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Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?
by Peter Wakefield Kitcher

“Where was Moses when the lights went out?” I said.
“I dunno,” said Percy. “Somewhere in Palestine, I suppose. I’m not all that familiar with the Bible.”
“It’s a question,” I said, “not a place. Like, if we want to get out of this situation, we need to confuse the police. We need a question or a statement that’s not dependent on the usual logic like ‘Is it raining’, and you say, ‘Yes’. Like, I say, ‘How many beans make five?’, and you say, ‘Five’.”
“Well, that’s right.”
“No, it isn’t,” I said. “Someone who really knows how many beans make five knows everything, and it’s not just five.”
“Well, where was Moses when the lights went out?”
“That’s the point.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, how far can you walk into the woods?”
“As far as you like.”
“No,” I said, getting exasperated. “That’s. The. Point. You can go as far as you like, but how far can you go in?”
“You mean, that’s the same as ‘How many beans make five?’?”
“If you knew that, you’d know on which side of the cup was the handle.”
Percy looked up the street. “Stop talking. That policeman is coming along, and if he hears us talking like this, he’ll think we’re nuts.”
“Here, listen. If four people get on a train and two people get off, what’s the name of the engine driver?”
“I dunno,” said Percy. “Moses, I expect. What was it?”
“Because his father’s name was Smith.”
“I don’t get it.”
“No, because if you kept going past the halfway bit in the woods, you’d be coming out and not going in. See?”
Percy frowned at me. “What’s that got to do with cups and saucers?”
“No, only a cup. Is the handle on the inside or the outside?”
“The outside, of course.”
“You see, you did know it, didn’t you?”
“You didn’t say that.”
“I did. I said ‘which side’.”
“That’s different.”
“No, it isn’t. It’s just not what you’d like. See, when I said, ‘How many beans make five?’, it means something else. It means I’m asking if someone knows all the answers. See, it’s half a bean, a bean, a bean and a half, and two beans.”
“That makes up five.”
“Yes, but you didn’t say it, because you didn’t really know until this very moment. Like, how long is a piece of string?”
“It depends where you cut it.”
“You don’t see it, do you? The answer has to take in all the possibilities and the answer is: twice half its length.”
“Does that always work?” asked Percy, skeptically.
“Oh my goodness. Of course it does.”
Percy looked startled. “Shut up. That policeman is coming back.”
“You shut up. Let me think. We’ve got to have a good story as to why we were in that store-room at eleven o’clock at night.”
“I don’t think they’d believe us anyway.” Percy paused for a moment, then said, “Oh! I’ve just realized what you’ve been talking about. We went into that store-room and all the lights went out. Otherwise, we might have known where the security guard was. When the lights went out, he was in the dark. When the lights went out, Moses was in the dark, wasn’t he?”
I had just enough time to smile at Percy before the policeman approached us with a doubtful look on his face. “What you lot doin’ round here then?”
“We didn’t know where we were when the lights went out,” said Percy. “And, by the way, how many beans make five?”