Here's another excerpt, unpolished and unexciting.
Shikashi felt, for the first time, that the world really was his mollusk. While Becky and Nezumi snapped pictures of each other in front of corporate sculptures and water fountains, he bought himself one admission to the modern art museum. It was a branching out for him; he preferred classical art. But the exhibit, by a Japanese dadaist, did not disappoint.
He stopped first in front of a painting depicting a short, stocky woman playing with an Ufo Catcher. She was shown from the back, wearing plastic clogs and a white sunhat. The claw of the catcher hung above an assortment of stuffed pink bunnies, French cigarettes, live lobsters, and assorted mechanical hardware such as air compressors and chainsaws. The claw hung suspended, moments away from the prize. What would she choose?
The next piece on display was a black and white photograph of a man in a gas mask, posing seated on a Vespa or something like it. Farm animals such as roosters stood idly by. Shikashi wondered what the artist's vision of the apocolyse was. The man was the only human in the portrait; his face could not be read. Was he lonely? Sad? Afraid?
The third piece was a sculpture: a clay katoributa - that is, a Japanese incense burner shaped like a pig with a very wide mouth. Inside the mouth was a miniature scene, also sculpted from clay. It depicted three people fighting over an object. Shikashi brought his face closer to the sculpture and determined that the object was a radio - it had dials and an antenna. The people were all directly opposed. Their body language was simple but expressive.
Shikashi looked at this piece for quite a while. Was the radio symbolic of something - a connection to the world outside the pig's mouth, or knowledge and communication, or alleviation from boredom? Or did it abjectly defy meaning, an object without symbolism? The style of incense burner was designed for insect-repellent incense coils. Did the pig stand for any of the obvious concepts, such as greed, and was this connected to the fact that it was providing shelter for the three people?
"Bubba." Nezumi and Becky had crept up behind him. "What is this crap you're staring at?"
"Internal conflict," Shikashi translated the title from the placard.
"What does it mean?" asked Becky, getting closer.
"These people are kept safe, isolated, by their materialistic values. They think they're happy because they're protected, but what they really want is to be exposed to the truths of the world. They're fighting because the truth - as they see it - is something precious and limited. By gaining that knowledge, one of them might become superior to the others."
The girls looked from Shikashi, to the sculpture, to Shikashi again.
"You got all that out of people fighting in a pig's mouth?" Becky asked skeptically.
"Not really. I don't get much out of it at all. But that's what I would say if I had to write a paper on it. Or if the artist asked me what I thought it was about."
Nezumi was thoughtful. "I think they're fighting because their circle has been broken. They were three, and they've always been three. This outside voice has upset the balance. They don't want the radio for themselves; they want to keep it away from the others, so that they won't be polluted or poisoned by the outside influence."
They three reflected on this.
"I still prefer landscapes and still-life paintings of fruit," said Shikashi.