“I think it’s your shell.”

“I have a shell?”

“Of course, everything does.”

“Everything?”

“Well, clams, mussels, scallops, abalones, armadillos.”

“Have you ever seen an armadillo?”

“No, but I’ve read about them.”

“That’s hearsay.  You can’t use it.”

“Okay, beetles then.  They have very hard shells.”

“Do humans have shells?”

“Yes, they do, very special shells, invisible to everyone except psychologists.”

“What are psychologists?”

“Psychologists are humans that study human shells.”

“So, what have these psychologists learned?”

“Hanging out in your shell all the time isn’t healthy.”

“What if it’s a camper shell?”

“Airstreams are okay but I don’t like Winnebagos.”

“How do you know these things?”

“Studied psychology at Oyster ‘Cad.”

“So, what do you mean by you think it’s my shell?  What’s it?”

“Your problem.”

“I have a problem?”

“We all have problems.”

“Psychology, pfft!”

“Well, it’s true.”

“So, what is your problem?”

“We’re not talking about me, we’re talking about you.”

“No, you’re talking about me.  You’re saying I have a problem and that my problem is because of my shell.  I like my shell.”

“You’re too deep inside your shell, too withdrawn from the world outside, friends and family.”

“Too deep.  Too withdrawn?  Says who?”

“It would be better if you opened up a little, let your feelings out.”

“Better for me or for you?”

“For you, of course.”

“Yea, you just want to get your oyster knife in there and twist it.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Cautious.  The proper word is cautious.”

“I am only thinking of what’s good for you.”

“So you want me to wear my feelings on my sleeve?”

“I didn’t say that, just open up a little, that’s all.”

“Open my shell?”

“Yes, that’s it, open your shell, just a little.”

“And I would be better?”

“Happier.”

“I thought we were supposed to drop out, turn on and tune in?”

“That was the sixties.”

“A golden age.”

“The sixties was a failure, the whole back to nature back to the land thing was no more than a passing fad, a mistake.  And besides, we’re not talking about a movement here, we’re talking about you.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Let’s not get off track, we’re talking about your shell.”

“So, what’s so bad about a little introspection?”

“Navel gazing.  Counterproductive.  Shell game, shell corp, bomb shell, shell shock, shell out … the word shell oozes negativity.”

“Yea?  What about shell fish?”

“Very funny.  The exception that proves the rule.”

“What rule?”

“Look, all I’m trying to do is help you.”

“I know, but your hypothesis is wrong.”

“What hypothesis?”

“That my problem is my shell.  I have a lot of problems but my shell is not one of them.  I like my shell.  I can read there without being interrupted.  I can think without being disturbed.”

“But, aren’t you lonely?”

“Sometimes, yes.”

And, aren’t you bored?”

“Sometimes, yes.  But aren’t you too sometimes lonely and bored?”

“Well …”

“And, don’t you sometimes just want to get away from everything, all the world’s distractions, just chill out, you know, smell the roses as that worn out saying goes?”

“Uh … well …”

“Have you ever tried just hanging out in your shell?”

“Oh hell!  Just go stew in your juices.  I don’t give a fuck.”

“That’s a terrible thing to say to an oyster!”

“The world is my oyster.”

“Yea, well good luck with that.  The man who doesn’t believe in something believes in anything.”

“So, you believe in your shell?”

“Damn right!”

“So, you’re a hedgehog, not a fox.”

“What?”

“You believe in one big thing, yourself, and ignore the rest of the world out there.”

“What a dumb idea.  We have met the enemy and he is us.”

“You live in Plato’s cave.”

“No, I live in Candide’s garden.”

“This is getting us nowhere.”

“You’re right.  Let’s have lunch.  How do you like your plankton?”

“On the half shell, please.”

“Don’t be an ass.”