||[Oct. 9th, 2006|10:07 pm]
It can be a long, hard battle before one can finally find a measure of peace, but I believe I've accomplished it. It wasn't easy.|
You see, after my workout tonight, I went wandering around the neighborhood. As I approached the local Popeye's, I was suddenly confronted by the Sphinx. Now, as you know, most mythical creatures don't hang out in Renton, because there's really not much nightlife here, but I suppose she was slumming. I could see by the empty jumbo-sized family packs near her that her voracious appetite was sated, as well. Nevertheless, she seemed determined to do her gig.
"Halt, foolish mortal; you must best me with riddles, or face the eternal darkness."
Now, this sounded pretty serious; I mean, I'm used to living through western Washington winters, but eternal darkness would probably be worse, and it would be hell on my SAD. But before I could ask if she would rather grab a few beers, and maybe I could let her swipe some bandwidth off my wireless connection, she was already starting.
"Arising from the flame, I take flight, higher, like the sun, burning brightly," she said.
"And?" I said, after an uncomfortably long silence.
"What is the answer?" she said, rather testily.
"42. That's the standard answer when you don't have a question."
She scowled at me, but understood my point. "In the ancient riddle games, all enigmatic descriptions are presumed to be implicitly asking 'who, or what, am I,' he of learned rump."
I, of course, have no objections to being called a smartass; in fact, I'm rather proud of it most of the time. Besides, I had my answer... the answer to all of my problems, in fact. "The SR-71 spy plane," I said.
"No, that's wrong; it's the phoenix," she said, and I shook my head.
"Technically, the SR-71 fulfills all the criteria, and all you've done with your enigma is define an equivalence class of answers; my answer is simply a representative sample of that equivalence class. A function mapping the domain of the equivalence class into the range of singular answers can then be declared incorrect by anyone who simply chooses a different mapping. In short, if I'd answered the phoenix, you could have said 'wrong, it's the SR-71 spy plane!"
I think that I wouldn't have been able to interest her in beer; I think, perhaps, she'd already been drinking. It's hard to be sure; I have that eye-crossing effect on people, sometimes.
"Look," I said, trying to look friendly, though by now it was all a pose. "I have a riddle for you. If you can't answer it, we can call this a draw and both go home. And it's got a bit of a trick to it, but I'm sure you can handle it. What's magenta, wet, hangs on the wall, and whistles?"
We stood there for fifteen minutes, and I could tell she was getting angrier. A dinner of tasty, spicy chicken might have filled her belly, but it hadn't done anything about relaxing her.
"You ready?" I asked. It didn't matter, so I said the answer (and I'm sure you've all guessed, because this one *is* dreadfully easy). "A herring."
"What? But a herring isn't magenta!"
"I just painted it."
"But if you painted it, it's out of the water! It's not wet!"
"I just painted it; it hasn't had time to dry."
"But herrings don't hang on the wall!"
"I hung it there."
"But... HERRINGS DON'T WHISTLE!!"
"I told you there was a bit of a trick to it..." I said, and realized I might have overplayed my hand. She lifted up one of her paws and flexed, letting her claws come popping out, so as to make sure I didn't think she was just carrying around a set of several ultra-sharp sickles for no reason whatsoever.
I held up my hand. "This is the real riddle," I said, pleased with myself for buying some time. "What color was the herring painted?"
"MAGENTA!" she screamed, so loudly and forcefully that her exhalations dried out my clothing.
(Those of you who know me, know that my clothing is often soaking wet after a workout... so this was no small feat. It also was pretty darn chilling, and I don't just mean frightening!)
This was the crucial moment... the moment that likely saved my life. I stepped to the side, to reveal more of the scene to an outside observer... including the empty boxes strewn about. And then, when I heard the rocket's roar, I looked up. It was exactly what I expected: a scale model of a luxury passenger liner, flying in my general direction at high speed.
"Wrong," I said, and then dove for cover.
Folks, I'm no great lover of SUVs, but I do like having a large mass between me and such dangers, so I'm glad there was one in the parking lot, and waited for the aftershocks of the explosion to clear.
Just as I had hoped. She might have had me... but she made the mistake of eating at Popeye's on the day my old nemesis decided to launch a cruise missile attack.
As I walked around the SUV again, and faced the chicken, knowing that my troubles were over.
"I should kill you, you know... for dishonoring the riddle game," the chicken clucked.
"I'm shocked - shocked! - that you say such a thing. The sphinx lost, fair and square. You just helped make sure she wasn't a poor loser."
"How could she lose when you were just yanking her chain, to buy some time? Hell, she answered your riddle correctly!"
"No she didn't," I said, "And now that you've insulted my honor, I'll have to demand a state of truce between us when I prove it!"
The chicken barely nodded; it was a fair deal. But I also heard a sound that could only be the sound of a chicken surreptitiously pulling the pin of a grenade hidden behind its back (it really isn't a sound you ever forget). The chicken was sure I'd lost the riddle game, after all.
I smiled a cocky smile, and, for the only time in my life, turned my back on a chicken that was holding a live grenade.
"I painted it blue. It should be obvious.
"The entire joke is based upon a bunch of red herrings."