Ten Percent Always Goes to The House

The Second Essential Scary Truth

Scot thought his revealed street knowledge could be used to his advantage. While in the seventh grade, he got in trouble by hustling another of my father’s con games called the schtrick trick. In the schtick trick, the con artist takes a long shoelace and loops it into a large circle with a piece of the shoelace going down the middle. The mark puts his finger in one of the loops. If the shoelace pulls off his finger cleanly, he wins. If it catches on his finger, he loses. This hustle helped finance my father’s journey to the American sector of Germany from Tashkent , Uzbekistan . Dad said it was the one con where the mark had absolutely no chance of winning.

“We didn’t make much, maybe $10 or $15; it may have been as little as pop money. Mom freaked when she found out what I got detention for.” Scot recalls.

When the Old Man got home that night, Mother told him about Scot’s adventures in school. She expected him to dish out appropriate punishment. This was an unusual occurrence. She was not a “Wait until your father gets home!” mother. If Mom thought we needed to be grounded or punished she did it. In this case, I suspect she wanted to see what punishment he felt appropriate for his middle son caught hustling a con in school.

She was tapped her perfectly manicured nails on the black Formica counter top. This made me nervous. Mother rarely wore a dress or a skirt in the house, preferring her jeans and University of Michigan sweatshirt for dealing with the messy lives of growing boys. Her nails were Mother’s only girly affectation. She had a manicure once a week and performed a daily polish touch up herself. If Mom was risking her brand new French Tipped nails with that furious tapping, she was really angry with Scot.

“How much did you make,” Dad asked. “Look me right in the eye and tell me how much you made.”

When Dad used the “Look me in the eye” phrase, we knew he was serious, particularly if he grabbed a forearm.

Scot pulled out around $10 in singles and Dad took a $1.

“Remember kid: ten percent always goes to the house,” he strongly admonished my little brother. My mother’s blue eyes seemed to pop out of her head like she was a character in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. This wasn’t the punishment Mother had in mind.

“Aron,” she said calmly. “May I speak to you in the bedroom please?”

My parents went into their bedroom for a conference, only in the most extreme circumstances of their son’s bad behavior. I expected to hear the sounds of a loud argument. Mom and Dad were never shy about screaming at each other within our hearing. Mother was so calm that night that I would have bet on fireworks. But there was no screaming, no angry accusations, no sounds at all. When they came back downstairs, Dad grounded Scot for a week. I did have the feeling that Dad was in Chateaux Bow Wow for a while himself.

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