Inspired

Alistair, 

I have experienced a stroke of genius! I am going to make the world’s first Car-With A-Basement. Don’t think double-decker bus; think minivan with a flight of stairs in the back  leading to an underground multipurpose room. Any ideas on how to actually make this work physically? 

Inspired in Fort Erie 


Inspired, 

Too late, it’s already a thing. Granted, there are some loopholes to work out – putting the lower level into another dimension means it tends to get infested with unspeakable horrors, which requires constant cleaning. If you can work around that, you’ll revolutionize the car basement. My money is on a solution involving kale. 

Alistair

Fostering

Alistair, 

Recently my baby sister watched a classic children’s film in which a significant character repeatedly uttered the phrase “Bippity-Boppity-Boo!”. Being a baby – which is  code for “human parrot” – she immediately started repeating that phrase incessantly. At  first, it was cute. Then she said “Bippity-Boppity-Boo!” while waving at an armchair and it  became a throne. Now, whenever she yells those words and gestures at an object, it immediately becomes far more beautiful, useful and valuable. She turned a puddle in the  lawn into an ornate fountain, a plate of bologna into an exquisite feast and our chihuahua  into a block of rough-hewn wood. Now, correct me if I’m wrong in my thinking, but I believe that my sister has a gift – nay, a calling – that will make her somebody very important one  day. How, as an influential figure in her life during the early phases of her development, can I guide her towards making the most of her abilities?

Fostering Mankind’s Future in Lisbon 


Fostering,

There are two kinds of people:

Those who, when presented with the ability to improve whatever they want, immediately go overboard with greed. They glamorize everything in their lives until they realize that sometimes the things you try to improve had greater sentimental value as they were. Then they end up in a beautiful but lonely existence wishing that they could experience a bit of the gritty imperfection that clung to their former poverty. Think King Midas.

Then there are those who, when presented with the ability to improve whatever they want, immediately become whimsically philanthropic. That’s probably more what you’d like to see for your baby sister. 

The short answer is that you can do nothing particularly effective. Be a model of excellent behavior and there will remain the unalterable experience gap that you are an ordinary, blasé, humdrum human whereas she stacks up as a potential element in future development of small countries. Trying to convince her that she owes something to the world, further, is a habit that tends to create people with a sort of crazed positivity that can easily go awry. It’s a conclusion they have to reach more or less on their own.

So, live your own life, do your best, and try and remember that you owe it to her.

Alistair

Listening

Alistair, 

I believe that the stars are trying to speak to me. If I stand very still, close my eyes and listen very hard, I can hear their soft, plaintive voices reaching out to me across the vastness of space. Last night I climbed onto the highest roof in our neighborhood and stood, eyes closed, face upward, straining to hear and this is what I heard: “Heigh-oo-hey!  Geddoun frummth air! Yooar on mrooph! Aryatri-ingta killyersulf. Cahm angeddoun!” What are the stars trying to tell me? 

Listening in ‘Frisco 


Listening, 

The language of the stars is strange, and few can hope to understand it. As one to whom the stars speak, you have been granted an incredible gift. Learn all you can, try to decipher the language. One day, when humanity reaches the stars, you shall speak for mankind, and you shall say “Stand down, you sons of wusses. We’ve got nukes.” 

Alistair

Forgetful

Alistair, 

What have I got in my pocket? 

Forgetful in MM 


Forgetful, 

It took a while to figure this out, as it’s a complicated bit of sympathetic cohesion. While ordinarily a routine process, you need to understand that it kept getting all screwy this time. I had to perform a sort of linked-step quantum entanglement to trace back to your pocket. On top of that, the salt circle kept getting scuffed up, and I had to have Bruce redraw the thing four times, then it turned out he had the schematics upside-down, so I was checking a parallel universe. Having traced it back, it turns out that your pockets are empty, aside from some lint. I can only assume that you’re a smart-aleck, or that we checked the wrong pair of pants. 

Alistair

Keeper

Alistair, 

I have a small collection of invisible sprites. Problem is, I can’t find a place to put  them. They just slip out through any holes, but they still need to breathe. Suggestions? 

Keeper in New Brunswick 


Keeper, 

The respiratory metabolism of sprites – unlike our own – survives at an optimal level for extremely long periods of time if their air supply is rich in high-grade helium. As such, all you need to do to care for your sprites is place them in helium balloons. The tiny creatures will be just fine and you will have a fetching bunch of balloons – especially if these sprites possess the faerie gift of bioluminescence. 

Alistair

Harrowed

Alistair, 

I was driving home last night when suddenly the radio station I was listening to – a  popular music program – went silent. After a couple seconds of light static, a deep voice addressed me by name and ordered me to pull over to the side of the road unless I wanted to die. I did, confused and a little afraid. I sat and listened to the static when suddenly – about fifty yards ahead of me – an explosion went off and filled the road with flames. As soon as this happened, the radio came back on and I sat there, listening to somebody sing  about being happy while I thought about how close I’d come to being burnt alive. This  seems to be up your alley, Alistair so tell me: What was THAT?! 

