A brief instructional moment from before Christmas. For months, my favorite calculator, a twenty-year-old HP12C, had been missing from my office. On previous occasions, its absence, along with that of many other essential stationery items, could be traced to my six-year-old kleptomaniac, Tertius. (Similarly one of the babysitter’s credit cards and, memorably, a raw egg.) But this time, despite both dire threats and promises of amnesty, all three boys denied knowing its whereabouts.
Resigned to adding a replacement to my Christmas list, thus displacing the Marx Brothers DVD collection I wanted (the early Paramount movies, with Zeppo), I had one more attempt. “A new calculator will cost fifty dollars,” I sighed, within the hearing of prime suspect Tertius and eight-year-old Secundus. “At this point, I’d gladly give ten dollars to the person who finds the old one, so I could avoid spending the rest of the money.”
The calculator was back in my hand in two minutes. Tertius suddenly remembered seeing it underneath his chest of drawers. But Secundus rushed slightly ahead of his little brother to inform me that the missing object had been found and demanded the reward himself for being first with the news.
I split the ten between them. It may be the wrong message, but the important thing here, I think, is that I saved an unnecessary $40 and I got the DVDs for Christmas. Duck Soup first, I feel, if I can ever wrestle the television back from its Wii duties.
Trivia: Did you know there was an earlier movie called Duck Soup, a 1927 silent short that was one of the first to pair Stan Laurel with Oliver Hardy? Oh, you did.