The Rubber Band
By Rex Stout
I threw down the magazine section of the Sunday Times and yawned. I looked at Nero Wolfe and yawned again. “Is this bird, S. J. Woolt, any relation or yours?”
Wolfe, letting fly with a dart and getting a king of clubs, paid no attention to me.
I went on. “I suppose not, since he spells it different. The reason I ask, an idea just raced madly into my bean. Why wouldn’t it be good for business if this S. J. Woolf did a picture of you and an article for the Times? God knows you’re full of material.” I took time out to grin, considering Wolfe’s size in the gross or physical aspect, and left the grin on as Wolfe grunted, stooping to pick up a dart he had dropped.
I resumed. “You couldn’t beat it for publicity, and as for class it’s Mount Everest. This guy Woolf only hits the high spots. I’ve been reading his pieces for years, and there’s been Einstein and the Prince of Wales and Babe Ruth and three Presidents of the United States (ones say, can you see very little in the White House) and the King of Siam and similar grandeur. His idea seems to be, champions only. That seems to let you in, and strange as it may appear, I’m not kidding, I really mean it. Among our extended circle there must be a couple of eminent gazabos that know him and would slip him the notion.”
Wolfe still paid no attention to me. As a matter of fact, I didn’t expect him to, since he was busy taking exercise. He had recently got the impression that he weighed too much – which was about the same as if the Atlantic Ocean formed the opinion that it was too wet – and so had added a new item to his daily routine. Since he only went outdoors for things like earthquakes and holocausts, he was rarely guilty of movement except when he was up on the roof with Horstmann and the orchids, from nine to eleven in the morning and four
to six in the afternoon, and there was no provision there for pole vaulting.
Hence the new apparatus for a daily workout, which was a beaut. It was scheduled from 3:45 to 4:00 P. M. There was a board about two feet square, faced with cork, with a large circle marked on it, and twenty-six radii and a smaller inner circle, outlined with fine wire, divided the circle’s area into fifty-two sections. Each section had its symbol painted on it, and together they made up a deck of cards; the bull’s-eye, a small disk in the center, was the Joker. There was also a supply of darts, cute little things about four inches long and weighing a couple of ounces, made of wood and feathers with a metal needle-point. The idea was to hang the board up on the wall, stand off ten or fifteen feet, hurl five darts at it and make a poker hand, with the Joker wild. Then you went and pulled the darts out, and hurled them over again. Then you went and pulled…
Obviously, it was pretty darned exciting. What I mean to convey is, it would have been a swell game for a little girls’ kindergarten class; no self-respecting boy over six months of age would have wasted much time with it. Since my only excuse for writing this is to relate the facts of one of Nero Wolfe’s cases, and since I take that trouble only where murder was involved, it may be supposed that I tell about that poker-dart game because later on one of the darts was dipped in poison and used to pink a guy with. Nothing doing. No one ever suffered any injury from those darts that I know of, except me.