THE SINGULAR ASPECT.

IN HONOR OF the fifth anniversary of the migration of his celebrated Magazine to the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli reprints the first story he ever published in electrical form.

A MAN WALKED into Abelard’s office the other day and announced that he had a singular case. Our morning had begun with tea, as usual, but I had hardly poured the first cup when the office door opened and the man with the singular case walked in.

It is well known by now that Magnus Abelard deals only with singular cases, so everyone who walks through the door announces that he has a singular case. Nevertheless, the door is, by Abelard’s explicit command, never locked; and this case really did turn out to be singular. I have taken the trouble, therefore, to record it among Abelard’s most remarkable achievements, in the hope that the record will serve as an imperishable monument to Abelard’s genius.

We began with the usual formalities. I informed our visitor that he would have ten minutes to convince Abelard of the singularity of his case. I also explained the payment schedule in the unlikely event that Abelard did pronounce his case singular. Abelard did not speak during the proceedings; he never does speak until some singular aspect of the case has caught his attention.

“Mine is a singular case,” the visitor began as I took notes. “Indeed, it is so singular that I have not spoken with anyone about it until now. I have lived for ten years in fear for my life—a fear all the worse for being secret. I have not dared reveal it to anyone, and yet it eats at me, day after day, hour after hour, like a kind of parasitic creature that gnaws but cannot consume.”

“You have nine and a half minutes,” I reminded him.

“Ten years ago, my wife, to whom I had been married only a month, announced that she had a few purchases to make, and declared her intention to walk to the drug store on Murray Avenue. She would be gone for about an hour, she said. I bid her farewell; she walked out the door; and that, Mr. Abelard, was the last time I ever saw her.

“I shall not weary you with the details of my inquiries. Over the years, I have found opportunities to interrogate our neighbors and the clerks at the drug store. From their statements, I have discovered that my wife did indeed reach the drug store; that she left and turned right on Murray Avenue; that she was last seen walking on Phillips, the very street on which we lived, in the direction of our house. But she never arrived.”

Here the visitor stopped; and, as Abelard was still silent, I knew the narration had not interested him enough for him to take the case. It was therefore incumbent upon me to disappoint our visitor.

“Disappearances such as the one you describe,” I told him, “while exceedingly regrettable, are not extraordinarily uncommon. Perhaps the city police, or a less specialized private agency, might be able to render you some assistance.”

Our visitor sat back in his chair and sighed. “I have not yet revealed to you,” he said slowly and quietly, “the singular aspect of the case.”

Abelard leaned forward. This statement had at least caught his attention.

The visitor took a deep breath, appeared to think for a moment, and then continued, picking his words with care and deliberation.

“About an hour after my wife left, a woman entered my house by the front door. She entered boldly—as if she owned the place, you might say. Now here is the singular and remarkable thing: in every particular, this woman was the exact image of my missing wife. Even her clothes were the same as the ones my wife had been wearing when she left. She proceeded to make herself quite at home; she treated me as though she were actually my wife.”

Here the visitor leaned forward and lowered his voice about a fifth. “For ten years, Mr. Abelard, that woman has inhabited my house, living in every respect as though she were my wife. For ten long years, I have lived in fear, utterly convinced that this woman in my house is somehow deeply involved in the mystery, and afraid even to sleep at night—afraid I might fall prey to the same sinister forces that took my beloved wife from me. The fear is tearing at my soul, sir, and I have at last resolved that, whatever the cost to myself, I must unravel this mystery.”

A moment of silence followed; then Abelard spoke for the first time.

“And how exactly was it that you knew this woman was not really your wife, returned from her shopping trip?”

The visitor started forward; then he sank slowly back in his chair, staring straight ahead.

“Good lord,” he whispered hoarsely.

Abelard observed him closely.

“Good lord,” the visitor said again, somewhat louder this time. “I never thought of that.”

He sat upright in his chair with a new air of confidence. “Well, sir, you certainly have earned your reputation. I never would have imagined that a mystery of such devilish complexity could be unraveled in such a short time. I shall certainly be recommending your agency. You may expect a check from me in the morning, although you must be aware that no remuneration could ever express my profound gratitude. I bid you good day, and once again I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Abelard watched him walk out of the office with a jaunty confidence that had been completely foreign to him only minutes before.

