Scooter & Skipper and the Not-So-Merry Christmas | HumorOutcasts

Scooter & Skipper and the Not-So-Merry Christmas

December 6, 2018

We were sitting in the den, my wife and I, winding down at the end of the day.  We were both exhausted, but her maternal instincts were still sharp enough to detect a faint sound of sniffling from upstairs that escaped my ears, like a high-pitched whine only a dog can hear.

“Somebody’s crying,” she said.

“Is one of the kids sick?”

“No–they’re just getting too whooped up about Christmas.  They’ve been at each other all day.”

“I’ll take care of it,” I said.  “I know you want to watch ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’”

“There’s no way the patient can survive another denture adhesive commercial!”


“Thanks,” she said as I kissed her forehead.

I trudged upstairs and stuck my head in the boys’ room.

“Something wrong?” I asked.

“No,” snapped Scooter, my 12 year-old.

“He’s being a jerk!” said Skipper, my 10 year-old.

“You’re just a big baby,” Scooter snapped back at him.

“And you’re a stupid doody-head,” Skipper said through tears.

“What’s this all about?” I asked in my most mature and concerned tone of voice.  Probably something really important, like a Hot Wheels car.

“Scooter says we’re not gonna have a Merry Christmas!” Skipper said.

“Scoots–is that true?” I asked.

“That’s what my social studies teacher told us.”

“The one with the big loopy earrings who has the ‘Impeach 45’ bumper sticker on her Prius?” I asked.

“Right–Ms. Mangel-Wurzel.”  A hyphen–figures.  “She’s says the economy is going to crash.”

“Well, she may be right.  Did she say why she believes that?”

“Because the stock market dropped like a million points the other day!” Scooter exclaimed.

I gave him a look that registered my disappointment.  “Now, Scooter, if your teacher was really smart, she’d realize that when the stock market drops rich people lose money.  If she thought about it, wouldn’t she think that’s a good thing?”

He frowned a little.  “Maybe, but she says some really smart people agree with her,” he said.

“Like who?”

“A man who used to be President of Harvard,” Scooter said, as if that sealed the deal.

“Larry Summers?”

“That’s him.”

“Does she know he’s the man who said women weren’t good at science and math?”

“What?  Did I say something wrong?”


“I don’t know.”  He was back on his heels, but I’ve taught the kids to stick to their guns–to mix my metaphors–and not back down just because I have 21 years of formal education, if you count my two years of kindergarten.

“Who was the other?”

“A Nobel Prize winner in economics!”

“Does he look like a driveway gnome?”

Krugman, driveway gnome:  Curiously, never seen in the same room together.



“That would be Paul Krugman, the man who famously predicted that the internet would turn out to be as important as the fax machine.  Sort of like when Henry David Thoreau . . .”

“Who’s he?” Skipper asked.

“The goofball who moved out of his parents’ house in Concord and went to live in a hut on Walden Pond.  Remember we took you swimming there?”

“I wouldn’t live there–the bathrooms stank.”

“Right.  Anyway, he made a similar prediction about the telegraph 164 years ago.  He said ‘We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.’  And what does that prove?”

The two looked at each other with weary expressions, as we’d been through this drill before: “Just because you’re smart in one thing doesn’t mean you know everything,” they droned in unison.

“On the nosey,” I said.  “It’s especially true when smarty-pants teachers express opinions on financial matters.  What did Louis Jordan say?”

The boys have had the teachings of the great rhythm-and-blues sax man drilled into them from nursery school:  “If you’re so smart–how come you ain’t rich?”

Louis Jordan


A tear came to my eyes–I was so proud of them.  “Really smart people would see right through Ms. Mangel-Wurzel’s sloppy thinking.”

“Like who?” Skipper asked.

“Well, St. Augustine of Hippo.”

They both giggled.  “A hippo is a saint?”

Augustine of Hippo, after eating an Italian sausage with green peppers and onions.


