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Case 91

The Soul of Wit

The pride of the monk Wangohan would not easily let him admit defeat. Because of this, the monk chose to forge ahead with an unfamiliar web framework despite master Suku’s warnings to the contrary.

“Now your shame will be twice as great,” taunted the monk Landhwa. “Once for the ruin that will befall you, and once again because the master herself advised against your course.”

Wangohan thus returned to his cubicle thoroughly disheartened. There he found affixed to his monitor a small yellow note, unsigned and in an unfamiliar hand, advising him to have his code reviewed by the nun Zjing before resuming his efforts.

“A poor counsel is this,” thought Wangohan, “for I require courage, and Zjing cannot stand upon a stepstool lest her fear of heights overcome her.” Yet the note did not seem to be of Landhwa’s doing, and since Wangohan knew of none other that bore him malice, he emailed his predicament to the telecommuting nun.

“I know nothing of this framework,” the nun wrote back. “Yet send me your code anyway.”

Wangohan did as he was asked. In less than a minute his phone rang.

“Your framework is not right,” said Zjing. “Or else, your code is not right.”

This embarrassed and angered the monk. “How can you be so certain?” he demanded.

“I will tell you,” said the nun.

Zjing began the story of how she had been born in a distant province, the second youngest of six dutiful daughters. Her father, she said, was a lowly abacus-maker, poor but shrewd and calculating; her mother had a stall in the marketplace where she sold random numbers. In vivid detail Zjing described her earliest days in school, right down to the smooth texture of the well worn teak floors and the acrid yet not unpleasant scent of the stray black dog that followed her home in the rain one day.

“Enough!” shouted the exasperated Wangohan when a full hour had passed, for the nun’s narrative showed no sign of drawing to a close. “That is no way to answer a simple question!”

“How can you be so certain?” asked Zjing.