For some time after, Abelard was silent, as though lost in thought. At last he turned to address me.

“Perhaps,” he said, “we ought to reconsider the idea of locking the door.”

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Published in: on June 24, 2012 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

WHY THE OSPREY HAS NO XYLOPHONE.

IN OLDEN TIMES, our forefathers huddled around the fire and told the story of Why the Osprey Has No Xylophone. Now our forefathers are all dead, and serve them right. And this is the story they told:—

Many moons ago—Io, and Europa, and Charon, and Titan, and Ganymede, and Phobos, and Triton, and Callisto, and Oberon, and Tethys ago—the osprey was king of all the birds. At that remote time the avian world was governed as a constitutional monarchy, and the osprey’s duties were confined to opening shopping centers, signing letters of commendation, and posing for portraits on currency, which, in the days before printing, naturally took up most of a reigning monarch’s schedule.

One day the osprey told his prime minister, an ambitious young herring gull, “I should like to have a tulip.”

“Get it yourself,” replied the prime minister, who  was positively mad with power.

So the osprey set out on an epic quest for a tulip. He traveled to the ends of the earth, slew monsters, ate at dreadful fast-food joints, and endured such hardships as no king before or since has ever endured. At length he came to a plateau in Anatolia that was carpeted from end to end with tulips, but he decided that tulips weren’t all they were cracked up to be and flew home disappointed.

On his return, he discovered that his throne had been declared vacant, and the former prime minister was now ruling as General Secretary of the People’s Revolutionary Council. “We don’t need kings anymore,” he explained. “But we do have an opening for a new registrar of deeds.”

Having tried out that position for a month, however, the osprey decided that if he never registered another deed it would be just peachy. He therefore went into business for himself selling collectible porcelain figurines to pigeons, who have an insatiable appetite for that sort of thing. Eventually he retired to a trailer park outside Sarasota, where as far as anyone knows he still resides today. And that, dear children, is why the osprey has no xylophone, but has a marimba instead.

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm  Comments (9)  

THE SINGULAR ASPECT.

IN HONOR OF the fourth anniversary of the migration of his celebrated Magazine to the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli reprints the first story he ever published in electrical form.

A MAN WALKED into Abelard’s office the other day and announced that he had a singular case. Our morning had begun with tea, as usual, but I had hardly poured the first cup when the office door opened and the man with the singular case walked in.

It is well known by now that Magnus Abelard deals only with singular cases, so everyone who walks through the door announces that he has a singular case. Nevertheless, the door is, by Abelard’s explicit command, never locked; and this case really did turn out to be singular. I have taken the trouble, therefore, to record it among Abelard’s most remarkable achievements, in the hope that the record will serve as an imperishable monument to Abelard’s genius.

We began with the usual formalities. I informed our visitor that he would have ten minutes to convince Abelard of the singularity of his case. I also explained the payment schedule in the unlikely event that Abelard did pronounce his case singular. Abelard did not speak during the proceedings; he never does speak until some singular aspect of the case has caught his attention.

“Mine is a singular case,” the visitor began as I took notes. “Indeed, it is so singular that I have not spoken with anyone about it until now. I have lived for ten years in fear for my life—a fear all the worse for being secret. I have not dared reveal it to anyone, and yet it eats at me, day after day, hour after hour, like a kind of parasitic creature that gnaws but cannot consume.”

“You have nine and a half minutes,” I reminded him.

“Ten years ago, my wife, to whom I had been married only a month, announced that she had a few purchases to make, and declared her intention to walk to the drug store on Murray Avenue. She would be gone for about an hour, she said. I bid her farewell; she walked out the door; and that, Mr. Abelard, was the last time I ever saw her.

“I shall not weary you with the details of my inquiries. Over the years, I have found opportunities to interrogate our neighbors and the clerks at the drug store. From their statements, I have discovered that my wife did indeed reach the drug store; that she left and turned right on Murray Avenue; that she was last seen walking on Phillips, the very street on which we lived, in the direction of our house. But she never arrived.”

Here the visitor stopped; and, as Abelard was still silent, I knew the narration had not interested him enough for him to take the case. It was therefore incumbent upon me to disappoint our visitor.

“Disappearances such as the one you describe,” I told him, “while exceedingly regrettable, are not extraordinarily uncommon. Perhaps the city police, or a less specialized private agency, might be able to render you some assistance.”

