} TEN LITTLE SUPPLICANTS
} The ten of them were all glad they had been invited to the large
} manor in the scenic resort town (usually last resort, but that's
} neither here nor there) of Bloomington, although none were particularly
} well acquainted with their host.
} Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a mysteriously pinched voice
} boomed, "You are all accused of submitting blank questions to the
} Internet (nee Usenet) Oracle:
} "Aaron M. Ucko, you submitted a blank question on January 30,
} "Lambchop, you, along with your accomplice Shari Lewis,
} submitted a blank question on April 15, 1998,
} "Paul Kelly, you submitted a blank question on October 9, 1995,
} "Zadoc Worm, you submitted a blank question on -- well, on dates
} too numerous to mention, but most recently on September 24, 1998,
} "Frida Kahlo, you submitted a blank question (from beyond the
} grave, no less, incurring all sorts of terrible postage-due charges) on
} April 16, 1997,
} "Richard Simmons, you submitted a blank question on June 6, 1996,
} "Richard Wilson, you submitted a blank question on March 10, 1996,
} "Og Gruntgrunt, you submitted a blank question on July 4, 1998
} "Lars Clausen, you submitted a blank question on December 12,
} "How do you plead?"
} All ten stood and stammered -- well, only nine at any one time,
} really, because sometimes it was Shari and sometimes it was Lambchop --
} and the Oracle could tell they were all guilty. Of course, he'd known
} all along, but he always liked to see guilt written so plainly upon the
} countenance. What he liked even better, though, was to see terror, and
} so, upon the wall in front of them, appeared the catchy little poem:
} Ten little supplicants, standing in a line,
} One got *ZOT*ted and then there were nine.
} Nine little supplicants, standing there agape,
} One got *ZOT*ted and then there were eight.
} Eight little supplicants, doing something that rhymed with
} One got *ZOT*ted and then there were seven.
} Seven little supplicants, standing there transfixed,
} One got *ZOT*ted and then there were six.
} Six little supplicants, glad to be alive,
} One got *ZOT*ted and then there were five.
} Five little supplicants, bolting for the door,
} One got *ZOT*ted and then there were four.
} Four little supplicants, begging for mercy,
} One got *ZOT*ted and then there were three.
} Three little supplicants not knowing what to do,
} One got *ZOT*ted and then there were two.
} Two little supplicants still trying to run,
} One got *ZOT*ted and then there was one.
} One little supplicant (*Phew*! I'm nearly done!),
} He got *ZOT*ted and then there were none.
} Lars finally worked up the eloquence to say something. "But
} c'mon, Orrie, I'm one of your oldest friends! Besides, you can't
} convict me wholesale with *this* lot. I mean, a ghost, a hand puppet,
} a Neanderthal, a fictional priest, and an Englishman? There are only
} five real people here, and I'm stretching the definition of 'people' to
} include Richard Simmons."
} The Oracle's heart was softened by this plea. "Perhaps you are
} right." All was silent for a moment, and it seemed as though all would
} be forgiven.
} Then Aaron cleared his throat and spoke, "Besides, that's some
} singularly awful poetry there. The meter's off, the rhyme's off, and
} it doesn't even hold together as a narrative."
} It soon became apparent that this was the wrong thing to say, as
} various of the inmates started spontaneously combusting. First Paul
} Kelly, then Shari Lewis, then Og, then Frida, then everybody else at
} once, as Orrie's attention span was wearing through at this point, and
} besides, it was disconcerting to have Lambchop running around without
} * *
} You owe the Oracle an apology. I mean, really, two blank queries in a
} row? I can understand some mailserver problems, but when you test my
} patience like that -- and I thought I was as diligent as usual in
} answering the first -- you end up with results like the above.