Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Priori (Fiction) By Jennifer Hollie Bowles

A Priori
by Jennifer Hollie Bowles

“Don’t you think—

”Yes, I think.”

“No, no, I mean—

“But what do you mean, ‘no’?”


“I’m listening,” and here Dilbert crossed his hands with mock patience.

“Don’t you think”—Benjamin said quickly—“that something should happen to us as characters in a story?”

“I rather think that something should happen either way.”

“Either way what?”

“Or rather something should happen by us.”

“By us?”

“As a result of our actions.”

“That statement is altogether different than, ‘by us,’ which could mean any number of things, but certainly doesn’t mean, directly at least, ‘as a result of our actions’ as you suggest.”

“If we are characters in a story then ‘by us’ seems more appropriate, or at least suggests more free will than your term, ‘to us.’”

“But Dilbert, what is free will if we are merely characters in a story?”

“What is free will if we are not characters in a story?”
“Why do you always do that?”

“Do what?”

“Reverse my question?”

“Reverse what question?”

“And that, restate my question with the same question!?”

“I guess I’m exercising my free will, if I have any.”

“Fine, what is free will if we are not characters in a story?”

“I asked you first.”

“Bloody hell Dilbert.”

“Hell is not necessarily bloody, Benjamin.”

“Indeed. Your ability to change the subject is remarkable.”

“You think so?” And here Dilbert raised his eyebrows, pleased with himself, ignoring the fact that Benjamin’s comment was intended as sarcasm, if not altogether rude.

“What is free will if we are not characters in a story?” Benjamin shouted.

“No need to shout.”

“Maybe I felt the need to shout.”

Benjamin raised his eyebrows again, lifting his index finger as though he had thought of something profound to say. Then his finger dropped and he looked down at the beige Formica table.

“Yes, yes, you had something! Needs facilitate will, regardless of the narrator, or regardless of some omniscient being such as God if we are not characters in a story.”

“Just need?”

“You’re brilliant Dilbert!” Benjamin said, standing up to shake Dilbert by the shoulders.

Dilbert’s eyebrows rose, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Benjamin had answered his question through his praise. “Just need?” He asked again.

“No Dilbert, not just need,” Benjamin said despondently as if the answer no longer answered anything.

“Regardless of the narrator,” Dilbert mumbled under his breath.

“What did you say?”


“You idiot! I don’t know why I bother talking to you!”

“Why bother,” Dilbert mumbled under his breath.

CTell me what you said a minute ago, ‘regardless of…’ regardless of what?”

Dilbert searched his memory, “Um, regardless of the name?”

“The name of the narrator. Very good Dilbert, very good.”

“No, no,” Benjamin continued, “regardless of the narrator, period.”


“As used in grammar to indicate the end of a thought, a complete thought, you moron!”
“What’s a moron?”

“Someone who is oblivious to the context of speech.”

“Oh,” Dilbert said, shaking his head up and down. “Who’s a moron,” he whispered.

“This infernal dancing around the subject is driving me mad,” Benjamin said with defeat.

“What exactly is the subject Benjamin?”

“Free will!” He paused, somewhat unsure. “I think.”

“Then the subject is ‘why?’”

“Why? Why what, why, why, why?” Benjamin slammed his hand down on the table as he yelled.

Dilbert wasn’t sure about why, but he still felt curious. “Why we do things?” He said hesitantly.

Benjamin held the ends of the table with both hands, his eyes wide with the shock of Dilbert’s insight. He had known Dilbert for years and felt full well that the moron had no clue as to the depths of what he had just said, or at least had no context for them. Benjamin let go of the table and put down his head. He realized the utter futility of trying to explain to Dilbert the logical process between ‘why we do things’ and free will, so he giggled to himself, a slow rumble at first, but the vibrations of the laughter quickened, a rolling thunder of mental release in the face of certain (or fictional) death.

The existence of omniscient sight doesn’t remove the existence of limited sight, he thought. “It doesn’t matter if someone or some being or whomever already knows what we are going to do because as long as we don’t know, we are free willed.”

Dilbert wondered why Benjamin had to make everything so complicated, when it was all so simple and hardly needed discussing at all.

“We are free willed,” he replied to Benjamin, careful not to praise him, as this would have revealed his understanding.

Author bio:

Jennifer Hollie Bowles lives in a state of self-actualized entropy. Her word hunching obsession has led to publication in Word Riot, The Battered Suitcase, tinfoildresses, Gloom Cubpoard, Breadcrumb Scabs, Zygote in my Coffee, and The Ampersand Review, among others. Jennifer prefers depth to sarcasm, but due to her love of crooked mirrors and unpacked boxes, she is entirely too serious.

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