The text was from Joni’s little sister, Amber, and it read: Running late. Traffic. ETA 4:30. Have beer? Boys want to know.
Joni read the text aloud to John then texted back, “Okay. No problem. Yes, we have beer. And wine. See you soon.” Looking up from her phone with a mischievous grin on her face, she said, “Gee, honey, that gives us, what? Fifteen minutes? What could we do to fill fifteen minutes?”
John knitted his eyebrows together. “Uhmmm, not sure? Did you have something in mind?”
Joni laughed. “I do, but probably not what you’re thinking. Let’s indulge ourselves in a little fact checking, shall we?”
John laughed in return. “You’re that confident, huh? No problem. But first we check my run distance. And we see where Denby’s located. Deal?”
She shook her head. “Buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, buck! What’s the matter, Colonel? Chicken?”
John grinned in response and replied, “Don’t be ludicrous, Dark Helmet. And stop stalling. We don’t have much time before the gladiators arrive.”
Search engines are incredible tools and John had learned to embrace, as he liked to say in parody of his mom’s strong upper Midwest accent, “The Google.” After starting the computer and connecting via DSL to the great ether net he said, “Otay, Buckwheat, let’s start with the distance between Sibley and 162nd Street.”
Going to Google maps John scrolled down to find business addresses at the two terminuses of his search. He selected 1 West Sibley for the north side and 16200 State Street for the south. Google maps informed him that this would be a 1.5 mile walk and should take him thirty-one minutes. “Huh,” he said. “That’s not as long as I’d hoped. One-and-a-half miles, huh? Bummer. Thought I was in better shape than that.”
“How long did it take you to run that far?”
“Sixteen eighteen. Ideally I should be able to run that in like, twelve minutes.”
“Twelve minutes?! Are you nuts? The Google thing says thirty-one.”
“Sure. For walking. Or crawling. I just thought I’d be able to do eight minute miles. This is like,” he paused for a second, “eleven. Will you still love me when I’m old and fat, baby-cakes?”
“Always and forever,” she sang, adding, “I’d be lucky to even walk that far. Five and a half miles is a long jog, honey. Have you been running at all?”
“No. Not really. Just lots of biking. Maybe I can work on it.”
“And maybe Google Maps doesn’t have the distance just right. Okay, Johnny boy: Next! Who’s the father of modern stats? Cassandra awaits. Ask your little electronic oracle, mister red bead, white bead.”
John dutifully typed, “who is the father of modern statistics?” into the Google search window. A small box appeared that contained the words “Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher.” The forty-one word Wikipedia quoting paragraph confirmed Joni’s contention.
“See?” she asked, a huge grin spreading across her face. “Told ya, soul-ja!”
John looked at her and scowled. “Yeah, yeah. But Wikipedia? I think we should check other sources.”
Joni just shook her head. “How are those grapes, Foxy? A little sour?”
“Har, har, har. What are you, a commode-ian?” John retorted. “And not to quibble, because you do seem to be correct, but you said this guy’s name was Sir Ronald Aloysius Fisher. It’s Aylmer, not Aloysius.”
“I did not!” she laughed.
“You most certainly did so! Aloysius is a rare enough name that it caught my eye. Ear? But Aylmer? I didn’t even know Aylmer was a name! Elmer, sure. Great glue and one hell of a preacher, but Aylmer? Sounds like a Louisianan trying to get his gumbo lips around Elmer.”
Joni just looked at John with her eyebrows raised.
“What?” he demanded. “You need me to say you’re right? Fine. Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher,” he emphasized Aylmer, “is the father of modern stats. There. Happy?”
“Founder. Not father. Don’t be so Nineteenth Century, darling. And what preacher do we know that’s named Elmer?”
John bowed from his chair. “Point taken, ma’am. Me and Aylmer bow to you. And you don’t know Elmer?” he asked, looking at his wife with raised eyebrows. “Elmer Gantry? Steinbeck? Movie with Bert Lancaster? Making fun of a Billy Sunday character who is neither honest nor holy? No? Really? You should read it. Or at least watch the movie. Old black and white.
“Hey! Billy Sunday is in Some Luck!” he continued. “That’s one of the books I have to get back to my library down in New Orleans. Wait a minute! Jane Smiley -the gal who wrote Some Luck? -she has a Billy Sunday like preacher in the story named Elmer! Ha! Can’t believe I missed that.”
John shook his head and clicked on a new Google search. “Now I want to see what happens when I type in Edward Deming.”
Edward Deming turned out to be W. Edwards Deming, a fact that Joni felt compelled to comment on. “What was that about names, Mister? Looks like your Mr. Edward is really Edwards. What ‘cha got to say about that, big boy?”
“Oh, please! Don’t be so Andre three-thousand. And an “s” at the end of a name is hardly the same thing as getting the dude’s middle name completely w-r-o-n-g, MS smarty Marty. Huh, look at that,” he continued, looking at the info on the screen, “dudes were contemporaries, like big time. Born ten years apart, died ten years apart. Alright, you win this round but just wait, Doctor Moriarty! Next.”
When the results for Denby, IA emerged on the screen John emitted a single, loud, Ha! “Look at that. No wonder you didn’t know where Denby is. MS Smiley made the town up. I’ll be horn swoggled. Guess we won’t be visiting there!”
“Looks like,” Joni replied. “You know what we should do?”
Just as John answered with a, “What?” the doorbell rang.
Joni sprang up from her chair, saying, “We should answer the door. Come on, Spartacus, time to face the fam.”