The Message in a Bottle Problem
Sun, 04 Nov 2018
I was woken early one morning by a hammering on my back door. I quickly dressed and rushed downstairs, where I found Alun holding a bottle.
"It's a bit early for that isn't it?" I said.
"It's a message in a bottle Jed. I found it on the north beach."
"What's it say?"
"Guinness is good for you."
"Not the bottle, the message."
"I've not opened it, I thought I'd wait for you."
Alun removed the stopper from the bottle and took out a sheet of paper.
"It seems to be a story of some kind."
"Read it out."
"'I was woken early one morning by a hammering on my back door. I quickly dressed and rushed downstairs, where I found Alun holding a bottle.'"
"Oh no, this is one of those stories where what's written on the paper happens to us in real life."
"Yes Jed, this must be the Halloween special."
"Halloween was last week."
"Festivals and events can be slow to reach our isolated shores, Jed. It's only two weeks ago we had the Easter story and Christmas won't happen for another three months."
"What does it say next?"
"'Suddenly we heard a sound coming from the bushes outside, it was the Happy Island cat who began playing his theremin'."
As Alun was reading, we heard a sound coming from the bushes outside, it was the Happy Island cat, who began playing his theremin. Alun continued reading in spite of the distraction.
"Please turn to next page."
"Well, turn to the next page," I said. "Don't just read your instructions."
"There is only one page Jed. There must be another bottle somewhere."
"I suppose we should look for it. It may be dangerous and deadly to read to the end, but it won't be much of a story if we don't."
"I agree Jed, if we were scared of danger and adventure we wouldn't be living here alone on this isolated isle. This was the only bottle on the north beach, but there are lots of bottles on the north-east beach, we should try there."
Alun for once wasn't exaggerating when he said there were bottles on the north-east beach. The entire beach was festooned with them, hundreds and hundreds of empty bottles lying all over the beach.
"Gosh, I hadn't realised it was this bad."
"We'll sort the empty bottles into recycling piles while we're looking for the second page Jed, it must be weeks since we tidied the beach for it to have gotten to this state."
We began the arduous task of clearing the bottles. We checked each one for messages as we sorted, but none of the bottles were conveyers of a message, they were just so much litter, tossed into the sea by uncaring mainlanders and washed up as pollutant on our shore.
"Here's one with its cork still in it Jed."
"Does it have a message?"
"No Jed, it seems to contain wine. It's never been opened."
"What wine is it?"
Alun read the label. "Chateau de Feet, 1978. One of the finest vintages there is. And it should have been kept chilled in the ocean, the Happy Sea isn't the warmest in the world. I'll add it to our wine cellar."
We searched on, collecting vast piles of bottle recycling as we did so. It was a long time before we found anything interesting.
"I've found a message Jed."
"Finally. What does it say?"
"'Note to self: remember to write message to put in the bottle'."
"Someone's put the wrong note in their bottle, Jed. I do it all the time."
We continued sorting the washed-up bottles.
Fate, in her way, which is a tricksters way, ensured that it was the very last bottle we picked up that contained the message we were looking for. Once again Alun read it out.
"'Dear Happy Islanders,' It says, Jed. 'Thank you for sorting out the bottle recycling problem on Happy Island beach. We apologise the for unusual means taken to achieve this. Yours sincerely, the mainland council.' No wonder the mainland council never answers my emails Jed, they clearly rely on lobbing bottles into the nearest ocean as their main means of communication."
"So this whole story is nothing more than a trick by the mainland council to get us to clean our beaches. Our readers must feel really let down."
"Never mind Jed, at least we've got a bottle of Chateau de Feet 78. Shall we try a glass?"
"Why not?" I said. As an independent, free-spirited, off-mainland isle we may not be able to escape the demands of the mainland council, but at least we can set our own licensing hours.