Once upon a beach there were two boys. The princeling and the fat boy. The princeling vacationed on the Southern coast with his parents. He lived in a crisp beach front villa and the ocean rose to meet it every morning. The princeling's white bedroom shimmered, and the blue ocean licked his small white feet. The ocean existed just for the boy's delight. But one day the shimmering bedroom and the ocean weren't enough, and the princeling ventured off. He walked along the beach, walked and walked, and after a while he noticed the sand was turning shabby and cold, and soon it ceased altogether. He hesitated, then stepped onto a strip of black pebbles. Alongside, the waves foamed with plastic. Bruised toys. Torn wraps. He looked up, saw another boy stand at the edge of the water. Fat and unkempt, keeping watch over a pile of trash. The princeling approached.
"What do you want?" the fat boy shouted.
"Nothing. What is that?"
"It's mine. Don't touch it."
They eyed each other from a distance. The fat boy's posture signaled "stay away!" The princeling hung back, while the fat boy kneeled and sifted through the pile of broken and tossed objects, pulling out steel rods, twisted soda cans, tires, a bright yellow bucket. The rest he kicked aside and stood panting.
"What are you going to do with that?" the princeling asked.
"None of your business."
"I won't tell anyone."
The fat boy grimaced. "Who would you tell, idiot? You don't know anyone! I bet you are here by mistake. Probably walked down from that house. You kids are always coming down from that house, you walk too far and then your parents blame us. Like we invited anyone!" He spit his contempt on the pebbles. "You're from that house right?"
From that house. It sounded dirty.
The fat boy's eyes turned sly, appraised him. The princeling searched the beach for a different house he could be from, but there was nothing. A dune, and behind it another bigger pile of trash. He blinked and realized the pile of trash was a village.
The fat boy picked up his loot, threw it all into a tattered straw bag. "You do live in that house - liar."
The princeling went pale. "Don't call me a liar!"
"Then don't lie, weasel!"
With a groan the fat boy hoisted the bag over one shoulder and marched up the incline of pebbles. His bare belly shook with each step. The princeling thought a moment, followed a few paces behind. They walked like this, in tandem, and the princeling understood that the fat boy was leading him toward the village behind the dune. At the mouth of the village the fat boy waited.
He shoved the straw bag at the princeling and veered off the road they had come, down a steep path into a valley. The princeling straggled after him. Concrete skeletons stuck out of dry scrubs and trees.
"What are those?"
"Stop asking so many questions, weasel."
The fat boy climbed onto the first concrete slab, broad as an elephant's back. The supporting pillars were already flaking and crumbling. On one side of the slab the builders had had time to pour a second floor. The fat boy waited there, in front of three concrete rooms with empty rectangles as doors.
"What's this smell?"
"Shit. People take dumps."
"People shit here?" The princeling eyed his bare feet.
"Do you see a fucking toilet anywhere? Just come already." The fat boy snatched the straw bag, disappeared in the first squalid hole. Seconds later a feeble light went on. The princeling peered inside and couldn't believe his eyes. Strange, marvelous objects dotted the concrete cave. Pieces of furniture constructed entirely of whatever trash the fat boy had been able to collect on the beach. There were witty chairs. Sober tables. Spiraling lamps. Artfully buckled coat hangers. The princeling stared open-mouthed.
"What do you think, weasel? You can touch the stuff, if you want."
"Did you make all this?"
"All of it."
The fat boy rolled his eyes. "One day I will make real furniture. But not like my father who's hammering together the same table and chairs every day. His whole life he's done nothing new. I am not going to make crappy tables for village retards. I am going to build stuff for first class people, people with fancy expensive villas--like your villa. I am going to fill all those filthy-rich villas with things I've made."
The princeling hardly listened, he wandered through this landscape of strange, enchanted objects, running his hands along a sculpted lamp, a deftly assembled chair.
"What do you think?" the fat boy asked again, and there was insistence in his small eyes.
"It's beautiful," the princeling said. He meant it.
A blissful satisfaction swept over the fat boy's face. His expression of cunning lifted, he looked boyish for a moment. Then the mercenary glimmer returned to his eyes.