This was *nothing* like what I'd expected. They told me there was a bona-fide Oracle downtown, handing out answers to any question you cared to ask. I was thinking maybe there was a majestic temple down there I hadn't seen, or maybe one of the Mafioso had set up a high-speed data network centre or something. But not this.
I walked up the narrow staircase gingerly - the floorboards were creaky and the fourty-watt bulb illuminating the staircase didn't help. Reaching the top, I looked down the corridor and there was was the door I was seeking. The top half had been frosted glass at one point, but was shattered outward across the carpet. Across the window where the glass once was, a piece of cardboard was stuck. labelled "DELLFIC RESEARCH, INC.", and decorated with flowers, elephants, and a small heart bearing the legend "C.McB. 4 P.W.". Gingerly. I knocked on the door, trying to avoid the splinters of broken glass.
Another customer. You know, door swings open, customer walks
in and looks at everthing in the office but me, finally gives up
and approaches the bench.
But this guy seems more bewildered than most. His eyeballs slowly make their first lap of the room, taking in details like shotgun pellets in the walls, scorches where Pyth's chemistry attempts blew up, those huge stacks of paper Sibyl refers to as "I Can't Spay A Bull" for some reason, the pinkish stain on the floor where those damned weasels spilled my best nailpolish, the authentic Sphinx-head hunting trophy Pythia got in Egypt, but didn't get stuffed properly so now it's sort of frowning and going crosseyed at the same time, and so on. Then his frown just gets bigger, and his eyes begin a victory lap. I can tell he'll keep going all day if I don't speak up.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" I ask him.
He falters. "Uh, is this the.. oracle?"
"That's me!" I smile encouragingly, but it doesn't
work so well - the sheer terror on his face makes me burst out
giggling. "Ha! Sorry, there's Pythia and Sibyl too, but
Pythia's in Greece at the moment. And Sibyl's off winking at
something forty times. I think it's that picture of Steve Irwin
she nicked, but I can't see the point winking at a photo
"Oh.. I'm sorry, I was.. uh, expecting something rather different, you know."
"Oh, I *know* - when I first got here, I was expecting it to be like a huge hospital or something, 'cos I'd never heard of 'dellfic' and I thought I'd be doing something like 'pelvic research', which would be *totally* gross, but I asked Sibyl and it's 'dellfic' so that's OK then." It occurs to me I might have gotten the wrong end of the stick again. "Unless of course you *are* looking for pelvic research.. I'm not really qualified, but -"
"Oh, no, nothing like that I'm sure." He spoke hurriedly. "I was just thinking, with being called oracles and all, there'd be, I dunno, a temple or something.."
"Yeah. Sometimes I think, you know, people who just send us questions 'cos they heard about us from friends, or read about us on the Internet or something, what do they think goes on here? I mean, we've got "Oracle" on our business cards - of course, I had to write it on mine in pencil, they tell me they 'forgot'. Pah! - but it's not like we sit around sniffing glue and sending back whatever the hell comes to mind, wrapped in verse."
The guy seems to relax a little at that, so I continue.
"Yeah, I bet they think that somewhere in the world there's some huge shining white temple inhabited by a question-answering God, surrounded by kow-towing priests. A great ivory throne, smack-dab in the middle where the Great Guy himself sits down and answers questions all the time."
"That was pretty much what I was looking for, yeah."
"Well, here in the real world, there's just you and me, bub. So what's your question?"
"Well, it's a bit embarrassing, really. Umm. 'What would happen if you gave a yo-yo to a flock of flamingos?'. Umm. I think it can wait, though. Say, are you doing anything tonight? I've got these concert tickets ..."