Harrowed in Jamaica 


Harrowed, 

You almost died, and then you didn’t. Congratulations. 

Alistair

Not Amused

Alistair, 

A dragon has laid eggs the size of golf carts in my backyard. I am not looking forward to when they hatch and there are baby dragons running about destroying my  valuable property. On the other hand, I daren’t touch the eggs because their mother is approximately three times the size of your average lorry. What is a clever way to resolve this unfortunate situation? 

Not Amused at Balmoral 


Not Amused, 

Ah, dragons. Irritating, and you can’t find a good exterminator to take care of them no matter how hard you look. There used to be a chain, but there was an accident and the lawsuits put them out of business. 

The first step to DIY dragon slaying is to determine the type of dragon you have. If it’s an eastern dragon (distinguished by feathers, snaky bodies, and being impossibly ancient creatures with mysterious origins and incredible power) you’ll just have to wait for them to leave on their own. You probably have western dragons, given your location. Check for scales, wings, and characteristic reptilian appearance. 

If you do have western dragons, get yourself a suit of armor. Cover it in cloth and take it out into the yard. Remove the cloth and run like a furious dragon is about to begin indiscriminate slaughter. The mother will probably attempt to torch the armor – if you’ve set it up properly, it won’t fall over and she’ll attempt to melt it. You have about twenty seconds to move the eggs. It’s a little known fact that dragons expect the eggs to remain exactly where they lay, and moving them even six feet will cause the mother to abandon them after a short period. You can then poach them at your leisure. 

Alistair

Different Feather

Alistair, 

Yesterday, while driving to work, I realized that I had forgotten my briefcase and had to return home. Once home, I made directly for the bedroom, where I suspected the  briefcase would be. Opening the door, I discovered my wife – you won’t believe this – being a bird. I mean, she was literally a bird and to be more specific, she was a stork. A very nice-looking stork, I guess, but a stork. I quietly shut the door before she noticed me and then, after a moment of panicking in the hallway, I knocked. She opened the door and I saw that she had returned to her human form. I wordlessly collected my briefcase and left. What am I to make of this, Alistair? 

Of a Different Feather in Amsterdam 


Different Feather, 

Your wife is a welkie. Not, as you might suspect, a Native born Welsh, but a relative of the selkie, Celtic creatures who wore and became seals. They’re a bit like mermaids. 

First of all, don’t tell her you know. Selkies and their kin are notoriously nervous and flighty. In fact, she probably hasn’t worn the stork in months and was just taking a bit of a fly-round. If you come straight out and say, “So, how’re the rooftops, dear?” She’ll probably flee, never to be seen again. What you need to do is be gently supportive without being specific. Try referencing how much you love birds; how you’ve always wanted to make a nest on a wagon wheel; how it would be cool to be married to a stork; things like that. Relieve the tension that comes from hiding a horrible secret by giving the impression that it’s not so bad after all. 

Alistair

Eggshells

Alistair, 

Yesterday my roommate left her cell on the coffee table and for a prank, I started  texting with one of her friends. The conversation took a startling twist when I discovered  that this roommate of mine had apparently made plans with this friend of hers to sacrifice me to some Babylonian god named Damkina. The worst part is that my roommate walked in on me using her phone and discovered what I had seen. Now she’s extremely indignant that I violated her privacy. How can I make things right with her while still making it clear that sacrificing me is not an option? 

Walking on Eggshells in Damascus 


Eggshells, 

Sit her down in a cafe or park; somewhere neutral and public enough that she won’t make a scene. Explain gently and firmly that you are sorry for looking through her phone, but that you still can’t abide being sacrificed. You have your own business, etcetera etcetera. 

If she remains steadfast, just get in touch with Damkina and lay it out. The dear old thing is very progressive these days and would probably be more than a little alarmed to find that anybody was planning a blood sacrifice. She’ll deescalate the situation faster than an Enya song at a rave.

Alistair

Ear Plugs

Alistair, 

A friend of mine asked me to take care of a package for him. Naturally, I said yes. There is now a very large crate in my living room. At first, it was fine, but after the first few hours, the crate began making groaning sounds followed by panicked grunts and repeated pounding. I know that I promised to take care of this for my friend, but honestly I feel like I should just put it out in the hall where the noise won’t be so annoying. Is this abandoning my responsibility to my friend?  

Wearing Ear Plugs in Quebec 


Ear Plugs, 

Your friend is either crate-shipping a live human being (there aren’t a lot of non-evil reasons for doing this) or is a secret god testing to see if the world is going to get a new round of punishments for not learning their lesson about opening boxes they get handed. Either way, approach the situation very delicately.

If your friend is a god – indicated by having godly abilities, preternatural good fortune, divine appearance, and an ego larger than small countries – do not open the box, and make it abundantly clear you did not. He’ll be disappointed but that’s only because he’s incredibly petty.

If he is not a god – indicated by not having those things (though the ego may still be around) – then you probably have some poor soul trapped in the box. Ask your friend to explain the situation in good faith, making it abundantly clear that you really hope he’s a government agent working to take down morally dubious enemies.

Alistair