A crabby and often cryptic writing coach occasionally stations himself in the back corner of my study. Inexplicably, he is a Greek -- an old Greek, as in, hoary of mane and leathern of skin, as well as an ancient Greek, as in, toga-clad and Socratic in aspect. In fact, he may be none other than Diogenes himself, but I can't be sure, as he never talks about himself and, unlike the original, this fellow writes nothing that later gets carved in stelae -- though, come to think of it, he does talk with the irritated terseness of one obliged to chisel his own words in stone. Over the years, whenever he has intruded upon me, I have, unbeknownst to him, switched over to a separate file on my computer and transcribed his remarks. They are numbered, these comments of his, because this is how he alerts me that he's standing back there between the lamp and the bookshelf: He just declares a number. Interestingly, the numbers have not all arisen in order. Rather, he seems to be citing a pre-existing list, the arrangement of which is pedagogically reasonable but not exactly equivalent to the order in which I personally have needed his oracular utterances. Somehow, from the way he declares the numbers, I can tell they're Roman numerals; if I knew Ionian numerals, he'd use those, but I don't, so he settles for the next best thing.