Episode Thirty Five: Tannenbaum’s Thumb

As the British say, today has been a rum show. My family awoke me this morning with unexpected plans to go have fun out of town. We’re a family, since when do we have fun? So I played along, throwing my laptop into a messenger bag that I had bought for a friend. (That’s right Caleb, it finally shipped. Come by tomorrow to pick it up.) So, we were in the middle of having fun -and I was in the middle of searching for free Wi-Fi to update the blog with- when we got stuck in the middle of a raging downpour. I got thoroughly soaked. Thankfully, I brought along an extra shirt. When we finally got home, I ran quickly to the library to take advantage of their internet, to find they had closed. I did my best in my car, in the rain, in the parking lot, picking up the faintest signal of Wi-Fi, when the internet failed and erased all my work.

Well, now I’m in Arby’s, and the guy gave me a free soda. Arby’s if you’re reading this, I want you to know, you have always been my favorite fast food chain, but this cements it into eternity. Thank you.

Anyway, back to serious matters. As you can tell, I have endured many tribulations to bring you this tale brought from Tannenbaum’s childhood. Since it’s so long, I will let this post suffice for the week, and on Tuesday instead of my normal filler of a Q&A session, I will be taking suggestions for cartoon drawings. Email me a suggestion of what you want me to draw, and on Tuesday, I’ll post a drawing of it. Does that sound like fun? It certainly does to me. Thanks for coming folks. -BW

It all started with Tannenbaum’s right thumb.

From birth, Radcliffe T. Tannenbaum has had a peculiarly strong right thumb muscle, the Opponens pollicis, the muscle which allows one to pinch. This made his thumb as strong as an adult’s, or maybe a little less. He paid no attention to his genetic superiority until he was about 4 years old. At this time he and his playmates (being the competitive little monsters that they are) were comparing their comparative strengths, biceps, triceps, glutes, etc. They each took turns trying to crack a walnut with their thumb. None of them could raise more effort than a grunt until the walnut was passed to young Radcliffe. He smashed the shell open with a single twitch of his thumb.


As you could imagine, this caused no small stir among the young boys. Tannenbaum’s young peers treated him with awe and respect, murmuring small words of praise in his direction as he played at preschool. All the boys treated him with respect, except for Harvey. Harvey was another boy with a gift. His was an overactive growth on his pituary gland. Harvey was huge and he knew it. He may have looked big and strong for a four year old, but no one had the bravery to stick up to him and find out specifically how big and strong he really was.

Harvey bullied the boys constantly and one day decided to pick on poor little Radcliffe. At the first sign of provocation, young Tannenbaum grabbed the skin under Harvey’s upper arm and pinched as hard as he could. He left a purple thumb shaped welt there that stayed for a week. Harvey cried for the rest of the day. From that day forward, Harvey pretended that Radcliffe didn’t exist, and the other boys pretended that he was a god.

This was Tannenbaum’s first taste of power, and he liked it.

As he grew older, Radcliffe learned that it took more than a muscular thumb to keep his classmates in awe. One year, the entire class took a test to determine their intelligence quotient, the idea being that the students who scored high numbers were smart whereas the ones who received low numbers were dumb, or as the school called them, ‘special’, which the whole school knew was code for ‘moronic’.

The day of the test, Radcliffe achieved a ‘special’ score.

The day after the test, Tannenbaum’s father escorted his son into the teacher’s office to discuss the matter.

I think it’s unfair to put a number on a kid and call it his identity.” Mr. Tannenbaum said.

Radcliffe Tannenbaum Jr. sat in the corner and silently wished his father didn’t care so much and would just shut up.


The teacher (Mr. Danvers) sighed, formed his fingers into a steeple shape, and told Mr. Tannenbaum that he hadn’t made up the numbers, that little Radcliffe had done it himself. The numbers could only reflect the reality of the situation, and could not tell lies.

Let Radcliffe Jr. take the test again.” Tannenbaum Sr. insisted. “Let him try again. He can come up with a better test score than what he got.”

Mr. Danvers shook his head and clucked his tongue, not unlike a chicken.

Mr. Tannenbaum, I don’t believe you quite understand how the IQ test works. Let me explain it to you: the IQ test does not depend on correct or incorrect answers. It’s not a thing that one can study for. The test simply relates the intelligence of the student into numerical form. Thus, by looking at one’s test score, we can accurately predict a person’s aptitude for intelligence and their ability to learn.

Radcliffe received a low score. Thus, he has a low learning capacity. If I were him, I would not apply myself with undue diligence into my studies. It would be, after all, a wasted effort. Radcliffe will never be good enough for anything but physical labor.”

Immediately following this statement, Mr. Danvers received a free ride to the hospital in an ambulance, and Mr. Tannenbaum received a permanent order to cease and desist from school property.

That night, Mr. Tannenbaum came home from work and took his son, Radcliffe, into the backyard to talk.

Rad,” he began, “the teacher says that you’ll never be good enough for anything but work.”

Yeah, I guess so, Dad.” Radcliffe said.

Mr. Tannnbaum frowned a little and looked down at his shoes.

Is that good enough for you?” he asked.


I asked, Radcliffe, if work is good enough for you. There’s nothing wrong with work, but I want to know, do you think it’s good enough for you?”

Radcliffe T. Tannenbaum, at the ripe age of seven, didn’t know for sure. He really didn’t understand what was the big deal. He knew something was happening, but he couldn’t tell for sure what.

No, Dad. I don’t think so. I don’t like to work.” Tannenbaum Jr. replied.

Tannnenbaum Sr. smiled and hugged his son.

Then never let it be enough, son. Never let it be enough.”

Tannenbaum never did.

Thanks for reading! I love you all!


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