Despite being decent at math and good with words, I always hated word problems in school. When I saw a riddle tweeted yesterday, I gave it all of a minute’s contemplation. In doing so, though, I realized just how screwy my mind works. I won’t speak for all authors, but here’s how this writer’s brain works.

The riddle was, "10 fish are in a tank. 2 drown, 4 swim away, and 3 die. How many are left in the tank?"

Immediately, I’m struck with a question. Is there a time limit on this? Because presumably every fish that died had, at one point in its life, swum. Unless, of course, we’re counting fish that died in the egg. Are those fish or pre-fish? Or caviar? If roe is counted as fish, then millions die on crackers at fancy dinner parties all the time. I’m going to assume that we’re only discussing grown-up fish, though. Is "swam away" a euphemism for dying, like mothers tell their kids about their pets? If the riddler means it literally, did the fish swim out of the tank, which would require going airborne? Or did it "swim away" from one side of the tank or school of fish? It's a question of away from what?

The two that drown should be part of the three that die. Except, wait, do fish drown? We’re being told two did, but can we trust the riddler? He could be lying, or maybe the fish were trying to fake their own deaths. They might be attempting to get down the drain to the ocean like the tank full of fish in Finding Nemo. I like that movie. I still haven't seen the sequel yet and really should get around to it.

For now, I’ll take it on faith that two fish actually drowned. That leads to another question. Were any of the fish resuscitated? Veterinarians can work on fish these days. I saw on Dr. K’s Exotic Animals that they can X-ray a goldfish in a plastic bag full of water, and Dr. K said they can even anesthetize and operate on them. Or maybe one of the fish was only “mostly dead,” like in The Princess Bride. Miracle Max could have brought the fish back with a chocolate-covered fish pellet, allowing it to swim away. So with fish infanticide, faked deaths, and Lazarus-like resurrections, I count…well…hmm…

So there you have it. That’s how my writer’s brain works, which is how I came up with a lot of Cassie’s silliness in my humorous mystery series. It’s also the same brain that imagined colonists running for their lives on another planet in The Colony. My gray matter is flexible and complex like that. For some reason, it’s now telling me I feel like a fish taco. Huh.

If you are curious about the answer to this riddle, one article on it is here:
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Published on January 16, 2017 07:45 • 80 views • Tags: riddle, stream-of-consciousness, writer-s-brain

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