Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Case of the Newfangled Device

The door flew open unexpectedly. I reminded myself once again that I should expect the door to fly open. Then it occurred to me that a handwritten note might be more effective. I was halfway through my message ("To Self: Expect the Do...") when, even more unexpectedly, Watley entered the room through the unexpectedly open door.

"Watley!" I cried, feigning casual disinterest. "Do come in old chap, I've been expecting you. I was just in the middle of writing down some, er, very important clues."

"My Dear Sleuthe", Watley enthused, "I've discovered the most amazing contraption. I found it in Inner Mongolistan, not long after you returned home unexpectedly early from our vacation due to your unfortunate medical situation." Before I could explain to Watley yet again how severe the toe stubbing was that had cut my trip short, he had gone back out into the hallway, and a moment later reappeared pulling behind him a cart upon which sat an alarmingly complex device. Its central element was a large carved box of fine stained mahogany, from which protruded on all sides a number of tubes, wires, and probosces in a profusion of lengths and colorations.

"Most interesting," I observed, peering at it through my magnification oculus.

"Yes," replied Watley, "it's a ..."

"You needn't tell me what it is, Watley," I interjected coldly. "To a man of my astonishing intellect, determining the provenance and function of such a device, even though it may not be known to civilized man, is child's play." Once Watley looked sufficiently abashed, I prodded him further: "Well, go on, what is it?"

"Yes, well, indeed. It is ... a Diachronical Videometric Regurgitatotron!"

"A DVR!" I cried. "I mean: That's what I thought. Ahem."

"You see, Sleuthe, you no longer need to worry about forgetting to keep annotated records of your favorite phonographical broadcasts or 'talkies'. All we have to do is hook the device up like so ..." Here Watley busied himself about the room, clamping wires and tying tubes, soldering and gluing, until my quarters had been reduced to a scene of utter chaos.

Watley slid open a hidden panel on the side of the box, pulled out a small dictating machine consisting of a number of metal keys incised with the letters of the alphabet and a number of other symbols, and began tapping away at them, explaining that he was instructing the machine to store an exact duplicate of every Gilbert & Sullivan musical extravaganza performed at the Savoy Theater over the next 35 years.

The machine sputtered to life, huffing and chuffing, shuddering and shaking. Small puffs of steam were noisily discharged from small openings at the top of the box, and sparks flew up and down the wires.

Moments later, the machine began vibrating violently, and within seconds it had shaken itself to bits. Watley looked quite distraught.

"My dear chap," I said, attempting to console him, "No matter! I have little fondness for Gilbert & Sullivan."

"But I paid that Inner Mongolistanian chap for six years of service in advance!" lamented Watley.

The door unexpectedly flew open once again, with Watley pulling on it. In a moment he was gone. I made a mental note to complete the handwritten note to myself about expecting the door to open unexpectedly. Or perhaps a handwritten note to that effect would be more effective ...