Posted on June 10th, 2016
Hey kids! Think you’ve got the smarts to bust open these three brain-twisting melon scratchers? Wowie, these riddles sure are tough! But no peaking at the answers until you’ve given each one a shot, okay?
- Jeremy works in an administrative position for a military subcontractor. The specifics of the work he does are so opaque and tedious that even Jeremy himself is not 100% sure he understands all of it, but the gist is that, when the military buys electronic equipment from foreign companies, it is Jeremy’s job is to develop a summary of the transaction and the equipment purchased to be reviewed by [REDACTED]. After [REDACTED] reviews the summary of the transaction, Jeremy receives notes that he then uses to revise his summary. Oftentimes, this revised summary contains misleading or even outright false claims about the transaction to which it refers. Over the years, Jeremy has been able to identify some trends in the types of changes that [REDACTED] tends to make to his summaries: for instance, [REDACTED] seems to never want a final summary to indicate that more than 1,000 hard drives were purchased from a Vietnamese company, or that more than $150k was spent with any company based in a former Soviet nation in a single transaction, or that transactions made with Qatari or Saudi businesses not be approved by certain general or admirals; in all cases, the reasoning behind these preferences are complete mysteries to him. These restrictions, as far as Jeremy can tell, do not hold true for the transactions themselves, only for the summaries. Once Jeremy’s changes have been made, the summary is returned to [REDACTED] to be shown to people or committees that Jeremy knows nothing about. When Jeremy was new to this line of work, he found this veil of secrecy alternately frustrating and intriguing. Nowadays it barely registers. He’s become adept at making changes before they’re requested, often needing only the most inscrutable of adjustments to be sent to him by [REDACTED]. He has received several commendations, and feels confident that in 5 to 7 years he will be supervising his department provided his current supervisor retires on time.
Q: Who is Jeremy helping?
- Kim and Laura were in grade school together during the second Bush administration. It would be misleading to say that they were ‘friends’ in the literal sense, since in reality they knew very little about each other beyond certain superficialities about music and TV shows they liked. Still, they were of roughly equal social standing and had several friends in common, so it was not infrequent that people assumed they were closer than they really were. They had generally fair-to-high opinions of each other and could mutually enjoy some polite small talk or gossip on occasion. When they were both sixteen, there was something of a scandal in their fairly small town when a rumor began spreading that Kim had performed certain lewd acts with Mr. Kristoff, the PE teacher and girls’ volleyball coach, in the back seat of his Toyota RAV4 in the parking lot behind the gym one evening after a volleyball game. The veracity of this rumor was never really confirmed one way or another. Kim and Mr. Kristoff both denied it, though he did get divorced shortly thereafter and eventually left the school to teach in another state. There were also at least three different versions of the rumor, each of which featured the same basic premise (that they were discovered by Becca Radowitz, who ran out to Mr. Kristoff’s RAV4 after discovering that he had left his wallet behind in the gym), but varied greatly in the depravity of the acts witnessed, ranging from simple kissing (the version Becca herself would tell) to far more adventurous arrangements repeated in the privacy of the school bus and the teacher’s lounge. In any case, whether she had actually engaged in any of said lewd acts or not, Kim found herself at the center of a whirlwind of speculation and moral grandstanding, the most visible results of which were the sudden decimation of her GPA and her alienation from most of the people she had once considered her friends. Laura, for her part, reacted to the whole affair almost as severely as Kim did, though not out of sympathy for her acquaintance; Laura, who had recently engaged for the first time in acts of moderate lewdness with a slightly older boy who worked with her at Panera, found the negative attention pointed at Kim over what seemed to Laura like similarly lewd activities to her own to be extremely distressing and filling her with anxiety about the possibility that her own filthy debauchery would be discovered and she, too, would lose her precious 3.7 and tight knit social circle. The boy at Panera, of course, knew next to nothing about any of this, and found Laura’s suddenly icy and in no way flirtatious demeanor towards him surprising and upsetting (though his father tried to assure him that such behavior was typical for chicks that age). After somehow managing to avoid discovery and complete her high school education, Laura studied Spanish and history at a small liberal arts college in New England, and did reasonably well despite now taking medication for a recently diagnosed anxiety disorder. Since a certain fateful evening on the couch in the basement at the house of the boy from Panera, Laura found the prospect of physical intimacy terrifying, and tended to avoid placing herself in situations where she thought men might identify her as a single woman and attempt to hit on her, especially if there was alcohol involved. After college, Laura moved to a nearby city and got a job at a grocery store. She had a very small group of mediocre friends and lived by herself in a tiny apartment, which was expensive to do in a city on a retail salary but was worth it to Laura for the privacy. Today, Laura is at work, moving cans of tomato paste from the back of the shelf towards the front, and down at the end of the aisle she is in is a woman pushing a cart who Laura is 80-85% sure is Kim. Seeing Kim and the whole associated web of neurosis and anxieties makes Laura’s ears ring and her vision go fuzzy; she feels lightheaded and is having a hard time catching her breath. As the woman who might very well be Kim moves toward Laura down the aisle, Laura tries to regain enough composure to make it back through the store to receiving, since she absolutely cannot handle talking to or even really looking at Kim right now, if that is really her.
