Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Riddle From Chris Patterson


I met this guy earlier in the evening by the name of Chris Patterson. He told me this really cool riddle. I asked him if it was his and he said that his grandfather had once told it to him. So I asked if I could borrow it for some type of written piece. He gave me permission, provided I gave him credit for the riddle. That's why I mention that this guy's name was Chris Patterson.


Chris and I were walking near the Hudson River along the West Side Highway a little bit before the sun went down this evening, grabbing a few tokes from his wooden one-hitter along the way.

At one point, Chris asked of me: "All right, you walk into a room and a guy is dead, hanging from the ceiling by a rope. Underneath him, there's nothing but a large puddle of water. How did the guy kill himself?"

"He climbed up on a chair, put the rope around his neck and then kicked the chair away as hard as he could," I responded.

"No," Chris said, "There's no furniture in the whole fuckin' room. It's just him dead. Hanging from the ceiling by a rope. And then it's just a fuckin' puddle of water underneath him."

I tried to conjure up a clearer picture of the grim scenario. A barren room. A corpse hanging from a rope attached to the ceiling. A puddle of water underneath the corpse. No chairs--in fact, no furniture at all. I furrowed my brow, "He didn't kill himself. Someone else put the rope around his neck and kicked a chair out from under him; and then they took the chair out of the room with them when they left--"

"Oh, no," laughed Chris, "This guy killed himself, all right. Come on, now. Think about the puddle of water."

I thought about the puddle of water, but it only confused me more. Though I'm always impressed by clever riddles, I rarely guess the correct answer. Maybe that's why I'm so impressed by them.

Chris finally relented, "An ice cube. He stood up on a big ice cube, put the rope around his neck and stood there and waited for it to melt."

"Holy shit!" I gasped, "That's fucking amazing! Is that your riddle?"

"No," Chris smiled, "my grandfather told me that one."

"Do you mind if I use that for something? I'm a writer."

"As long as you give me credit," he said, tapping out ashes from the one-hitter.

"Of course," I said. "What's your name?"

"Chris Patterson."

"Like Paterson in New Jersey?"

"No. Two T's."

"Oh, Patterson."

"Yeah, that's right."

"You know what I like about that riddle?" I asked him.

"What's that?" he asked me.

"I like how suicidal that is. I mean, that's really suicidal. In a normal suicide, you just want to get up there, put the rope around your neck, kick over the chair and be done with it before you have a chance to change your mind. But that ice cube thing--that's what you call real suicide. That's when you're so suicidal you're willing to take your time and let nature run its course. You're so convinced you want to die you know that nothing could happen in the next hour or two hours or however long it might take for that big ice cube to melt that's gonna change your mind about dying. Can you imagine, standing on that ice cube with that rope around your neck, with all that free time to think and reflect, and still nothing--nothing would allow you to see that life is worth living? That's real suicide. Slow, purposeful, well-thought-out suicide. A suicide that's almost preordained. I mean, who can argue with a mind that convinced? Seriously, can you imagine being that fucking miserable?"

"Fuck no," he grimaced.

"I can," I smiled.