Our visitor sat back in his chair and sighed. “I have not yet revealed to you,” he said slowly and quietly, “the singular aspect of the case.”

Abelard leaned forward. This statement had at least caught his attention.

The visitor took a deep breath, appeared to think for a moment, and then continued, picking his words with care and deliberation.

“About an hour after my wife left, a woman entered my house by the front door. She entered boldly—as if she owned the place, you might say. Now here is the singular and remarkable thing: in every particular, this woman was the exact image of my missing wife. Even her clothes were the same as the ones my wife had been wearing when she left. She proceeded to make herself quite at home; she treated me as though she were actually my wife.”

Here the visitor leaned forward and lowered his voice about a fifth. “For ten years, Mr. Abelard, that woman has inhabited my house, living in every respect as though she were my wife. For ten long years, I have lived in fear, utterly convinced that this woman in my house is somehow deeply involved in the mystery, and afraid even to sleep at night—afraid I might fall prey to the same sinister forces that took my beloved wife from me. The fear is tearing at my soul, sir, and I have at last resolved that, whatever the cost to myself, I must unravel this mystery.”

A moment of silence followed; then Abelard spoke for the first time.

“And how exactly was it that you knew this woman was not really your wife, returned from her shopping trip?”

The visitor started forward; then he sank slowly back in his chair, staring straight ahead.

“Good lord,” he whispered hoarsely.

Abelard observed him closely.

“Good lord,” the visitor said again, somewhat louder this time. “I never thought of that.”

He sat upright in his chair with a new air of confidence. “Well, sir, you certainly have earned your reputation. I never would have imagined that a mystery of such devilish complexity could be unraveled in such a short time. I shall certainly be recommending your agency. You may expect a check from me in the morning, although you must be aware that no remuneration could ever express my profound gratitude. I bid you good day, and once again I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Abelard watched him walk out of the office with a jaunty confidence that had been completely foreign to him only minutes before.

For some time after, Abelard was silent, as though lost in thought. At last he turned to address me.

“Perhaps,” he said, “we ought to reconsider the idea of locking the door.”

Published in: on June 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm  Comments (1)  

THE SINGULAR ASPECT.

IN HONOR OF the third anniversary of the migration of his celebrated Magazine to the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli reprints the first story he ever published in electrical form.

A MAN WALKED into Abelard’s office the other day and announced that he had a singular case. Our morning had begun with tea, as usual, but I had hardly poured the first cup when the office door opened and the man with the singular case walked in.

It is well known by now that Magnus Abelard deals only with singular cases, so everyone who walks through the door announces that he has a singular case. Nevertheless, the door is, by Abelard’s explicit command, never locked; and this case really did turn out to be singular. I have taken the trouble, therefore, to record it among Abelard’s most remarkable achievements, in the hope that the record will serve as an imperishable monument to Abelard’s genius.

We began with the usual formalities. I informed our visitor that he would have ten minutes to convince Abelard of the singularity of his case. I also explained the payment schedule in the unlikely event that Abelard did pronounce his case singular. Abelard did not speak during the proceedings; he never does speak until some singular aspect of the case has caught his attention.

“Mine is a singular case,” the visitor began as I took notes. “Indeed, it is so singular that I have not spoken with anyone about it until now. I have lived for ten years in fear for my life—a fear all the worse for being secret. I have not dared reveal it to anyone, and yet it eats at me, day after day, hour after hour, like a kind of parasitic creature that gnaws but cannot consume.”

“You have nine and a half minutes,” I reminded him.

“Ten years ago, my wife, to whom I had been married only a month, announced that she had a few purchases to make, and declared her intention to walk to the drug store on Murray Avenue. She would be gone for about an hour, she said. I bid her farewell; she walked out the door; and that, Mr. Abelard, was the last time I ever saw her.

“I shall not weary you with the details of my inquiries. Over the years, I have found opportunities to interrogate our neighbors and the clerks at the drug store. From their statements, I have discovered that my wife did indeed reach the drug store; that she left and turned right on Murray Avenue; that she was last seen walking on Phillips, the very street on which we lived, in the direction of our house. But she never arrived.”

Here the visitor stopped; and, as Abelard was still silent, I knew the narration had not interested him enough for him to take the case. It was therefore incumbent upon me to disappoint our visitor.

