"Watchu goin do wit em?" Garv asked.
Tal rubbed at the scab on his chin, poked at the squirmy pile on the ground with a short stick.
"Maybe they'll burn."
Tal dragged one of the little objects away from the others. The men stared at it, its serpentine shape at once familiar and unknown. Unknowable, perhaps.
"Don't look like it'd give up much heat," Tal said. He dragged another one, more angular that the first, out of the pile. He flicked a third, which fetched up against the others. And then the three little forms shook like wet dogs and settled down beside one another. Expectant.
"Eat," Garv said. Then he looked away, pink blooming on his pockmarked cheeks. "I seen them afor. They says 'eat'."
"What is they?"
"Letars. When theys together, then theys a ward."
Tal looked down. e. A. T. He picked the letars up, rubbing the thin, slightly greasy forms between his forefinger and thumb. He lifted his chin and dropped them into his mouth. They crunched between his teeth, burst on his tongue. But there was nothing to swallow.
"What they tastin of?" Garv asked, his nose scrunched up in distaste.
"Pleasant. At first, they were sweet and sour, like a recalcitrant berry plucked from Mrs. Rangarajan's thorny plants. Then they changed, became viscous and savory as they climbed my teeth. And then..." He shrugged. "They seemed to disappear."
"Huh." Garv scratched at a sore on the side of his neck.
"You really should try one," Tal said, plucking three more letters and lining them up. Garv squinted at them.
"Maybes later," Garv said. "Lessus go down at the pond."