“Is the Queen really such an unpleasant person, or did she simply run out of biscuits?” Alice asked Zeno the Zebra.
Last week, when aunt Caroline came over for tea, Alice’s mother had been rather embarrassed when she discovered that the coockie jar was empty, which had made her grumpy, so Alice thought that perhaps the Queen’s coockie jar was empty as well.
Even though Zeno had been smiling ever since he had introduced himself to Alice and the minotaur, the zebra snorted when he heard Alice’s question.
Even little girls know that animals’ snorts don’t mean anything, so Alice waited politely for Zeno to respond to her question.
Zeno snorted again, more loudly this time.
All this snorting made Alice feel quite uncomfortable, so she cast an uncertain look at her companion, the Friendly Minotaur, who was still standing next to her. Contrary to popular belief, minotaurs speak many languages. Besides Minoan and English, most minotaurs are quite good at understanding the snorts of other animals.
“I believe that the zebra means that you are wrong, Alice.” The minotaur said with his deep, bombastic voice
The zebra’s wide smile returned. “Indeed I do”, he replied. “The Queen is not merely upset, she is downright unkind!”
Alice thought about this for a moment. How could the zebra be so sure? But then she remembered that she and the Friendly Minotaur were guests, while Zeno lived here. Always be polite to your hosts, mamma always said. “I guess,” Alice said while she did her best to sound like a grown-up, “…that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”
When he heard Alice’s words, Zeno’s eyes became huge with excitement, while his smile, which had already been wide, became even wider, so that now it seemed to reach his ears. “That means I am right!”
“No,” Alice said while she frowned, “it means that we are both wrong, while the truth is somewhere in the middle of our views.”
While Alice didn’t quite know what it meant for the truth to be ‘somewhere’, she was proud of herself: It had felt so wise and mature to admit that she herself was wrong.
But Zeno did not give up so easily. “I say A, you say B, and you admit that the truth is in the middle, so your view shifts halfway towards mine.” Zeno paused to see if Alice was still listening. “But you already admitted that the truth is in the middle, so again your view moves closer to mine.”
“Need I go on?” The zebra asked self-assuredly.
“Not really,” Alice had grown tired of the zebra’s talkativeness. She didn’t care anymore who was right, she just wanted to know where the queen was. To hurry things up, Alice decided to give the zebra what he wanted. “I see what you mean”, she said, “my view shifts ever closer to yours, so that we end up having the same view.”
“Yes,” the zebra said triumphantly, “and that’s the view I started with!”
Alice nodded indifferently. “And do you know where we may find this unkind queen?”
The zebra now pointed one of his muddy hoofs towards a distant hill that lay beside the path. “In the side of that hill over there, there is a cave with directions on one of its walls.” As the zebra paused for a moment, his smile seemed to become smaller. After a while he said, now with a sad face: “But the cave is too small to enter, you simply won’t fit in.”
“I suppose we will go there anyway.” Alice said, glad to get away from the gloating zebra. “After all, I am a very small girl.”
Alice in Numberland will continue on this blog in the Spring of 2023
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Previous episodes of ‘Numbers in Wonderland’:
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