“Disappearances such as the one you describe,” I told him, “while exceedingly regrettable, are not extraordinarily uncommon. Perhaps the city police, or a less specialized private agency, might be able to render you some assistance.”

Our visitor sat back in his chair and sighed. “I have not yet revealed to you,” he said slowly and quietly, “the singular aspect of the case.”

Abelard leaned forward. This statement had at least caught his attention.

The visitor took a deep breath, appeared to think for a moment, and then continued, picking his words with care and deliberation.

“About an hour after my wife left, a woman entered my house by the front door. She entered boldly—as if she owned the place, you might say. Now here is the singular and remarkable thing: in every particular, this woman was the exact image of my missing wife. Even her clothes were the same as the ones my wife had been wearing when she left. She proceeded to make herself quite at home; she treated me as though she were actually my wife.”

Here the visitor leaned forward and lowered his voice about a fifth. “For ten years, Mr. Abelard, that woman has inhabited my house, living in every respect as though she were my wife. For ten long years, I have lived in fear, utterly convinced that this woman in my house is somehow deeply involved in the mystery, and afraid even to sleep at night—afraid I might fall prey to the same sinister forces that took my beloved wife from me. The fear is tearing at my soul, sir, and I have at last resolved that, whatever the cost to myself, I must unravel this mystery.”

A moment of silence followed; then Abelard spoke for the first time.

“And how exactly was it that you knew this woman was not really your wife, returned from her shopping trip?”

The visitor started forward; then he sank slowly back in his chair, staring straight ahead.

“Good lord,” he whispered hoarsely.

Abelard observed him closely.

“Good lord,” the visitor said again, somewhat louder this time. “I never thought of that.”

He sat upright in his chair with a new air of confidence. “Well, sir, you certainly have earned your reputation. I never would have imagined that a mystery of such devilish complexity could be unraveled in such a short time. I shall certainly be recommending your agency. You may expect a check from me in the morning, although you must be aware that no remuneration could ever express my profound gratitude. I bid you good day, and once again I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Abelard watched him walk out of the office with a jaunty confidence that had been completely foreign to him only minutes before.

For some time after, Abelard was silent, as though lost in thought. At last he turned to address me.

“Perhaps,” he said, “we ought to reconsider the idea of locking the door.”

Published in: on June 24, 2010 at 8:55 am  Comments (2)  

THE KITTEN WHO WANTED TO BE AN EMPRESS.

From Dr. Boli’s Fables for Children Who Are Too Old to Believe in Fables.

Empress

ONE DAY AT the school for anthropomorphic animals, the teacher (a motherly old hen) decided to ask the children what they wanted to be when they grew up.

First she came to a retriever puppy, who was always at the top of the class in every accomplishment. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the teacher asked her.

“I want to be an astronaut,” the retriever puppy answered. “I want to discover new planets and boldly go where no retriever has gone before.”

“Well, if that’s your dream,” the teacher said, “then you stick to it. Because ours is a country where anything is possible, and if you really work hard, you can grow up to be anything you want to be.”

Next the teacher came to a little raccoon. “And what do you want to be when you grow up?” the teacher asked the raccoon.

“I want to be an architect,” the raccoon answered. “I want to design beautiful museums and recreation centers for the delight and edification of the working classes.”

“Well, if that’s your dream,” the teacher said, “then you stick to it. Because ours is a country where anything is possible, and if you really work hard, you can grow up to be anything you want to be.”

Next the teacher came to a little red fox. “And what do you want to be when you grow up?” the teacher asked the fox.

“I want to be an accountant,” the fox answered. “I want to be the best accountant there ever was. I want to account things no one has ever accounted before.”

“Well, if that’s your dream,” the teacher said, “then you stick to it. Because ours is a country where anything is possible, and if you really work hard, you can grow up to be anything you want to be.”

Then the teacher came to a little white kitten. “And what do you want to be when you grow up?” she asked the kitten.

“I want to be an empress,” the kitten answered.

“An empress?”

“Yes,” the kitten said. “I want to have absolute power and tell everybody what to do and no one can challenge me or I’ll chop all their heads off.”

“I’m not sure that’s a practical ambition, dear,” the teacher said gently.

“Why not?” the kitten demanded. “You said ours was a country where anything was possible. You said that if we really worked hard, we could grow up to be anything we wanted to be.”