“No, silly.  He’s the guy who said ‘Lord make me good–but not yet.’  Sort of the way you guys coast all year long, then ramp up the polite behavior when Christmas is in sight.”

They looked at each other with guilty expressions–I knew their game too well.

“Anyway, St. Augustine said ‘Argument from authority is the weakest form,’ so just saying somebody famous agrees with you doesn’t prove anything.”

“Do you think the economy is going to crash?” Skipper asked.

I put my arm around him and squeezed his shoulder a little to give him a little jolt of fatherly comfort.  “Skip–I certainly hope so.”

“You do?” they said together, incredulous.

“Sure,” I said.  “Do you know what a moderately famous economist once said?”

“What’s an economist?” Skip asked.

Herbert Stein


“He’s someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing,” I replied.  “Anyway, Herbert Stein once said that all economic news is good for some people, and bad for others.  Your father . . .”

“I thought you were our father,” Scooter interjected.

“I am–I was just talking in the third person.  Your father is a bankruptcy lawyer.  Do you know what bankruptcy is?”

They both shook their heads.  “Well,” I continued, “when a company runs out of money, it can’t pay other companies.  So it goes to court, and the judge tells everybody that they’re not going to get all their money back.”

“So if you and mom go bankrupt, we don’t get our allowance?” Skipper asked.

“That’s how it would work, but we’re not going bankrupt.  As a matter of fact, Dad–that’s me again–is going to have a pretty good year.  Take a look at this bodaciously tricked-out watch I bought myself today!”

“Cool!” Scooter exclaimed.  “What are all those dials?”

“Well,” I said as I held the watch up to their night light, “this dial tells me what time it is here, and the other one shows what time it is in Singapore.”

“Why do you care what time it is there?” Skip asked.

“I don’t, but it came standard.”

“What’s that little counter in the middle?” Scooter asked.

“That keeps track of all the babies my favorite pro athletes have by their girlfriends,” I said.  “See–it has five-figure capability.”

“How much did that cost?” Skipper asked in amazement.

“You don’t need to know,” I said, “but it was a lot.  I got a big retainer today from a company that’s going into bankruptcy.”

“A retainer?” Scooter asked.  “You mean like the one I had to wear last year?”

“No, Scoots.  A different kind of retainer.  It’s a big chunk of money I get when a company goes into bankruptcy.”

The boys looked puzzled.  “I thought bankruptcy was for people who didn’t have any money.” Skipper said.

“Well, not exactly.  It takes a lot of money to go broke,” I said, hoping to teach them an important lesson about thrift.  “You wouldn’t want daddy to work for free, would you?”

Scooter thought about this for a minute.  “You make us rake leaves for free.”

“Yes, but you get the benefit of jumping in the pile when you’re through.  I don’t get to jump in a pile of unpaid bills when I take on a bankruptcy case.”  That seemed to satisfy him.  “Now that I have that big retainer, it should be a Merry Christmas after all!”

“Gosh,” Skipper said with a serious tone that seemed out of place coming from someone wearing footie pajamas.  “I guess we’re really lucky, huh?”

“That’s right, son,” I said as I tousled his hair.  “Now why don’t you two buckle down and get some sleep.”

“Okay,” Scooter said.  “G’night.”

“Good night,” I said, and headed back downstairs.

“Dad?”  It was Skipper.

“What, Skip?”

“Could . . . could I go bankrupt?”

Susan B. Anthony:  Would you want this woman in your pants pocket?


He was sitting up in bed, his little eyes as big as those Susan B. Anthony dollar coins that nobody likes to take.

“Sure, Skipper, if you want to.  Why?”

He looked over at his big brother with a mischievous grin.  “You’re never going to see that quarter I owe you!”

Con Chapman

I'm a Boston-area writer, author of The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Red Sox-Yankees pennant race, and 50 books of humor including "Scooter & Skipper Blow Things Up!" by HumorOutcasts Press. My work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor and The Boston Globe among print outlets. "Rabbit's Blues," my biography of Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington's long-time alto sax player, will be published by Oxford University Press in September.

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