|...than a pile of iguana.|
"Do I exist?" Sully Not-yet-called-Straightjacket asked.
His traveling companion, Plastic-Moustache Mortimer Tall, shook his head, as if trying to free swimming hole water from his ear. "What?"
"Just - just tell me I exist," Sully No-Nickname-Yet said, as the two of them shuffled along the rails from east to west down the old Santa Fe mainline on the outskirts of Topeka, one chilly April morning in 1935, rousing tiny clouds of frosty brown dust as they trudged.
Plastic-Moustache Mortimer Tall needed a moment to formulate a response - one that would clearly demonstrate that of course he was listening to Sully, but at the same time would fall short of full engagement. As per usual, this delicate balancing act manifested itself as a second "What?"
Sully stopped and turned to Mortimer with a look of profoundly lost helplessness. "Do I exist? Am I even here? Just tell me I'm real."
"Oh, Lord," Mortimer groaned. "You're real, you're real. You're as real as my moustache. Simmer down."
"Gasp!" Sully gasped. He had an annoying habit of saying the sound he needed to emit. "Your moustache is as fake as the New Deal! Look at it - it's plastic! Oh, surely I am not here. I'm but a vapor. A thought passing through your head, without a place to be or an ounce of realness. Oh, this is bad."
Mortimer took Sully by his ratty hobo shoulders. "What's this about, buddy? Look at me. What's eating you?"
Sully looked his friend in the eye for a nanosecond, then turned his attention to the ground, then the sky, then the ground again. "I just... don't feel real, is all. Since the world went to hell, I ain't hardly seen another living soul, apart from you and the occasional cop - chasing us across this wasteland of jobless, homeless depression. Nothing else. Just us and some tormentors. I kinda feel like maybe I ain't real, no more. Like, I ain't even here. Maybe like a ghost or something..."
"Oh, for Pete's sake - you're here and you exist and all that. We just left Topeka. We had an honest-to-God meal, last night at St. Thomas Church. Remember that? Gravy all over top of the whole dish?"
Sully licked his lips. "That was something. Still. Could've been a dream - some kind of phantasm that a ghost would remember..."
"You're not a ghost. You're not dead. You're real," Mortimer grumbled, trying not to lecture his anxious hobo friend. "We're hoboes, Sul. Have been since November '29, when you lost your job at the Ford plant and I quit for insubordination at Sears & Roebuck. That was a half-decade ago, and since then we've stolen train rides and walked and run I'd say ten thousand miles or more - from town to town and job to job, just keeping to ourselves and surviving."
Sully moped. "I'm a ghost," he sighed.
"You're NOT a ghost! But you keep this up, and you're gonna be!"
"Oh don't get sore, Mort. I'm just having a hard time, again. When we started out on the road, I knew the world was gonna end for a while, but I kinda thought, you know, maybe a few months. Next thing I know, it's a year, then two. The world's still done for. I walk through it with you like a feeble little dust bunny..."
"Yeah. Like a ghost made of dirt." Sully looked at Mortimer, who appeared to be stifling a laugh. "What?"
"You were nuts before this started, weren't you?"
"Oh, and how! I was loonier than a pile of green iguanas."
Mortimer, his laughter now successfully stifled, blinked slowly at Sully, as he once again searched for the appropriate response. "How loony is a pile of green iguanas, pal?"
"You don't want to know. Boy howdy, they can get up to some shenanigans."
"You don't say. So, for the uninitiated, like me - what kind of shenanigans can a loony pile of green iguanas get up to?"
A wry smile slowly worked its way across Sully Soon-To-Be-Nicknamed-Straightjacket's face. "Well, for starters, they rigged the election in favor of Hoover. Then, they invented Prohibition, and Fascism, and Suffrage, and automobiles - all on dares - just for fun. They're bonkers, I tell you."
"Ah. I see. And you are loonier than they are?" Mortimer said.
"Yeah, okay. You exist, Sully Straightjacket. You're the realest fella I know."
Sully signed contentedly, and resumed walking westward. "Good. Thanks, pal."