In Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives it takes several days for the character of Juan García Madero to take shape. Does it have to be this way? For example, consider Elmo, Elmo, yes again, Elmo who crashes through the door and says "ta da!" but in a whisper. Elmo who carries an exclamation mark in an umbrella case. Elmo, taller and shorter than some, who bakes bread in an outdoor oven, hand-makes his own sausage, and who cuts his chin to the left and winks to tell the people he's with that that was particularly good--wine, poultry, chocolate, salad dressing, pie. He only licks his fingers in mirrors.

"Come, Elmo," Jane said.

Jane pointed through a window, a room somewhere, above it all.

"Do you see that small yellow car? That tree, the bird in the tree, how the moon is trapped in that black shoot between the taller, emaciated buildings, those lights in the Jefferson's living room, that atomic cloud of bugs in a street lamp, the dawn that draws hills in pink and orange, children with their kindergarten packs, they wait for the bus to come?"

It was a long, steady question. Elmo opened his eyes. He said, "Let's go to Buffalo."

"What's in Buffalo?" Jane asked.

"That's why people go to Buffalo," Elmo said.

She said, "You wonder what Elmo's relationship is to objects. I tried to know this. He was fond of automobile window buttons. He had a pair of gloves with Pac Man printed on the knuckles. The footsteps he made, sometimes he would stop, crouch, and watch the wind take them one by one each grain of sand till the evidence of his going became Neptune in the mind one thousand years ago. He'd smile because sometimes this erasure elapsed over days. I tell you he had a big smile. One time at night I saw him turn on a light in a room across the street and he went to the window, looked and saw me, and he waved. Then he closed the curtain."

"What happened next?" a man said, another character.

"I assume he unrolled some maps and with a compass and a pencil turned them into actualities," Jane said, sipping something yellow. "He must've worked on the maps for hours because it's been several years since that glimpse I last had of him in the window."