“Technically, I did say those things,” the teacher admitted.

“Well, I want to be an empress,” the kitten declared.

“But, you see,” the teacher explained patiently, “we have a democracy, or more properly a republican form of government, which is guaranteed in our constitution. That means that no one can have absolute power, because all power ultimately derives from the people.”

“Phooey,” the kitten said. “It’s not really a democracy if you can’t grow up to be anything you want to be. And what I want to be is an empress.”

“I’m sorry, dear,” the teacher said. And turning to face the rest of the class, she explained, “I should have said that ours was a country where almost anything is possible, and that if you work hard you can grow up to be almost anything you want, absolute sovereign with arbitrary power excepted.”

But the kitten did become an empress after all. When she grew up, she went into politics, and her good looks and aggressive personality made her an instant success. First she was elected as a member of parliament, and then she became Minister of Defense, and then she was chosen Prime Minister, and then she abrogated the constitution and ruled by decree, and everyone did exactly what she told them to do all day long. And when anyone disagreed with her, she chopped off his head. But she really had to chop off very few heads, because public opinion was solidly behind her, and most of the people agreed that a strong leader was exactly what we needed in the current crisis, whatever the current crisis was.

So the kitten proved that hers really is the sort of country where anything is possible, and where, if you really work hard, you can grow up to be anything you want to be. Or at least it used to be that way, although it’s not so much anymore.

MORAL: If you want to grow up to be anything you want to be, you’d probably better grow up right now.

Published in: on August 23, 2009 at 5:05 pm  Comments (3)  

THE SINGULAR ASPECT.

Second-Anniversary-Day

[In honor of the second anniversary of the migration of his Celebrated Magazine to the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli is reprinting the first story he ever published in electrical form.]

A MAN WALKED into Abelard’s office the other day and announced that he had a singular case. Our morning had begun with tea, as usual, but I had hardly poured the first cup when the office door opened and the man with the singular case walked in.

It is well known by now that Magnus Abelard deals only with singular cases, so everyone who walks through the door announces that he has a singular case. Nevertheless, the door is, by Abelard’s explicit command, never locked; and this case really did turn out to be singular. I have taken the trouble, therefore, to record it among Abelard’s most remarkable achievements, in the hope that the record will serve as an imperishable monument to Abelard’s genius.

We began with the usual formalities. I informed our visitor that he would have ten minutes to convince Abelard of the singularity of his case. I also explained the payment schedule in the unlikely event that Abelard did pronounce his case singular. Abelard did not speak during the proceedings; he never does speak until some singular aspect of the case has caught his attention.

“Mine is a singular case,” the visitor began as I took notes. “Indeed, it is so singular that I have not spoken with anyone about it until now. I have lived for ten years in fear for my life—a fear all the worse for being secret. I have not dared reveal it to anyone, and yet it eats at me, day after day, hour after hour, like a kind of parasitic creature that gnaws but cannot consume.”

“You have nine and a half minutes,” I reminded him.

“Ten years ago, my wife, to whom I had been married only a month, announced that she had a few purchases to make, and declared her intention to walk to the drug store on Murray Avenue. She would be gone for about an hour, she said. I bid her farewell; she walked out the door; and that, Mr. Abelard, was the last time I ever saw her.

“I shall not weary you with the details of my inquiries. Over the years, I have found opportunities to interrogate our neighbors and the clerks at the drug store. From their statements, I have discovered that my wife did indeed reach the drug store; that she left and turned right on Murray Avenue; that she was last seen walking on Phillips, the very street on which we lived, in the direction of our house. But she never arrived.”

Here the visitor stopped; and, as Abelard was still silent, I knew the narration had not interested him enough for him to take the case. It was therefore incumbent upon me to disappoint our visitor.

“Disappearances such as the one you describe,” I told him, “while exceedingly regrettable, are not extraordinarily uncommon. Perhaps the city police, or a less specialized private agency, might be able to render you some assistance.”

Our visitor sat back in his chair and sighed. “I have not yet revealed to you,” he said slowly and quietly, “the singular aspect of the case.”

Abelard leaned forward. This statement had at least caught his attention.

The visitor took a deep breath, appeared to think for a moment, and then continued, picking his words with care and deliberation.

