What's the grossest thing you've ever seen come out of a can?
He could have collected stamps, or stickers, or coins. Or he could have collected fossils or posters of movie stars, or seashells, or even buttons. People collect all kinds of things. But these weren't what Fergal decided to collect. He decided to collect tin cans. Unlabeled tin cans. Cans with no clue about what was inside.
He collected all kinds of cans — large and small, heavy and light, shiny or dull. Some had marks stamped on the bottom — mostly expiration dates. Fergal knew everything about his cans, everything except what was inside them. He knew where and when he bought them, how much he paid for them, how much they weighed and what size they were. He recorded all this information in his can collecting notebook, that he kept on the bookshelves with his cans.
Now you might be wondering what kind of a kid would collect unlabeled cans. Well, obviously a kind of nerdy kid, with glasses that made not only his eyes, but his whole head look bigger, and with wild hair that stuck out at angles like he'd stuck his finger in a light socket. In fact, he looked a lot like Einstein, all glasses and wild hair. Appearance is destiny-if you look like an eccentric genius, then you must be an eccentric genius. And the more people expected Fergal to be strange and unusual, the more eccentric he became. Other people collected normal things, but that wasn't eccentric enough for Fergal. Collecting cans suited him much better.
There's no way to know what might have happened if Fergal's mother hadn't run out of patience and called a halt to his can collecting. "No more cans," she said. "Fifty are enough for anyone. If you want to get another one, you have to open one, empty it, and throw it away. Then you can get one to replace it."
If Fergal hadn't opened any of his cans, he would have never found the grossest, the most horrible, the most stomach-turning thing you could ever find in a can. And if he hadn't found it, he would never have tried to solve the mystery of how and why it ended up in the can. And he would have never learned what everyone needs to know, and no one wants to know — everybody has an expiration date.