Q: What do Laura, Kim, and the boy from Panera all have in common?
- Kevin the Caterpillar was happily munching away on a leaf one day when he noticed something odd: down on the branch where his friend Stevie had been hanging out the day before, Stevie was nowhere to be seen! He would be hard to miss, with his yellow polka-dots and the big red stripe down his back. Instead, there was some sort of weird fuzzy lump that seemed to be stuck to the branch. Kevin looked towards the end of the branch and saw that there were several completely untouched leaves fluttering lightly in the breeze. That wasn’t like Stevie at all! Stevie was the best leaf-muncher Kevin had ever known, and he couldn’t imagine what would have made Stevie leave perfectly good leaves unmunched. Slowly, carefully, Kevin made his way down to Stevie’s branch to investigate. He poked at the weird fuzzy lump with one of the legs closest to his head; it was stick on the outside and felt weirdly gooey on the inside. “Hey, Stevie! Are you in there?” Kevin asked, quietly at first and then again a little louder. The lump didn’t answer, but Kevin thought maybe it vibrated a little the second time he asked. Kevin thought for a minute, and decided that he would stay on the branch for now and keep an eye on Stevie’s remaining leaves. Kevin waited and waited, and then night came, and then day, and night and day again, and again, and still no sign of Stevie. By this point, Kevin felt hungrier than he had ever been. He felt bad about eating Stevie’s leaves, but now he was too weak to get back up to his own branch, and with no sign of Stevie in days he was beginning to worry that something really bad had happened. Slowly, carefully, he made his way down towards the end of the branch. One little munchful at a time, he carefully ate one of the leaves he had been guarding for Stevie. It was the sweetest, juiciest, most sunshine-filled leaf he had ever tasted! Kevin wished Stevie was there to share this delicious leaf with him. When he finished eating, Kevin made his way back over towards the weird fuzzy lump. When he got there, he was amazed to see that the lump had ripped open, and was empty! Kevin felt scared; he wondered what had happened to the gooey thing in the middle of all the sticky fiber. Had Stevie been trapped in there, and he finally made his way out? “Stevie! Oh, Steeevie!” Kevin called out towards the branches below. But no one answered. Slowly, carefully, Kevin made his way back up the tree towards his own branch. He didn’t feel very good. His tummy was upset, and despite having eaten a whole delicious leaf only a few minutes earlier he felt like he had no energy left by the time he got back to his branch. His throat felt scratchy and dry, like there was something stuck in it. Kevin laid down and started to cough; after a few minutes, he coughed up something that looked and felt an awful lot like the stick fiber stuff that the outside of the weird lump on Stevie’s branch was made of. Kevin still felt sick. As night fell, Kevin was exhausted but he couldn’t seem to fall asleep. That night, for the first time, Kevin felt afraid of the moon and all the things that moved beneath it.
Q: … where was I going with this?