“About an hour after my wife left, a woman entered my house by the front door. She entered boldly—as if she owned the place, you might say. Now here is the singular and remarkable thing: in every particular, this woman was the exact image of my missing wife. Even her clothes were the same as the ones my wife had been wearing when she left. She proceeded to make herself quite at home; she treated me as though she were actually my wife.”

Here the visitor leaned forward and lowered his voice about a fifth. “For ten years, Mr. Abelard, that woman has inhabited my house, living in every respect as though she were my wife. For ten long years, I have lived in fear, utterly convinced that this woman in my house is somehow deeply involved in the mystery, and afraid even to sleep at night—afraid I might fall prey to the same sinister forces that took my beloved wife from me. The fear is tearing at my soul, sir, and I have at last resolved that, whatever the cost to myself, I must unravel this mystery.”

A moment of silence followed; then Abelard spoke for the first time.

“And how exactly was it that you knew this woman was not really your wife, returned from her shopping trip?”

The visitor started forward; then he sank slowly back in his chair, staring straight ahead.

“Good lord,” he whispered hoarsely.

Abelard observed him closely.

“Good lord,” the visitor said again, somewhat louder this time. “I never thought of that.”

He sat upright in his chair with a new air of confidence. “Well, sir, you certainly have earned your reputation. I never would have imagined that a mystery of such devilish com­plex­ity could be unraveled in such a short time. I shall certainly be recommending your agency. You may expect a check from me in the morning, although you must be aware that no re­muneration could ever express my profound gratitude. I bid you good day, and once again I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Abelard watched him walk out of the office with a jaunty confidence that had been completely foreign to him only minutes before.

For some time after, Abelard was silent, as though lost in thought. At last he turned to address me.

“Perhaps,” he said, “we ought to reconsider the idea of locking the door.”

Published in: on June 24, 2009 at 12:00 am  Comments (3)  

THE MAN WHO BUILT A RHINOCEROS FROM A KIT.

Anniversary-Week-2

[In honor of the forthcoming second anniversary of Dr. Boli on the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli is reprinting a number of his own favorite articles from the past two years.]

ONCE THERE WAS a man who decided to build a rhinoceros from a kit.

His sister, who had never liked rhinoceroi, warned him that no good would ever come from it. “You’ll get trampled flat like a tortilla, that’s what will happen,” she said. “You can’t keep a rhinoceros around the house.”

“It’s not a terribly big one,” he answered. “And I like building things.”

“It will stomp you into a jelly,” she assured him. But he kept working, screwing the back legs into assembly no. 5 as shown in fig. 3-b.

Later on one of his friends stopped by to see how he was doing.

“Still building that rhinoceros,” the friend said in a slightly patronizing way.

“Just about halfway done,” the man said, attaching the hindquarters to the spine as shown in fig. 13-h.

“Don’t hold much with rhinocerosesses,” the friend said. “They stomp all over you and expect you to like it.”

“It’s only a medium-sized one,” the man said, and he continued fiddling with his screwdriver and glue gun.

After a little while, a woman came to read the gas meter. “Building a rhinoceros?” she asked, just to make pleasant conversation.

“I’m getting close to finished now,” the man answered, attaching shoulder assembly (3) to abdominal cavity (4) as shown in fig. 21-m.

“I knew a guy who bought a ready-made rhino from K-mart,” the meter-reader said. “That thing stomped him flatter than Cleveland.”

“It’s not the most powerful model,” the man responded, and he snapped the shoulders into place with a satisfying click.

At last the man was ready to screw the horn in place to complete his rhinoceros.

“Don’t do it,” his sister warned him. “It’ll squash you to tapioca.”

“Don’t do it,” said the friend. “You’ll get trampled for sure.”

“Don’t do it,” said the meter-reader, who was still hanging around for some reason. “You’ll be flattened in seconds.”

But the man screwed the horn in anyway, and now he and his rhinoceros are the best of friends, running a small antique shop from a storefront near their home. Which just goes to show you what a lot of meddling busybodies the people around you are, and I wouldn’t listen to them at all if I were you.

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 1:00 pm  Comments (2)  

THE GOOD OLD DAYS.

“TELL ME AGAIN about the old days, grandmother,” said the sweet little girl sitting by the fire.

“Well,” her grandmother began, her eyes misting over with nostalgia, “we didn’t have trees or any of these modern conveniences. When we wanted wood, we had to make it ourselves. I remember the day old Mitch from down at the mill told your great-grandpappy that there was a new kind of plant that grew wood in its stem, and all you had to do was take it if you wanted it. Pappy laughed himself sick. That was how he died, in fact.

