Dumb Questions -- A problem in the family

For your entertainment only!

The dull-witted boy’s mother came home one day and opened her credit card bill, never a pleasant chore after Christmas, especially since she was unemployed at the time. Looking down the list of her mounting debts she spied an unexpected item: Danny@jahbook.com, for $500.

“What is a jahbook? she asked. What is jah?” she asked. “Who is Danny and why did I pay him $500?”

The dull-witted boy played dumb, furiously working his yo-yo, and quit the premises abruptly to seek the advice of his friend and fellow gambling freak, Li’l Hector Cienfuegos.

“What do I do now?” he asked Hector.

“First, what did you do then?” Hector asked.

“I bet one of those drivers – Biffle or Martin or Stewart – to win. The odds were fantastic,” the dull-witted boy said.

“So, you wouldn’t listen, right?”

“Listen to what?”

“What I told you. You can bet to win in horseracing, but you bet the head-to-heads in stockcar racing. You bet Biffle against Stewart, Stewart against Martin. You never get suckered into betting to win. The odds are long for a reason.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot that. So now this Danny from Jahbook is going to break my mother’s legs?”

“Why? Danny already has her money. Why did you use your mother’s credit card, anyway?”

“Do I have a credit card?”

“You should have asked me for one of mine,” said Hector, a third grader with half a dozen credit cards. “Not that I would have loaned it to you on a bet to win in a stockcar race,” he added.

The dull-witted boy pondered. The real answer was that he was tired of always getting upstaged by a third-grader. It wasn’t that he didn’t like and admire Li’l Hector, his neighbor and best friend, but a man in the sixth grade had to step out on his own.

“I would have, but you know, the newspapers all say that stockcar racing is a family sport, so I thought I’d win one for mom, since she ain’t working right now. She’s real excited about that Atwater track because she thinks she can get part-time work there.”

“Isn’t working,” Hector said. “Gambling is a grammatical endeavor. So, now you owe your mother $500 plus the credit card vig, of what – 18 percent?”

“Maybe I don’t have to tell her?” the dull-witted boy said, weakly.

“Pathetic!” Hector said. “Gambler always pays his debts. It’s the code.”

“But how?”

“Well, first you tell your mother. If you’d just listened to me, you’d have made some money for her, like I do for my mother – by betting the head-to-heads. Then you go to your Uncle Henry and maybe he can find you a job after school.”

“You what?” his mother said, when the dull-witted boy, Hector at his side, spilled the beans and came clean on the Jahbook deal. “You gambled on my credit card? Why? What possessed you? Where did you get the idea?”

“Well, mom, Hector and I have been experimenting a little on the computer, with poker, bingo and stuff,” the dull-witted boy lied. “Paid for most of your Christmas presents,” he added, hopefully. “I bought a new carburetor for Uncle Henry’s pickup,” he said defiantly. “I was making me some money,” he said ungrammatically.

Hector winced.

The dull-witted boy’s mother groaned.

“I did it for my family!” the dull-witted boy yelled. “They say stockcar racing is a family sport. So I bet it. Turns out if you lose, it ain’t so family-friendly.”

“What the hell?” his mother said, grabbing the phone and dialing furiously. “Henry, you get yourself over here immediately and I don’t mean tomorrow,” she yelled in the phone.

Purring smoothly thanks to better carburetion, the genuine ’56 Chevy pickup coasted to the curb of the disturbed household, and Uncle Henry arrived.

“What’s the rumpus?” he inquired.

He got an earful from his sister. His nephew hung his head.

“Ah,” he said, when the outraged mom fell silent. “Hmmm. NASCAR? They bet that? I’m out of touch with reality, evidently, since I cleaned up.”

“Henry, right now I do not give a whatever for your holy cleanup and newly found righteousness, etcetera,” the dull-witted boy’s mother said. “This one,” she said indicated her son, “is screwed up. He is claiming it is OK to steal my credit card number and gamble with some Jamaica bookie online on stockcar racing because this Riverside Motorsports outfit keeps telling the newspaper stockcar racing is about family values – in his case the value of my credit. What it is is embezzlement.”

