SILENCE!" roared the Sphinx. By now, the Sphinx didn't seem quite as calm as it had been at the beginning. Centuries-old rock rose and fell while the beast took a calming breath.
"Here is your riddle, Answerer. . . ." It glared as if daring me to pipe up."What creature walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening?"
What? This wasn't the sort of riddle we used to tell back in the service tents during the Trojan War. Riddles back then were more along the lines of:
"Euripides tunics and you'll have to pay for them." . . .
You know, proper riddles, none of this bloomin' "four legs in the morning" malarkey.
I frantically searched my encyclopedic brain, but the bright ideas all seemed to be hiding in the corners.
"Can I consult a friend?" I asked in desperation. "I'd best get going then, 'cause my friend lives four days' march away. . . ."
"Time is up," said the Sphinx. "What is your answer?"
"Just give me a sec, will you? It's . . . um . . ."
I heard myself answering. My voice sounded small and faraway and a bit on the thick side. "Is it . . . a squirrel?"
I was faintly aware of Sibyl's groan from behind me. The Sphinx's face betrayed no reaction.
"No, wait!" I cried. "Not a squirrel . . . a chicken! I mean . . . a hippopotamus!" Still no help from that stony visage. "A camel? A goldfish? A parakeet? Give me a clue at least!"
"Is that your final answer?" asked the Sphinx darkly.
"Yes, er, no, I don't know!" I wailed.
"The answer is a human," declared the Sphinx. "A baby crawls on all fours. The child and the adult walk on two legs. Then, in the twilight of life, the old must use a cane -three legs."
The Sphinx's stony lips shifted ever so slightly into what might have passed for a smile.
"I cannot accept your answer," said the Sphinx. "Goodbye!"
Excerpted from The Pig Scrolls by Paul Shipton. Copyright © 2007 by Paul Shipton. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.