Years ago I wrote a column titled “Code Blur.” That story revolved around a World War II decoding device that I saw on display as “relics of technology,” at a local department store. As the story evolved, the feds thought I was involved in some espionage plot. I had a dicey time before it all got straightened out.
Welcome to déjà vu all over again
Emmaline and I have a mid-morning routine. We sit in the living room and read the local newspaper. Once we’ve noted the condition of the nation, the state and the community, we read the comics. Sometimes we wonder which individuals are the comic strip characters and which are our leaders, who are acting like comic strip characters.
Then we turn to the puzzle page and work on the word puzzle. That’s a grid with vertical and horizontal numbered boxes. Printed opposite each box is a set of scrambled letters that spell
the answer to the clue if you put them in the right order.
Most days between us, Emmaline and I solve the puzzle without help. Sometimes though, there’s a weird clue. After we have tried the combinations of letters, I trudge upstairs to the computer to try to unscramble the letters. I type in the random letters from the puzzle trying to figure out a pattern.
There’s nothing sinister about that, right? Wrong! The other day while we were working on the puzzle, two black SUVs drove up in front of our house. The first SUV drove into the driveway. The other one blocked the driveway at the curb. Four suits got out of the SUV in the driveway, and came to the door.
“Federal agents. Open the door.”
I opened the door and they poured in.
“What’s this about?”
“We’ll ask the questions,” said the shortest suit—a bald guy with horned rim glasses.
“Show me some identification first.” I said.
Agent Horned Rimmed flashed an ID.
“Who are you?”
“We’re from the Department of Electronic Citizen Surveillance. Our algorithm devices have detected coded messages coming from your computer.”
“I type random letters on a search engine looking for clues to the Jumble Puzzles in the newspaper,”
Agent Horned Rimmed ignored my answer and said, “Do you deny communicating with an alien who uses the code name KB 11.2?”
“KB 11.2? “Kaybe,” are you kidding? Kaybe is the alien robot character I created for my monthly humor column?”
“There’s nothing humorous about espionage,” said Agent Horned Rimmed. “Or aliens, either, for that matter.”
“”But Kaybe is fiction. He’s a character in my book,” I said. “Show them, Emmaline.”
“Don’t move,” said the tall suit standing behind Emmaline.
“I just want to show you the book,” said Emmaline. It’s right here.”
Agent Horned Rimmed made a quick lateral move with his head, and said, “Get it.”
Emmaline crossed the living room and picked up my little book, Day Dreaming. She opened the book to a story titled “I Speak Alien,” and handed the book to Agent Tall Suit. Agent Tall Suit leafed through the story, grimaced, and handed the book to Agent Horned Rimmed.
“It’s a humor book, Deke,” he said.
Emmaline handed Agent Tall Suit a page from the local newspaper.
“Here is the puzzle those words came from,” she said. You can see that the letters in the grid match the written clues. You solve the puzzle by putting the right words in the grid horizontally and vertically. Sometimes we get stumped, so my husband types the letters into an Internet search engine to see if it will unscramble them.”
Outside, the neighbors were beginning to gather in their front yards. They were staring at the guys standing around the SUV that was blocking the driveway.
“It’s another surveillance network screw-up, Deke,” said Tall Agent.
“@#$%^&*,” said Deke. Then Deke gave his trademark lateral move of the head and the suits melted out through front door.
As they were running, one of them yelled, “wrong address!”
Then they jumped into their SUVs and sped away.
“Who were those unmasked men?” asked Emmaline.
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available on Amazon.