PUZZLE -- Bill Kirton
I’m naturally anxious to remind the august membership of Authors Electric that I’m still a keen follower of the group’s comings and goings so I’ve decided to use one of my occasional guest visits to help prolong the relentless gaiety of the Christmas and New Year observations by offering a little light-hearted challenge designed specifically for members' tastes and talents.
In fact, it’s a variation on one I published several years ago by way of response to a Facebook posting. Facebook is a strange place for all sorts of reasons – some good, some less so. Just by answering a few questions, one can, for example, find out really useful things, such as which 18th century politician, Renaissance painter, Jane Austen character, or medieval landlord one most resembles in terms of one’s susceptibility to certain medical conditions. Other queries help one decide whether, temperamentally, one is closer to a porcupine, a swallow-tailed butterfly, or a haddock. Or there’s the simple process of combining the name of a remote relative with the make of car one drives to reveal what one would be called if one were in a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Such fascinating discoveries are all part of the daily reality of millions of people and, on one recent occasion, the abject failure of one of my own investigations of this nature led to me being obliged for a few days, as a forfeit, to replace my habitual Facebook mugshot with that of a llama.
(By way of an irrelevant aside, I should note that I was rather disconcerted when site visitor statistics revealed that, during that period, Bill Kirton, pillar of the community and writer of high quality literature, was clearly far less interesting than Bill Kirton, South American camelid.)
Nonetheless, the experience started me thinking of concocting some puzzles of my own. I don’t mean those in which men have somehow to row wolves, foxes, chickens, goats, sacks of grain and the latest iphone across a river in stages without any of those left on the banks eating one another or stealing the man’s bank account details. They’re too easy. No, my variations would rely on asking questions which had no answers unless one or more responders provided some that made relative sense. And that seemed ideal for this specific forum.
As both writers and readers, we use words to create our worlds, our truths. Faced with extremes of any sort, including absurdity, our impulse is to explain them, bring them under control, impose some order, try to make them make sense. And that’s exactly what the sort of puzzles I’m talking about demand. The puzzle creator provides the text, the reader analyses it and gives it coherence. So, in this case, all you have to do is tell me what’s going on in the following scenario.
‘A middle-aged man is carrying a striped yellow box very carefully. He walks up to a cottage door and knocks. The door is answered by a teenage girl with dreadlocks. Over her scruffy clothes she’s wearing a spotless white apron. She keeps her hands behind her back as they talk.
‘Is Marie-Louise in?’ says the man, ‘I brought this for her’.
‘Let’s see,’ says the girl.
The man opens the box and holds it towards her. She looks inside. It’s empty.
‘They’re all asleep,’ she says. ‘You can’t come in.’
She closes the door. The man takes off his shoes, puts them inside the box, leaves it on the doorstep, and walks away.'
If there are no responses at all, I’ll cry, sulk a lot, drop-kick puppies and kittens into thorny bushes and join the Tory party.