“Well, let’s march him down to the station and get him arrested,” Henry said.

“I’m thinking about it,” she said.

“I could probably get him a job up the crik long enough so he could pay it back,” Henry suggested.

“Right!” the mother exploded. “From the frying pan into the fire. Doing what, exactly?”

“Well, since the boy’s chosen a path of crime, and you need the money, does it make any difference?” Henry asked.

“Stockcar racing is s’posed to be about family values!” the dull-witted boy moaned.

“That does it!” his mother said. “Take this criminal away!”

In the pickup, Henry thought about it, glancing at the morose, defiant nephew of his, clearly taking the wrong path in life. He thought maybe the pastor should be consulted before going up the crik into the world of alternative economic enterprise.

Pastor Nasrudin was sitting in the cross-legged position, communing with his brother Achmed back in the ‘stans, when they arrived and knocked at his door. He and Achmed had been discussed how their beauteous niece, Jasmina, resented wearing the burka, concealing her sizzling lips. “Are the old ways the best ways?” Achmed was asking. “Who knows, these days?” Nasrudin answered. “She could get her masters here at Stan State, I guess. Marry an almond grower. She wouldn’t have to wear the burka, anyway.”
“I’ll think about it,” Achmed said, as Henry’s knock on the door interrupted the telepathic communication. “Got to go,” Nasrudin said, “my flock calls.”

The moral dilemma presented, the pastor considered his response. “Hmmm.”

The minutes stepped slowly by in the silence.

“Hmmm,” Nasrudin finally said. “Betting on automobiles?”

“Stockcars,” the dull-witted boy replied.

“Cars?” the pastor said, incredulously. “That’s absurd. One does not even bet on camels, my son. Not that some don’t, you understand – and they can be forgiven for not knowing better – but really, child, one does not bet on either camels or cars. It is ridiculous.

“One bets on horses. Mankind has always bet on horses. What – pray tell – are the bloodlines of an automobile? How on earth could you handicap a machine? How many stockcars, as you call them, sire stockcar foals in a breeding season?

“No, child, you are wandering in darkness.”

Turning to Henry, Nasrudin said, “I will take him at $5 an hour to clean up around the church.”

“The mother might think that’s a little slow. Up the crik they pay top wages, you know.”

“Right,” the pastor said sternly, “young, nimble fingers, pick-pick-pick. Nothing good to learn there. No. I will buy the boy’s debt and he will learn, here.”

Nasrudin counted out the money from his wallet, gave it to Henry, turned to the dull-witted boy and said, “There is a broom. Sweep.”

And so the dull-witted boy was saved from a life of crime. After the third after-school session sweeping the grounds of the church, he returned the broom to its corner in the pastor’s office and said goodnight.

“Come here,” the pastor, reading a newspaper, said from his desk.

The boy approached.

“Now, boy, this is the Racing Form. Start with the claiming races. If the horse finished in the money in its last three starts, if it’s racing every 10 days, and it’s carrying top weight, consider it, after checking its trainer. Crosscheck here with the trainers’ standings. Bet the trainer! Never bet a filly to beat a colt! Top weight, no ties! Beware of a dark horse some great trainer is bringing in below class for an easy win! Was the horse claimed in after the last race? Can it go the distance? Beware of drops and rises in class! Here’s the studbook. I expect a full report next week on the first 50 pages.”

Six months later, Li’l Hector was amazed as the dull-witted boy explained the intricate calculations behind betting a trifecta. Hector swore off betting NASCAR head-to-heads that very day, and when the dull-witted boy finished paying off his debt, Hector took the broom, still warm from the other boy’s hands, and began sweeping.

“But you don’t owe me anything,” Nasrudin said.

“I want to study with a master,” Hector replied.

“Ah,” the pastor said. “In that case, there is the studbook. Memorize.”