ask palinode: christmas wish edition

Every December, I take some time away from my standard Ask Palinode duties to review all the stray comments and requests that people have left on my site. These are off-the-cuff remarks and casual inquiries made with no expectation of a response. For the festive season, I make it my first priority to select one of these requests and give it the full Ask Palinode treatment. Think of it as the bonus material that you get on a DVD - and unlike the editor's commentary track over the deleted scenes from Beerfest, you stand a chance of enjoying this material.

As you can imagine, it is no small undertaking to sift through the massive amount of content and find the exact right question. I went through three tins of Portuguese sardines and two bottles of Everclear before I even started. And then I went with the one I'd decided to answer in the first place.

In a recent entry I employed my assistant, a rock hyrax, to answer a question about what it means when your leg nips. In response, Cahilla (my spy in Oslo) asked:

How delightfully educational on a Wednesday morning! Pray, do tell of the evolving friendship between you and your trusted assistant the rock hyrax.

Sure, her question gets all prolix on your ass, but they have extra words in Norway to throw around - something to do with their trade agreements. I hear they deployed 20,0000 adverbs to Iraq.

Cahilla, let's let the rock hyrax take this one.

Hi Cahilla. Thanks for asking about me! As you can guess, I am the only rock hyrax in the world who contributes content to the internet. I like to think that this is a pretty great achievement, especially when you think about how tough it is for me to type LOL. It is true that I am kidding about the typing because I use speech-to-text software, as I tire myself out quickly on a standard keyboard.

My story starts on a rocky bluff on the savannah in good old sub-Saharan Africa. My extended family and I spent our days basking in the sun and eating plants. We snoozed a lot. Ate grass. Bit hikers. It was a good life, especially for a rock hyrax, but not for the hikers LOL.

One evening, after a day of snoozing while keeping an eye out for leopards, I found myself surprisingly hungry. My family had already returned to their holes for warmth and sleep, but my hunger was too great to ignore. I scooted a few feet from the rock and started munching on a patch of grass that I'd been thinking of having the next day.

As I ate I saw a point of light on the horizon, a white spot that suddenly flashed out into a great shear of brightness, like the reflected flash from an enormous turning blade. The light began to climb up the side of the sky, strip by strip, until I realized that the light itself was an advancing wall that stretched from the plains to the moon. Before I could run back to my rock it was upon me, pouring into my eyes and infiltrating every cell in my brain and body. Inside the light I felt a voice speaking to me, a colour that was a word, a roaring that was speech, and in that moment I was granted the power of language and rational thought. Later I discovered that I had also picked up some elementary concepts of geometry and basic principles of accounting.

The next morning I left my rock and made it to the nearest city, where I took out a classified ad in the local daily: INTELLIGENT ROCK HYRAX looking for a change, seeks suitable employment. Good with other hyraxes. Moderate typing skills, excellent shorthand. Go on and challenge me! No leopards or civets please. Mr. Palinode was the first respondent.

OK, that's how I became Mr. Palinode's assistant, Cahilla. He doesn't pay much, but I've enjoyed wandering the palace grounds with him in the afternoons and spending time in the hedge maze. In the evenings we sit in front of the fire and talk about current events. I keep the books and type up his memoirs. It's more than I could have imagined for myself.

Chances are, you haven't yet asked Palinode a question. That's why your life is worth nothing and the children spit at your feet. Ask Palinode! askpalinode @ gmail . com.