137.34 (smarty pants)

by Tony Rauch


You're lounging on the rug in front of the TV doing your homework. You always get the fun stuff done first—history and social studies. You save the harder stuff for later—math and sci­ence.

"What is the atomic weight of barium?" you pound your pencil into your notebook. "Dad!?" you call, still stabbing your homework. "Barium?" you shake your head. “Who cares about barium. I mean, when am I ever gonna need to know that? ... The atomic weight of barium?!!!" you yell. But there is no reply. Not from anywhere.


Boskie, your dog, is lying on the rug a few feet from you. He squirms, then raises his head, shakes it and yawns.

"Ddddaaaaagggghhhhhhdddd!!!" you raise your head to the ceiling and yowl. Then you look off into the corner, staring, try­ing to figure it out. You notice on the shelf some of your sister's inventions. She's the one into science stuff, not you. Too bad she's not home. You notice some of her small boxes and rods, compiled from old transistor radios and whatnot, tethered together with electronic coils and cords. She claims one of the small electronic gadgets will read the thoughts of most animals. You put on these ear phones and point a rod at your dog or cat. She claims to have one that allows them to develop vocal chords at a rapid rate. You point the wand or rod at them. It's supposed to send signals to their brain. Something like that. You can't remember. You figure it's just one of her tricks, that's she's just goofing on you. You look over at Boskie, then back to the shelf with your sister's junk on it.

Boskie licks his lips and flicks his tongue over and over in a smack smack smack sound. He looks up at you. "The answer you seek is the number 137.34," he yawns, disinterested.

Your head snaps over to Boskie. "Huh?" you cough.

"I believe the atomic weight of barium is still 137.34," Boskie announces to the air.

You are dumbfounded. Then, to your further surprise, he adds, "Man, you are dumb. Really, I don't know what we're going to do with you. No wonder your parents are worried about your future." Boskie is speaking in a sophisticated voice, enunci­ating in a stiff, forced, exaggerated manner.

"Boskie," you gasp. Your eyes flash in wonder. "You can talk... You can...," you exhale. "Say something else, boy."

"Well for one, stop referring to me as, 'boy,'" Boskie sniffs. "It's demeaning to the both of us."

"Shoot... Where... Where on earth ... How... How did you learn to speak so well?"

"What do you think I do all day, my good man. Why I've been paying attention to your television machine. It's a wonder­ful communication device."

"Wow. Dang. Golly," you shake your head and look away and grin, "Huh. Imagine that. I mean, think of the possibilities. Think of all the friends I'll have. Think of the girls. The girls. And the money. I could really rake it in here," you grin, returning your attention back to your family dog, just lying on the old cir­cular rug and panting with a blank expression. "Say something else ... I mean ... I mean ... talk to me ... Please."

"No," Boskie looks away, then sets his head back down to rest on top of his large paws. He casts his attention in the other direction, on purpose.

"Ah, come on, please. Pleaeeez­zzeee," you plead.

"Why should I waste it on you, goo­fus?"

You stand, all frustrated. You stomp over and grab him by the collar. "All right, out you go then, smarty pants," and lead him to the washroom.

"137.34, stupid. Anyone knows that... How simple," he chuckles.

"Shut up!" you demand, opening the door to the cold, dark laundry room, escorting him inside, then close the louvered door and turn back to your school books. "Hhmmm, 137.34 eh," you settle back on the rug in front of the television.

And just then your cat, Clyde, raises his head from the couch and looks over to you and says, "Thank you. He is quite a bore, after all."