Who thinks up this stuff? For the Cramp
|“Hey, Charlie.What are you doing at the park? You’re usually at home.”
He glanced up from writing. “ Oh, hi Clare. What’s up with you?”
“Ive just come back from the dentist. She thinks I need another crown.”
“Oh, bad luck. But while you’re here, can you answer a question for me?”
“I can try. What’s the question?”
“What do animal dentists say when talking to a Black panther about his teeth?”
“What? Is that a serious question, Charlie?”
“ I’m completely serious, Clare. How do you tell a dangerous creature to stay put and behave when announcing you’re going to cut away at its teeth? I wouldn’t want to do it.”
“I have no idea and I don’t want to know. Why?”
He picked up the green book beside him and made a note.
No answer. I tried once more. “Why do you want to know about big cat dental work?”
He smiled. “I’m writing a list of unanswered questions. The panther question just made the list, so I jotted it down.”
“ Is this because you retired last fall?”
“ Well, not exactly. I’ve always wanted to know things, and now I have the chance to investigate my questions. Some of what I’m curious about doesn’t appear to have answers. So, I started this list. I’m up to page fifty-three, single spaced.” He radiated pride in this accomplishment.
Charlie had always been a decent neighbor, if a little odd. He’d cleared my driveway in rotten weather, recommended I invest in Eli Lilly stock, and given me the number of a good chiropractor. In retirement, he’d advanced from decent to eccentric, original, and intriguing. So I asked.
“What are some of your other questions, Charlie?”
“Well, let me find some better ones for you. Some of them are dull.” He riffled
through the pages. “Here’s one for you. An advertisement, or ad, promotes something or someone. Ads allow us to know about sales, events, meetings, and such. Correct?”
“Yes, that’s right. Why?”
“Keep listening until I’m done.” He’d adopted a lecturing tone. A vice is a type of wrongdoing deliberately committed by another. “
“I’m listening,” I answered, wondering where this was going.
“So, is offering advice deliberately promoting wrongdoing?”
Professorial, I added. He’s original, eccentric, intriguing, and professorial.
“Um, I’m not sure. Wouldn’t you need to look at the root words for that?”
“But do the root words come from the same language? Do we need to consider current usage? What about secondary and tertiary definitions for words? These are all questions that spring from the first query.”
I couldn’t just leave with that hanging between us. Besides, I hadn’t held a good conversation with someone in months. I encouraged him. “What other questions do you have?”
“I’m glad you asked. Here’s a few that stumped me.” He handed me the book. I read:
Who was the first man to grill steak?
Both dogs and trees have bark. When dogs bark at trees, why don’t trees bark back?
Do dinosaurs shed like snakes do?
When a star is born, does it cry?
If stalling is a method of blocking access, why aren’t we trapped in public bathroom stalls?
I finished reading and returned the book to Charlie.
“What did you think?” He seemed anxious about my answer. I chose tact.
“I’ve never read anything like this before, Charlie. These questions are amazing.”
“Tremendous! I have many more we can discuss together.”
Oh, no. “I need to get home— and feed the cats now. It was good to see you, though. I still want you to answer my question? What are you doing at the park?”
“ The wife threw me out. She got tired of all my questions.”