Not Torquemada


My spaniel Samuel is speaking Spanish. He does not woof, growl, or bark. When I call for him, he says “si segnor” and then comes running. He also shown signs of holding an Inquisition among the other dogs of the neighborhood.

What is wrong with him?

Not Torquemada in Kitchissippi


Dear Not Torquemada,

It depends entirely on how powerful the “signs of holding an Inquisition” are. Merely gathering around and whispering nasty things about squirrels and cats is simply to be expected from a talking canine; in that case, it’s just a matter of your dog being granted the ability to speak by a higher power. Check around for local Hispanic deities or scientists. It sounds, at first brush, like San Martin Txiki, one of the few international tricksters who remains staunchly monolingual.

If the signs go further, you’ve likely got a straightforward possession on your hands. Just throw some salt around the dog and chant in Latin. If that doesn’t work, throw salt around yourself, then point out that the spirit is residing in a dog, that is, one of the foremost unclean animals. It’s important that you first build your salt circle, otherwise the spirit may immediately find a more suitable host.

What I’m trying to convey is that it will possess you.


Developing Necrophobia


I keep finding bodies. More accurately, I keep finding the same body on different occasions. It’s the corpse of a middle-aged, well dressed man with a long, narrow, grey, horizontally-waxed mustache. He is always smiling and always dead. He usually shows up in public washrooms, the back seat of my car or the fire exit of my tenth-storey apartment. Alarmingly, nobody believes me because he always disappears moments before anybody else can come see. I know that he’s real (and dead) because I almost always immediately check his pulse. Two question: What is going on here? How do I make it stop?

Developing Necrophobia in Alexandria


Dear Developing,

Typical case of post-mortem stalking. First things first, try and recall if you killed him. If you did, that answers what he wants (revenge) and what you need to do to (appease him – probably by helping him seek revenge… on yourself). If not, he’s probably just looking for a friend or patsy. The dead are notorious for a lack of social skills. Having taken his pulse so regularly, he likely assumes that you consider him a familiar acquaintance at least, so ignoring him will just offend the spirit. Don’t bother trying to explain the situation, just give him plenty of opportunity to communicate with you in a ghostly fashion: take hot showers that fog up the mirrors, eat plenty of alphabet soup, and pay attention to small children with a penchant for staring into the middle distance. He should communicate his desires quickly, once you start listening. If he wants something, try to oblige. If he doesn’t, you may just have yourself an awkward new friend for life. On the plus side, there will be a familiar face there to offer orientation when you pass on.


The Defendant


A lawyer in the animal rights movement claims to be the chosen legal representative of my Great Dane, Daphne. I am being charged with wrongful imprisonment (for putting her in a kennel when my mother is visiting) and verbal abuse (because I described her using the technical term for a female dog). For some reason, nobody seems to recognize that the situation is ridiculous. Everybody seems to be taking these charges very seriously. This ludicrous train is gathering momentum. Alistair! How do I make it stop?

The Defendant in Santa Barbara

Dear Defendant,

Offense is your best defense. If your dog is looking for the niceties of human society, it is not unreasonable to expect human social standards of her. If Daphne is like just about every dog ever, you can make the case that your actions were justified. No doubt there were periods in her life where she saw nothing wrong with vandalizing items of your personal property through careless toilet habits. No doubt your best efforts at showing her love and respect have failed to stop her obsessive and antisocial habits including (but not limited to) her desire to roll in dead things, excrement, dead things’ excrement, dead things in excrement, etcetera; her inability to interact with other dogs in a manner that is not obscene, hostile, or both; her distressingly casual personal hygiene that is entirely unattended until you have company over at which point she becomes gratuitously, embarrassingly thorough; etc. Use your imagination.


Wants to be a Millionaire


I found out that my neighbor is a closet millionaire. He has only one daughter.

What does your gut say? Kidnap or marry?


Wants to be a Millionaire in Colorado


Dear Wants,

You’ve skimmed over the important part: How did your neighbor get his wealth? Was it through legal and/or political means – leaving him well-connected with skilled divorce lawyers – or shooting and hacking a swath through fields of desperate opponents? A few moments of brain-work – or even gut-work, if you have a particularly clever gut – should provide a framework for your decision. A convenient way to determine which category he falls under is to take him to dinner at a jackets-required restaurant. If he offers to pay and enjoys himself immensly, it’s the former. If he’s amusingly gruff and uncomfortable, it’s the swath-hacker.


On a Budget


I am attempting to combat crime in my city. I have mastered several martial arts, tried my hand at crime in other cities to get a sense for the underworld, have become a forensic scientist/cyber crime expert/etc and even perfected a gruff, unrecognizable voice.

I have one problem:

How does one become a billionaire?

On a Budget in Candem, NJ


Dear Budget,

Normally, people acquire unfathomable wealth by marrying well, devoting their lives to business or inventing social networking mediums… Or by becoming professional criminals. As it happens, your studies in martial arts, crime and an intimidating voice make you uniquely qualified to create major criminal organizations. Here’s a plan for you to try out:

1. Go to Bosnia, or maybe Detroit, and become disgustingly rich by despicable means.

2. Undergo a character transformation filled with regret and horror as you realize that you’re the bad guy you set out to defeat in the first place.

3. Dissolve your criminal empire with brutal finality, move back to your home city and spend the rest of your days (and your billions) trying to make up for your checkered past.




My reflection just blinked. Do I do something?

Backwards in NH


Dear Backwards,

Your mirror is apparently suffering some latency. Try covering the mirror in a heavy cloth, waiting several seconds and then uncovering it. If the problem persists, try operating it in better light. If the latency remains, dispose of the mirror in a safe, hazard-free way (avoiding breaking it at all costs for obvious reasons) and purchase a new one.


Father of Two


I was tucking my kid in last night, and he told me there was a monster under the bed. I checked, and my kid was under the bed. He told me that there was something on top of the bed. How do I pick which one to keep?

Father of Two in New Orleans



Dear Father of Two,

You currently have two identical children. There are a couple possibilities to consider:

A. Go back to your child’s baby pictures and double-check that you only have one child. Maybe you have two, and one of them has been living under the bed for a while, telling the other that he’s a monster.


B. Not A.

In the case of the latter being true, you should know that for all intents and purposes, they’re just like identical twins; the only difference is that one of them is most likely a spirit taking the form of your child for its own purposes. Worrying? Maybe. Depends on what the spirit’s purposes are. Either way, there’s no way to tell what’s up until one of them suddenly admits to being the fraudulent offspring.

Side note: Check the closet; you may be Father of Three.


The Human


I have found an inter-dimensional portal. The other side is in the middle of a great war between the Dwarves and the Trolls, with the Elves sort of not sure which side to join. As the only human, they decided I’d make a good diplomat. I know politics isn’t really your area, but have you got any advice?

The Human between Arendyl and Alberta



In my experience, stopping a fight is best accomplished by helping the warring parties find a common enemy. Clearly you need to urge Trolls and Dwarves to unite under a banner reading “Death to Elves”. Problem solved.