The Case of the Unpeelable Banana

April 19, 2010

I had cause to visit my good friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes, one day last month to discuss a number of matters. Mrs Hudson let me in, took my hat and coat and ushered me to the library where I found Holmes deep in conversation around the table with a rather tall, bearded gentleman with a very shiny hat and oppressively respectable frock-coat. They were studying a large pile of manuscripts. I was about to withdraw, but Holmes quickly beckoned me in, indicating he wanted the door closed.

 “My dear Watson, you couldn’t have come at a better time”, he said cordially.

“You looked otherwise engaged”.

“Very much so”, he replied. “But I should like you to meet Colonel Kerr”. The tall man turned, walked towards me, gave a bob of a greeting and offered his hand.

“Colonel Kerr, this gentleman has been my partner and helper in many of my successful cases and I’m sure will be able to offer some assistance. Colonel Kerr, please meet my good friend Dr Watson”.

We shook hands, he gave a quick little glance from his small, piercing eyes and returned to the table to resumed his studies.

“Watson, I just need to quickly conclude a few matters with Colonel Kerr before he leaves. He has to catch his sailing to South Africa that departs from Southampton this afternoon. Once he has gone, I will explain everything. I know you share my enthusiasm for the bizarre and unconventional puzzles and this promises to be a very interesting one.”

Holmes’s quick eye noticed my questioning glances and gestured towards the side cabinet. “Help yourself to some fruit. Colonel Kerr was kind enough to bring fresh supplies from his travels when he arrived this morning.”

Holmes joined the Colonel at the table and they resumed their study of the manuscript with whispered excitement.

I inspected the large bowl of fruit on the side cabinet with interest. It was well stocked and it had been a while since I had eaten bananas. I’ve always had the suspicion the banana exporting countries conspire to make bananas increasingly difficult to peel. The banana tops refuse to snap open like they used to and one has to resort to a knife. And these bananas were no different. I had the devil of a job with each banana I tried, so decided to abandon my attempts.

“Watson. I’ve decided to accompany the Colonel to the station. We have some more business to complete and the Colonel is late for his train”. Holmes and the Colonel had gathered their papers and were rushing out of the library. “Mrs Hudson will see you out. Meet me here tomorrow at 2pm”.

I heard the gathering of coats, the front door shutting and all was quiet. A sudden still hit the room. Again, Holmes had left me very much in the dark with the promise of revealing all. As I turned to leave, I noticed something on the table. A small pile of banana skins that had been obscured by the mountain of manuscripts was clearly visible. I wandered over to examine the evidence. How on earth had they been peeled?

The banana skins had been torn into many pieces, so it was impossible to fathom any clues. I decided to wait until tomorrow and left Holmes a short note.

It was a quarter-past one when I started from home the following day. I made my way across the park, and so through Oxford Street to Baker Street. I climbed the stairs to the door, knocked and was greeted by Mrs Hudson.

“Sir is in the library,” she said while taking my coat.

“Ah Watson”. Holmes was clearly brimming with self satisfaction as he always did when he’d solved a mystery. “Your note and the pile of banana skins deprived me of sleep last night,” he said buttoning up his pea jacket and taking his heavy hunting crop from the rack. “We’ve solved many mysteries together. Most of them seemingly unsolvable, some impossibly so. However, I confess I had to resort to outside help on this one”.

Holmes pulled a crumpled telegram from the inside pocket of his pea jacket, tapping it with his crop.

“It seems Watson, we need to observe the animal world more closely. This telegram from Colonel Kerr I received this very morning, has made me realize that sometimes we are not as intelligent as we think we are”.

He continued to tap the telegram with his crop with each syllable, so emphasizing his point.

“Colonel Kerr simply peeled those bananas by watching how monkeys do it. No matter how un-ripe a banana is, a monkey will always successfully peel it from the wrong end.”

Holmes obviously took a certain relief from explaining this and shrugged his shoulders.

“So, remember to always peel bananas from the wrong end,” he retorted.

“Nice retorting!” I retorted.

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