“We had to walk fifteen miles in the snow just to get to school, and then when we got there we had to turn around and walk right back, because schools hadn’t been invented yet.

“The sun didn’t start automatically every morning the way it does now. Pappy had to turn a crank, and some mornings it took forever to get it started. Those were cold mornings, but all we could do was shiver until Pappy got the sun started, because of course no one had thought of blankets in those days.

“The moon was a bit smaller then, and more rectangular. There weren’t nearly as many stars, but then we lived in a poor neighborhood. We didn’t know we were poor, though, because poverty wasn’t discovered till I was eighteen years old. I remember that day, and how cheated we all felt when we finally found out we were poor.

“We didn’t have opposable thumbs back then, either. When we wanted to pick something up, we had to use our toes, so of course we fell down a lot. We couldn’t hold cups, so we had to drink everything through a straw, even hot water, which we couldn’t make into tea or coffee because no one had thought of those things.

“People didn’t live very long in those days, either. The average lifespan was about twenty-one. I myself died when I was nineteen, but I didn’t like it and gave it up after a while. Most people died of starvation, because food hadn’t been invented yet, and the only time we ate anything was when something accidentally fell into our mouths.”

“Goodness, grandmother,” said the little girl, “aren’t you glad you lived to see our modern world, with all its wonderful inventions?”

“Well, I’m not so sure I am,” the kindly old lady replied. “We had to work hard in the old days, but that made us tough. We didn’t have time for dilly-dallying with fripperies like shoes and elbows. I forgot to mention that elbows hadn’t been invented yet, either, so we had to hold our arms straight out like this. But we didn’t complain, because complaining hadn’t been invented yet, either. No, those were the good old days.”

Published in: on July 24, 2008 at 2:34 pm  Comments (1)  

FIRST ANNIVERSARY.

Today is Dr. Boli’s first anniversary on the World-Wide Web. In honor of this auspicious occasion, he is reprinting the very first story that ever appeared in his CELEBRATED MAGAZINE, one year ago today.

The Singular Aspect.

A man walked into Abelard’s office the other day and announced that he had a singular case. Our morning had begun with tea, as usual, but I had hardly poured the first cup when the office door opened and the man with the singular case walked in.

It is well known by now that Magnus Abelard deals only with singular cases, so everyone who walks through the door announces that he has a singular case. Nevertheless, the door is, by Abelard’s explicit command, never locked; and this case really did turn out to be singular. I have taken the trouble, therefore, to record it among Abelard’s most remarkable achievements, in the hope that the record will serve as an imperishable monument to Abelard’s genius.

We began with the usual formalities. I informed our visitor that he would have ten minutes to convince Abelard of the singularity of his case. I also explained the payment schedule in the unlikely event that Abelard did pronounce his case singular. Abelard did not speak during the proceedings; he never does speak until some singular aspect of the case has caught his attention.

“Mine is a singular case,” the visitor began as I took notes. “Indeed, it is so singular that I have not spoken with anyone about it until now. I have lived for ten years in fear for my life—a fear all the worse for being secret. I have not dared reveal it to anyone, and yet it eats at me, day after day, hour after hour, like a kind of parasitic creature that gnaws but cannot consume.”

“You have nine and a half minutes,” I reminded him.

“Ten years ago, my wife, to whom I had been married only a month, announced that she had a few purchases to make, and declared her intention to walk to the drug store on Murray Avenue. She would be gone for about an hour, she said. I bid her farewell; she walked out the door; and that, Mr. Abelard, was the last time I ever saw her.

“I shall not weary you with the details of my inquiries. Over the years, I have found opportunities to interrogate our neighbors and the clerks at the drug store. From their statements, I have discovered that my wife did indeed reach the drug store; that she left and turned right on Murray Avenue; that she was last seen walking on Phillips, the very street on which we lived, in the direction of our house. But she never arrived.”

Here the visitor stopped; and, as Abelard was still silent, I knew the narration had not interested him enough for him to take the case. It was therefore incumbent upon me to disappoint our visitor.

“Disappearances such as the one you describe,” I told him, “while exceedingly regrettable, are not extraordinarily uncommon. Perhaps the city police, or a less specialized private agency, might be able to render you some assistance.”

