A Word of Advice

"Recidivist," said Ellihu Benjamin Washburne, crumpling up the piece of paper and tossing it into the fire. "That, ma'am, is all I can tell you."

"I'm afraid I don't understand," said Mrs. Wilbye with a raised eyebrow.

"You know, recidivist!" Ellihu emphasized. "I fail to see how you can't understand. Seriously, and people like you vote for me!"

"I wasn't aware that 'recidivist' conveyed that much information."

"The question is, what information doesn't 'recidivist' convey."

Mrs. Wilbye stood, the rain still dripping from her shawl. "Are we talking about the same 'recidivist'?"

"I didn't know there was more than one."

"Well, they wouldn't coin a word for only one recidivist."

Ellihu pondered that for a minute. "You have a point. But that's beside the point. I was sure that would make sense to you."

Mrs. Wilbye pursed her lips, and then cried, "Mr. Washburne, are you accusing me of being a recidivist?"

Ellihu was stunned. "Wait, I'm afraid there has been a massive miscommunication error in this conversation. If by 'recidivist' you mean the act of crumpling pieces of paper and tossing them in the fire, then we ought to be in perfect harmony."

"'Recidivist' isn't even a verb!" cried Mrs. Wilbye.

"My, oh my, and I've been giving Congressional speechesā€¦" said Washburne, twirling his eyebrow between his fingers.

"Hold on a minuteā€¦ miscommunication error?" Mrs. Wilbye inquired. "There's been an error in miscommunication."

"Yes indeed," Mr. Washburne explained. "You perceived that I called you a recidivist, even though I was trying to hide it behind fancy grammar."

"To be quite honest, I've lost track of whether I'm right or not," Mrs. Wilbye grumbled, now thoroughly confused.

"I was calling you a 'recidivist'."

"If by 'recidivist' you mean one who falls back into an undesirable habit after they have already experienced the consequences, then I take offense at that."

"No, no!" Ellihu cried. "I wasn't calling you a recidivist. I was calling you a 'recidivist'. See, one's got single quotes around it."

Mrs. Wilbye had an epiphany suddenly. "Oh, I see it now. We don't actually have any physical existence. Thus we can perceive things such as single quotes in spoken text, because written text is what we speak!"

Ellihu Washburne, on the other hand, did not understand. "What do you mean? I wasn't aware that there was any possible existence but our own."

Mrs. Wilbye found that suddenly her mind was quite clear on the nature of existence. "Can't you see the zeros and ones whizzing about us, through this glorious cyberspace zone of our being? We exist on many different planes! We exist in binary! We exist in circuitry! We exist on the Internet! And through the Internet, our binary existence is sent to more circuitry so it can be translated into light patterns that activate neural impulses in massively complex piles of molecules all working together to perceive the meaning of those light patterns! It all makes sense now! Thank you, Mr. Washburne!"

"?" said Ellihu Washburne. "? ?': ?../ !*''="

Unfortunately, her revelation corrupted Ellihu Washburne's system files. Mrs. Wilbye ANDed and ORed her way through the CPU to the RAM and became a DLL. She communed peacefully with the Author's operating system for the rest of her clock ticks.

The End

(Your first clue that something was up should have been that Ellihu Washburne is dead. Seriously, people, dead people can't really say stuff unless they've been converted to binary code.)