Title text: This scavenger hunt is getting boring. Let's go work on the treehouse!
Cueball and Megan are seen running together hand in hand. Behind them, two others (who look like Cueball and Megan as well) are standing next to a box in an open field of grass.
Together, Cueball and Megan fall in love, get married, and retire in old age to a porch swing, Cueball now wearing a sailor cap and Megan with hair worn just like Hairbun.
Suddenly, without a word, old Cueball using his cane, leaves old Megan on the porch, even though she shouts out for him to come back. He then returns to his two friends at the box from the first panel, they are now also much older and are still standing beside the box. Old Cueball picks up a sheet of paper and checks off "Happiness", the third point checked off on a list entitled "Scavenger Hunt," where the other items include these two above that are checked off: Indian-Head Penny and Snake Skin, as well as the two items below that, are not yet checked off: Four-Leaf Clover and Shark Tooth. At least one more unchecked point is on the list, but it is covered by a speech bubble.
So finding happiness was just one item in what is presumably the longest-running scavenger hunt of all-time, considering Cueball grew significantly old during the hunt. The comic ends with Cueball asking, "What's next?"
The list indicates this is a hunt for somewhat rare items. The US Indian Head cent (penny) was produced from 1859 to 1909, making it somewhat rare. But this they have managed. (It may have been easier to find when the scavenger hunt started, depending on when that was; for instance, if the last panel takes place in the 2000s, and 70 years have gone by, then the treasure hunt started in the 1930s, when these pennies were still fairly common.) Also, the snake skin has been managed which may be a little easier to find if you live in areas with snakes as they shed their skin by molting. So finding such a skin would be the objective to find here.
A four leaf clover is a rare variation of the common three-leaf clover. A shark tooth is not easy to obtain unless you live near a beach with souvenir shops.
The title, Together, of the comic is probably a reference to the saying that you find happiness together with your loved one. Cueball could have taken many different paths to find happiness, together or separate, but he chose togetherness as a way to find happiness, which is a common theme in love stories. But happiness is not something a person finds, it is an experience, hence the need to accumulate enough experiences to determine beyond doubt that happiness was truly found. This is why he had to wait until old age before he could go back to his friends.
Note that Megan is never seen together with Cueball's friends, and especially since she is not invited to go back to them to check the happiness point off, there there is no reason to assume that she was in on the game from the beginning. She was just a means to an end, which makes Cueball's actions rather cruel and questionable.
The title text indicates that after all this time, the players may abandon the game due to being bored with it. It is typical for children to tire of a game before it is finished; except here, Cueball spent nearly a lifetime on just one part of this game! Building a treehouse is another example of a common childhood activity. Naturally, the intended mental image of a bunch of old men and women building a treehouse and playing in it like six-year-olds is another punchline. However, as mentioned in 212: Brain, the fantasy of constructing the perfect treehouse seems to nevertheless hold a permanent place in Randall's heart (or brain) regardless of how old he gets or how immature the ambition may seem. The idea of adults having a fort in the woods was also mentioned, rather darkly, in the title text of 219: Blanket Fort.
Three of the old people look very similar to three of those standing in line in 586: Mission to Culture. And much later in 1910: Sky Spotters the two birdwatchers look very much like the old version of Cueball and Megan. Giving an old person a sailor cap was also used in 2213: How Old.
- [Cueball and Megan are running in a field, holding hands. They are running away from another pair which also looks like Cueball and Megan. This pair stands in the background, next to a small box. There may be something lying on top of the box, but it is difficult to see clearly. The sun is shining above them.]
- [Cueball and Megan are in a boat on a lake, very romantic. Cueball is speaking to Megan, illustrated with a heart.]
- Cueball: ♡
- [Cueball and Megan sit together on a bench on a beach, watching the sunset.]
- [Cueball and Megan stand in front of an altar under a wedding arch, with confetti falling around them. He is wearing a butterfly and she a veil.]
- [Cueball and Megan, now old and wrinkled, sit together holding hands on their porch at the top of a small stair outside their house. He has a sailor cap on and Megan now wears her hair in a bun. Although the woman looks like Hairbun, and the old man is wearing a sailor cap, we can assume this is still Megan and Cueball given the juxtaposition of the preceding panel.]
- [The same setting is depicted but seen from the side of the house. Cueball begins walking away from Megan using his cane. He has descended from the stair. Finally, Megan speaks, and unusually there is a speech bubble, with an extra smaller bubble hanging on to it for the second sentence.]
- Megan: Dear? Where are you-
- Megan: Come back!
- [Cueball approaches an old couple, presumably the kids from the first panel now turned old. They seem tired, looking down all the time. The man only has hair around his neck and also a cane. The woman has long thinning hair. The box from the first panel is between Cueball and the other two. On top of it lies a piece of paper]
- [Same picture except that Cueball is now standing still and has picked up the paper from the box and writes on it with a pen. Again there is a speech bubble.]
- Cueball: Okay,
- [The paper is shown. It is a scavenger hunt list with at least six items. The three first items have been checked off. The last item is blocked by the speech bubble, but can be seen to be there from the check box.]
- ☒ Indian-head penny
- ☒ Snake skin
- ☒ Happiness
- ☐ Four-leaf clover
- ☐ Shark tooth
- ☐ [covered by speech bubble]
- Cueball (off-panel): What's next?
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Definitely one of the sweetest xkcd strips ever. Alpha (talk) 07:30, 1 March 2013 (UTC)
- Or one of the most sad - as he just maried for a game and left when he was finished with his project... Kynde (talk) 00:41, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
- I always thought it was a metaphor for death instead of him actually literally leaving, especially because the way it ended. "What next?" just seems like an optimistic way to view the end. Sonicstormwind (talk) 23:03, 15 September 2019 (UTC)
U Could "building a treehouse" refer to an adult activity that is frequently postponed and possibly never finished, like items in a to do list? 220.127.116.11 17:34, 1 January 2014 (UTC)
- No, those are shark teeth. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 04:04, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I feel maybe the wife was concerned that he was wandering off, and wants him to come back. 18.104.22.168 19:17, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
I think the entire speculation section was way off as it assumes Megan was in on the game, which there is no indication of (actually negative since she is not going back with him). I have added this point to the main explanation and removed that section completely. --Kynde (talk) 08:51, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
I completely agree that Megan wasn't in the on the game, but i wonder if you've over - corrected here. Marriage is something many people do when looking for happiness and folks generally don't describe that as exploitative. And arguably he happiness wouldn't be authentic if he told Megan his search for happiness was part of real scavenger hunt with people to verify your achievements (one could argue that living a somewhat traditional life is akin to a scavenger hunt: complete schooling, get a career, get married, own property, have kids, etc.)
And it's not at all clear that he doesn't come back ever. Just that he leaves for a moment without telling her why. After you find an arrowhead penny, you keep the penny.
Your interpretation is possible, but it's one of many possible interpretations22.214.171.124 09:30, 9 October 2021 (UTC)
I think this is the only strip (to my knowledge) which uses crinkly, crumbly line drawing to (presumably) indicate old age, despite the fact that there are surely other old people in other strips. I think maybe the explanation should say something about that? 126.96.36.199 11:43, 20 August 2022 (UTC)
Page got hijacked, can someone revert the image?