Our visitor sat back in his chair and sighed. “I have not yet revealed to you,” he said slowly and quietly, “the singular aspect of the case.”

Abelard leaned forward. This statement had at least caught his attention.

The visitor took a deep breath, appeared to think for a moment, and then continued, picking his words with care and deliberation.

“About an hour after my wife left, a woman entered my house by the front door. She entered boldly—as if she owned the place, you might say. Now here is the singular and remarkable thing: in every particular, this woman was the exact image of my missing wife. Even her clothes were the same as the ones my wife had been wearing when she left. She proceeded to make herself quite at home; she treated me as though she were actually my wife.”

Here the visitor leaned forward and lowered his voice about a fifth. “For ten years, Mr. Abelard, that woman has inhabited my house, living in every respect as though she were my wife. For ten long years, I have lived in fear, utterly convinced that this woman in my house is somehow deeply involved in the mystery, and afraid even to sleep at night—afraid I might fall prey to the same sinister forces that took my beloved wife from me. The fear is tearing at my soul, sir, and I have at last resolved that, whatever the cost to myself, I must unravel this mystery.”

A moment of silence followed; then Abelard spoke for the first time.

“And how exactly was it that you knew this woman was not really your wife, returned from her shopping trip?”

The visitor started forward; then he sank slowly back in his chair, staring straight ahead.

“Good lord,” he whispered hoarsely.

Abelard observed him closely.

“Good lord,” the visitor said again, somewhat louder this time. “I never thought of that.”

He sat upright in his chair with a new air of confidence. “Well, sir, you certainly have earned your reputation. I never would have imagined that a mystery of such devilish com­plex­ity could be unraveled in such a short time. I shall certainly be recommending your agency. You may expect a check from me in the morning, although you must be aware that no re­muneration could ever express my profound gratitude. I bid you good day, and once again I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Abelard watched him walk out of the office with a jaunty confidence that had been completely foreign to him only minutes before.

For some time after, Abelard was silent, as though lost in thought. At last he turned to address me.

“Perhaps,” he said, “we ought to reconsider the idea of locking the door.”

Published in: on June 24, 2008 at 8:47 am  Comments (2)  

THE MAN WHO BUILT A RHINOCEROS FROM A KIT.

ONCE THERE WAS a man who decided to build a rhinoceros from a kit.

His sister, who had never liked rhinoceroi, warned him that no good would ever come from it. “You’ll get trampled flat like a tortilla, that’s what will happen,” she said. “You can’t keep a rhinoceros around the house.”

“It’s not a terribly big one,” he answered. “And I like building things.”

“It will stomp you into a jelly,” she assured him. But he kept working, screwing the back legs into assembly no. 5 as shown in fig. 3-b.

Later on one of his friends stopped by to see how he was doing.

“Still building that rhinoceros,” the friend said in a slightly patronizing way.

“Just about halfway done,” the man said, attaching the hindquarters to the spine as shown in fig. 13-h.

“Don’t hold much with rhinocerosesses,” the friend said. “They stomp all over you and expect you to like it.”

“It’s only a medium-sized one,” the man said, and he continued fiddling with his screwdriver and glue gun.

After a little while, a woman came to read the gas meter. “Building a rhinoceros?” she asked, just to make pleasant conversation.

“I’m getting close to finished now,” the man answered, attaching shoulder assembly (3) to abdominal cavity (4) as shown in fig. 21-m.

“I knew a guy who bought a ready-made rhino from K-mart,” the meter-reader said. “That thing stomped him flatter than Cleveland.”

“It’s not the most powerful model,” the man responded, and he snapped the shoulders into place with a satisfying click.

At last the man was ready to screw the horn in place to complete his rhinoceros.

“Don’t do it,” his sister warned him. “It’ll squash you to tapioca.”

“Don’t do it,” said the friend. “You’ll get trampled for sure.”

“Don’t do it,” said the meter-reader, who was still hanging around for some reason. “You’ll be flattened in seconds.”

But the man screwed the horn in anyway, and now he and his rhinoceros are the best of friends, running a small antique shop from a storefront near their home. Which just goes to show you what a lot of meddling busybodies the people around you are, and I wouldn’t listen to them at all if I were you.

Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 10:11 pm  Comments (3)