Huffin the Puffin (A children’s story)—D. McShea, 2012
Huffin the puffin sat on a fence overlooking the sea. A seagull fluttered down next to him.
“Hey,” said seagull. “How ya doin’?”
“It varies,” said Huffin.
Seagull thought for a moment, the answer catching him by surprise. Then he laughed, “Yeah, ok. For me too.”
“So,” said Huffin, “I’ve been wondering …”
“Just thought I’d introduce myself,” Seagull interrupted. “I’m Seagull.”
“Yes, ok, good. Still, I’ve been wondering … ”
“Who are you?” Seagull persisted.
“Huffin. Name’s Huffin. And I’ve been wondering …”
“What have you been wondering?” said Seagull, finally ready to hear about it.
“I’ve been wondering,” said Huffin, “I’ve been wondering whether greenness is green.”
“What?” Seagull was puzzled.
“Greenness. Is it green?”
“Of course it is,” Seagull ruffled his feathers uncomfortably. “That’s what green means.” He paused. “It means green. How could green be anything but green? Stupid question.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right,” Huffin sighed. “I was just confused because of all those other words like greenness …”
“What do you mean? What other words?”
“Well, take bigness. Bigness isn’t big. And heaviness. Heaviness isn’t heavy. And wetness isn’t wet …”
“What do you mean wetness isn’t wet?” Seagull was a bit irritated.
“Well, I mean, suppose I see something wet, like a wet fish. Or suppose I think about something wet, like a wet beach. Or someone tells me about a wet event, like a rainstorm. When any of these things happen, it’s not like I have to towel myself off afterward,” Huffin explained. “Wetness is about things being wet, but isn’t itself wet. I mean, is it?”
“No, I guess not,” Seagull ruffled his feathers again.
“Those cases could be different, of course” said Huffin. “Just because wetness isn’t wet, doesn’t mean that greenness isn’t green.”
“I don’t follow,” said Seagull. “Too many nots. Too many ‘isn’ts.’”
“I’m just agreeing with you,” said Huffin. “Maybe greenness really is green.”
“No wait,” said Seagull. “I’m not so sure anymore. This is confusing.” He waited, waited for his mind to sort itself out. A minute passed, and that didn’t happen, so he began talking again. “I think greenness is not green.”
“Why?” asked Huffin.
“Well, like you said,” said Seagull. “Wetness isn’t wet. Other things are wet. Or they get wet. Or they can get wet. Or … “ Seagull stopped himself, and then summed up. “But wetness isn’t itself wet, I guess. Good point.”
There was a longish silence.
“So,” began Huffin, then he cleared his throat. “What color is greenness?”
“What do you mean?”
“What color do you suppose greenness is? I mean, since it’s not green.”
“What?!!” The word burst from Seagull.
“Well, if greenness isn’t green, it must be some other color.”
“No!” Seagull blustered.
“What do you mean ‘no?’” Huffin was calm.
“I mean no,” Seagull said. “No means no.”
“Does it?” said Huffin. “Maybe. But let’s not go there just now. I’m still puzzled about green.”
“Greenness isn’t green.” Seagull said firmly. “And it isn’t any other color! Greenness isn’t the sort of thing that has a color!” He was proud of himself for stating this point so clearly and strongly.
“Oh, I see,” said Huffin.
There was a silence.
“So green is a color but it has no color.” Huffin said with satisfaction. “I see that.”
“Good,” said Seagull with some relief.
“No color,” continued Huffin. “The absence of color.”
“Yes,” said Seagull.
“So I guess green must be black.”
“What?” said Seagull, shifting uncomfortably on the fence.
“Black has no color. It’s the absence of color. Greenness has no color. So greenness is black. I get it,” said Huffin.
“Wait a minute, black is a color …” Seagull trailed off, uncomfortable with what he’d just said.
“Or maybe green is transparent. I mean, if you think black is a color, then maybe greenness is transparent.”
“Hold it … “ began Seagull, ruffling his feathers.
“Yeah, that’s it. Transparent. Greenness is clear. Wetness too. Makes sense, because water is transparent. And water makes things wet. So wetness must be transparent too. It’s all falling into place. Thank you, Seagull.” Huffin eyed Seagull cheerfully.
“I can’t … “ Seagull began.
“But wait,” said Huffin, “there’s a problem, because black paint is wet too. It can make things wet. Things can be wet with wet black paint. So wetness can be black. Maybe the color of wetness depends on what sort of thing is doing the wetting. Wetness is transparent if it’s water doing the wetting. And black if it’s black paint.”
“No!” exclaimed Seagull. Wetness doesn’t have a color! Not even black. Not even transparent! Same for greenness! Greenness isn’t green.”
“Oh, you’re right,” said Huffin. “Green’s not the sort of thing that has a color. You said that before.”
“Right!” exploded Seagull.
“And wetness has no color. It’s just wet?” Huffin went on.
“Right.” Seagull calmed a bit. Then, “No! Wetness isn’t wet!
“No, for course, I know that. Wetness isn’t wet,” Huffin continued. “And I bet you’re going to tell me that wetness isn’t dry either.”
“Right,” said Seagull, trying to sound sure. But he wasn’t sure at all.
“Sort of thin stuff, don’t you think.” Huffin went on.
“What do you mean?” Seagull ruffled his feathers.
“Wetness being not wet or dry. Greenness being not green, or any other color, or transparent either. I bet you’ll tell me wetness and greenness don’t weigh anything either. Or take up space either, right? Not much to these things, wetness and greenness, if you ask me. Kind of thin. They could slip through your fingers. You could lose ‘em, if you’re not careful.”
“I don’t know … “ Seagull began.
“Here, I’d better latch this.”
“Latch what?” Seagull looked at Huffin, whose wing was now stretched out toward him, as though holding something out to him, but holding nothing.
“This little case, where I carry my wetness and greenness and stuff. There, it’s latched. No way those wetness and greenness are going to get out now,” Huffin said with satisfaction.
Huffin went on, not answering that question, but saying, ”Look, I have to go. But I don’t want to lose these. Could you hold onto to them for me?” He stretched out his wing further, as though handing the “case” to Seagull, who by thoughtless habit reached out his own wing as if to take it.
“What is this?” is all he could say.
“My wetness, and greenness, and tallness, and things like that. They’re in this case.”
“I can’t carry this … ”
“Sure you can,” said Huffin. “It’s not heavy. Heaviness is in there too, but it’s no heavier than greenness. Careful about the wetness, though. It’s not wet, but it could leak out, if you open the latch. So just keep it latched. Do me this favor, would you? Just for a little bit. I’ll be back.”
And he flew off, leaving Seagull staring at his own outstretched wing, from which dangled the “case.”
“Well, ok,” said Seagull to himself. “I’ll take care of this for him.” And then, “Hey, wait a minute!” he yelled after Huffin. But Huffin was gone.