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"I'd like to canvass your expert opinions, gentlemen,” said the fairy, turning to the three doctors. “Is this poor puppet dead or alive? And if he's alive, what's wrong with him?”

The crow stepped out and felt Pinocchio's pulse. Then he solemnly pronounced the following words: “To my mind he's dead and gone. But if by any chance he's not, then that would be a sure sign that he's still alive!”

“At the risk of alienating my good friend the crow,” said the owl, in a cool, detached manner, “I must say that I can't endorse his opinion. As you know, the traditional criteria for determining death are…how can I put this without using any medical jargon or scientific nomenclature?…well, you know that a person's dead if his heart and lungs stop working. But because we're dealing with a puppet, not a human, those factors might not be relevant—so it's difficult to make an accurate diagnosis. To my mind he's alive. But if by any chance he's not, then that would be a sure sign that he's dead!”

Hoping to authenticate the puppet's condition one way or the other, the fairy asked the cricket, “And what's your opinion?”

“Puppet medicine is not my area of expertise; in fact, I'm barely conversant with it. What little I do know I gleaned from a few short articles I read years ago as a medical student. So, because, as I say, my knowledge of it is superficial and scanty, I can't give you any definitive answers. Whatever I might say would be nothing more than a purely subjective interpretation. But I do know one thing: that good doctors, when they don't know something, rather than make ambiguous remarks, should know enough to keep quiet. Actually, this puppet here is no stranger to me. I've known him for a long time; in fact, I'm something of a confidant of his.”

Pinocchio, who until then had been very quiet, shuddered so hard that the bed shook.

“That wooden boy,” continued the cricket, “has had a checkered past—some good, but mostly bad. I could cite many instances of unconscionable behavior—but let's just say that he's a rascal of the worst sort.”

Pinocchio opened his eyes and closed them again.

“He's rebellious and lazy. He's a runaway.”

Pinocchio hid his face under the sheets.

“He's a disobedient boy who's breaking his father's heart!”

Long, shuddering sobs were heard. When they lifted the sheets a little, they discovered Pinocchio was crying uncontrollably, like a baby!

“If a rascal cries like a baby,” said the cricket thoughtfully, “that can be construed to mean that he's learned his lesson the hard way and that he's taken his first step on the road to becoming a good

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