Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Sunday, November 25, 2007
    Fingers and Bets

    Since I fractured my little finger I've gone back and reread Man from the South, by Roald Dahl. Mr. Dahl, by all accounts a rather strange man, had a gift for writing disturbing stories (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while very well written, is nothing if not what the MST3K robots would call "good old-fashioned nightmare fuel").

    In this story, which takes place at a resort hotel in Jamaica in the 1950's, a young American sailor agrees to bet his little finger for a Cadillac. I highly recommend you read the story if you have not done so:

    “Don’t you think this is rather a silly bet?” I said.

    “I think it’s a fine bet,” the boy answered. He had already downed one large Martini.

    “I think it’s a stupid, ridiculous bet,” the girl said. “What’ll happen if you lose?”

    “It won’t matter. Come to think of it, I can’t remember ever in my life having had any use for the little finger on my left hand. Here he is.” The boy took hold of the finger. “Here he is and he hasn’t ever done a thing for me yet. So why shouldn’t I bet him. I think it’s a fine bet.”

    The little man smiled and picked up the shaker and refilled our glasses.

    “Before we begin,” he said, “I will present to de referee de key of de car.” He produced a car key from his pocket and gave it to me. “De papers,” he said, “de owning papers and insurance are in de pocket of de car.”

    Then the maid came in again. In one hand she carried a small chopper, the kind used by butchers for chopping meat bones, and in the other a hammer and a bag of nails.

    Well, I disagree with the young man quoted above: You never know how much you use your little finger until you can't use it. Granted, I injured the little finger on my dominant hand, and the story implies the bettor is right-handed... but still.

    So my advice to you is this. Should a man who looks very much like Peter Lorre offer to bet you your little finger for a car, don't bet him... because you'll miss your little finger more than you think you will, and more important, because he doesn't own the car.




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