A Tall Ship Tale #83: Turning the Tables

Another entry from Paul DeAnguera.

“That business in Jamaica was a terrible trial,” the First Mate said to Captain Quid, luxuriating in his ability to use the letter “A” again. They were standing on the quarter-deck of the H.M.S. Legume by the starboard rail, watching the Mississippi shoreline drift past.

“Mentioning trials, we’ve got to arrange a trial for Sir Hillary before he escapes again.”

“Good idea. But where would we get a judge?”

“We can do better than a mere judge; we can get an oracle!” The Captain unfolded his chart on the rail and thumped a hairy finger on it. The First Mate bent closer to it and read:


“Delphi, Indiana?” he said doubtfully. “I thought Delphi was in Greece?”

“See for yourself! Delphi is just east of where Deer Creek empties into the Wabash, off Route 421, south of Yeoman, north of Harley Siding. It must be true, or they wouldn’t let them print it. And I’ve heard Delphi’s got throngs of oracles!”

When the ship reached Deer Creek they found the people of Delphi at the river’s edge for their annual log-rolling contest. “The oracle will parse your query later on,” the Mayor told them. He handed them the oracle’s pointed hat, covered with stars and moons. “Here’s your reservation! But first you must prove your worthiness by performing a log rotation.”

Quid had some experience with the captain’s log. But at the First Mate’s urging he appointed Sanders, the Unix Kernel, champion for the ship. Kernel Sanders presented himself at the checkpoint on the databank and was directed to the current log. He stepped onto it, starting it rolling as he did so. “Startup mount!” someone called admiringly. But then he lost his footing and fell in the water.

“He should get another chance,” Quid insisted. “After all, that’s a redo log!”

This time the Kernel was more successful. He began walking sideways, propelling the log with his feet. But just as he had gotten a good start across the creek he set foot on a section of log that was rotating in the opposite direction and fell in the river again.

“Dratted rollback segments,” Sanders snarled, wringing out his hat.

“Give this man another chance,” the Captain shouted.

“Why should we?” the townspeople hooted.

“Kernel extension!” But at that point a photographer who was covering the contest fainted. The ship’s doctor snatched his camera, wound it, and took the photographer’s picture. The photographer jumped up and seemed quite lively again. “Thanks for the snapshot refresh!” But then he staggered dizzily and fell across a tablespace. She bent over him with concern. “Incomplete media recovery,” she concluded sadly.

But Quid was still insisting on a third chance for the Kernel. “Let’s check the rules,” the Mayor decided. He pulled open a file drawer built into the end of the log. “Why are you surprised? It’s an archive log, after all,” he pointed out. But as it happened he selected an inverted file. Its contents promptly fell in the water.

The ship’s officers retrieved some leaf pages and discovered that they were forms — most of them rather similar to each other, along with a few strange ones. They tried to read them, and had just gotten to the third normal form when they realized the Mayor had crept away. He was crossing the creek in company with a gowned figure that could only be the oracle they had been promised! They were rolling a giant sphere with their feet, walking arm in arm across the shared global area.

“Wait!” the Captain cried. “That oracle was supposed to judge our case! This hat is our reservation!” But the oracle only snorted derisively,

“You can’t book a judge by his cover!”

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