something, all you need is a Kree-8.


Pink: I once heard of a Kree-7, but what, pray tell, is a Kree-8?


Shambling Man: The Kree-8 is miraculous thing.  Some say it was invented long ago by someone named Anselm of Canterbury.  Others say it was discovered.  Either way, the Kree-8 can turn nothing into something.  The first 6 Kree models could only turn stomachs.  The 7th could turn heads, but the Kree-8 could turn nothing into something.  It does not get much better than that.


Yellow: All right, then tell us all about this Kree-8.  What does it look like? Where is it found? How does it work? What fuel does it burn? From what was it made? Were two Kree-4's required to produce a Kree-8? . . .

Shambling Man counseled thusly:

All you need is fresh perspective
On an untilled plot of land.
Add the hint of an idea--a cerebral grain of sand.

Stir a quart of passion
In a heaping pot of luck.
Simmer five score years,
With sweat and tears:
Behold the Big Bang
For your Buck.

--Jesse and Daniel Yaverbaum