International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction:
Pringle and the Bookmaker
was in a mid-Manhattan coffee house with my friend Bob Cummings
drinking lattes. (This was before the recession when
we could still afford them). Bob, like myself, was a
science-fiction writer, but a far more successful one.
Hed conceived of a hero, a mathematician, whod solved
what he called the Universal Theorem, or partially solved it, and
this gave him the ability to predict the weather, know what stocks
to buy, win at Las Vegas casinos, foresee terrorist attacks, and
so on. Hed written several books about this hero,
all of which had sold very well. This is why I couldnt
understand why Bob now looked so anxious and harassed.
I soon found out.
was familiar but had a singular twist. Hed become
a gambler. The twist was that hed done so because
he thought he could duplicate his heros powers, using the Universal
Theorem, to predict future events, in this case sporting events.
The familiar part was that after having some early success the inevitable
had happened. Hed lost a good amount of money, then,
trying to recoup it, had bet even more and so was over $100,000 in debt.
The worst part was that the bookmaker hed bet with, a man named
Manny Roth, was threatening that if he didnt pay up soon Bob would
suffer grievous bodily harm or worse.
I know Ive been an idiot, Bob said, but
I was hoping that maybe your Uncle Pringle could help me out.
Uncle Claude Pringle was really my wife Ellens uncle.
He was retired from a government agency whose name Id never learned
and was now, he said, a consultant, although what he consulted about
I was never sure. I did know he had a surprising number
of contacts of all kinds. Hed helped me out with a
sticky work situation several years before and since then had also helped,
in various ways, a few friends of mine. In the last instance,
a mobster, whod been threatening a restaurant owner Ellen and
I knew, had been found dead in his car, something which had led me to
wonder just what kind of connections Uncle Pringle had.
He might, I told Bob.
Do you think you could arrange for me to meet him?
I can do even better. Since the weather is
so nice, I think I know where I can find him. Lets
It was December, but the day was sunny and unusually warm. Uncle Pringle
didnt have an office. He conducted his business in
a midtown park, which wasnt too far away from where Bob and I
had been drinking our lattes. Sure enough, as we approached
the park, I saw him on his familiar bench, feeding some squirrels.
It had always seemed to me that Uncle Pringle resembled the actor Claude
Rains who was his namesake. He was a small man with white
hair, handsome and always neatly turned out.
Uncle Pringle smiled as he looked up and saw me. He threw
a last handful of peanuts to the squirrels and shooed them away.
I introduced him to Bob, who once again related his story.
Its my own fault for getting into this situation,
Bob concluded, but I dont look forward to being beaten up
by Manny Roths goons.
Ive read a couple of your books about this fellow
and the Universal Theorem, said Uncle Pringle. I
wouldnt want to see their author come to harm.
Maybe you can have one of your old CIA buddies visit this
bookie, I said.
I dont believe I ever said I was in the CIA.
At any rate, lets see what we can do without resorting to extreme
measures. Why dont we pay a visit to Mr. Roth ourselves?
Ive always wanted to see a bookmakers establishment.
At this point Uncle Pringles cell phone
rang. Excuse me, he said. Yes,
Barack, how are you? No, that wont quite do it.
I suggest that you stress the theme of change, something like change
you can believe in. All right, give it a try.
A young friend who needed some advice. Now,
where were we? Oh, yes, we were going to beard a bookmaker
in his den.
Manny Roth ran his bookmaking operation out of a restaurant near Times
Square, one of several legitimate businesses he owned.
It was a week later and the weather had turned cold. The
New York sky was a grim gray, suitable for our mission as Bob had recently
received another warning by phone. We entered the restaurant,
which was doing a brisk business, and made our way to the back.
A large beefy man stood in front of a door. Where
ya think ya goin? he barked out, then he recognized Bob.
Its you. Manny wants to see you all right.
He opened the door and we went in.
The room we entered was large, bigger even than the restaurant.
The walls were lined with television sets, each showing a different
sporting event. A large board showed odds on the weeks
football, basketball and other games. A diverse lot
of people sat at tables, holding pencils and looking at papers, presumably
deciding on their bets. We found Manny Roth at a desk in
the back. Nearby was still another large goon, who kept
his beady eyes on us. Well, Cummings, Roth said
to Bob, do you have my money?
Mr. Cummings is a little short at the moment, said
Uncle Pringle. Im his, er, representative.
I was hoping we could negotiate some mutually agreeable terms.
Roth laughed. You gotta be kiddin, right.
Ya want me to take care of these guys? asked the
Yeah, I dont have time to waste on small change like
a hundred grand. Teach them a good lesson.
The goon advanced on Uncle Pringle and grabbed him by his coat
collar. He was drawing back his fist when a large gun appeared
as if by magic in Uncle Pringles hand. I wont
hesitate to use this. I dont think I can miss at this
The goon pulled back. Hey, whered that
gun come from?
Now then, said Uncle Pringle. Why
dont we talk this over?
No way said Roth. You cant
I wouldnt dream of it, said Uncle Pringle.
Then he took aim and fired at on of the TV sets. Bits and
pieces flew all over. The occupants of the room scrambled
to get out. Uncle Pringle aimed again.
:Okay, okay, said Rothy. What do
In the end, the agreement was that Bob was
to pay off his debt in 60 days. Hed just finished
another Universal Theorem book and hoped to get a substantial advance
for it. I knew you were a reasonable man, said
Uncle Pringle. A very interesting business you have
here. I may be back to place a bet myself.
Just dont shoot out any more of my TVs,
A few weeks later, Uncle Pringle called me.
Howd you like to accompany me to that bookmaking establishment
again? he asked.
Why, is there a problem?
No, not at all. I have some business there
and I also want you to convey some good news to your friend Mr. Cummings.
This time the goon at the door let us into
the bookmaking room without question. We went over to Manny
Roths desk. He looked up and when he saw Uncle Pringle
he grimaced. I suppose youve come to collect,
he said. Okay. I still dont know
how you did it. He handed Uncle Pringle a large number
Thank you. Here, this $50,000 will retire half
of Mr. Cummings debt. Ill let him pay the other half
from the publishers advance hes just received.
He has to learn the folly of gambling.
Hey, said Roth. You didnt
do too bad.
Uncle Pringle just smiled.
When we were out of the restaurant, I asked
Uncle Pringle, What did you beat on?
The Super Bowl, of course.
You mean you bet on the Giants to win. But
New England hadnt lost a game and theyd even beaten the
Giants in the regular season. They were prohibitive favorites
Thats why the odds were so good.
But what made you think the Giants could win?
Mr. Cummings books about the Universal Theorem gave
me an idea. I did some research, and
Dont tell me youve solved the Universal Theorem?
Oh, I dont think anyone can ever completely solve
the Universal Theorem. But it does lead you down some interesting
So you knew the Giants would win?
Nothing is that certain. Lets just say
I was lucky. Oh, tell Ellen I wont be coming to dinner
next week. Im making a little trip to Las Vegas.
I shook my head. You never knew with Uncle Pringle.
Green January 2009
I was pretty excited about getting the job on my first interview until
I discovered that my salary would be $75 a week,
of Age in San Francisco
The new campaign stinks, interrupted Fiegelman.
stories in Dreamscapes
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