Dear Mr Key, writes Olivia Funnel, who may or may not be fictitious – I wouldn’t presume to know – I confess I am a little puzzled by something. Yesterday you reproduced a letter received from Tord Grip, which, you say, plopped onto the mat, suggesting that it was an old-fashioned letter written on paper and inserted into an envelope with a postage stamp affixed. Surely, in our brave new e-world of digital fantasticness your correspondents communicate with you by email? Perplexedly yours, Olivia Funnel.
Well, Ms Funnel, it is true that almost all of my correspondence these days arrives in the form of electronic communications. However, as you will learn when next you check your in-box, all emails I receive generate an automated reply, which reads as follows:
Thank you for writing to Mr Key. Please note that your inscriptio cursus electronici will be ignored unless you rewrite it by hand, with a propelling pencil upon a sheet of creamy paper, which you should then insert into an envelope to which you should affix a postage stamp. The envelope should then be rolled into a cylinder and fastened around the leg of a crow. Whisper “To Mr Key! To Mr Key!” into the crow’s ear and watch it fly away. If you are not sure where the crow’s ear is, study ornithology.
The fact that I am replying to Olivia Funnel is evidence that she did indeed follow these instructions. I ought to point out that I do not eschew modern electronic communication methods due to some ill-tempered Luddite animus against the modern world – though I do – but rather because it pleases me to have crows flying in through my window on a regular basis. Once I have detached the rolled-up envelope from the crow’s leg, I inject it with a serum which renders it unconscious, and add it to my collection of unconscious crows. I have not yet worked out what to do with them all, and for the moment I am content enough to see their number growing by the day.
One of my correspondents has suggested attaching a brain scanner to each crow, and deducing from the resulting print-outs the nature of crows’ dreams (and nightmares). This would seem to me a very worthy enterprise, and I will consider giving it a go.
Dear Mr Key, writes Olivia Funnel, again, Thank you for your reply to my query. Unfortunately it raises further questions which leave me even more perplexed than heretofore. If you receive your letters through the agency of a crow flying in through your window with an envelope furled around its leg, how then did Tord Grip’s letter plop onto the mat? The only explanation that makes sense is that you dropped the envelope onto the mat yourself, once you had detached it from the crow, and before or after injecting the crow with a serum. But what possible rationale could you have for so dropping the envelope? That seems to me to be the utmost foolery. Yours more in sorrow than in anger, Olivia Funnel.
I said, after receiving Ms Funnel’s earlier missive, that I was unsure whether she was real or fictional. Evidence has now come to light that she is, decisively, the latter. This leads me to conclude that, contrary to her assertion, the utmost foolery would be to indulge a letter from a wholly fictitious person with a reply. I have, instead, torn both her letters to shreds with my bare hands. I intend to stuff the shreds into an envelope of cloth, thus forming a little cushion, which will serve as a splendid resting-place for one of my unconscious crows.