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By Joseph Conrad

The memoirs of the well-known Polish-British novelist Joseph Conrad.

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And just as I get a chuckle from watching a golden retriever chase its tail, Eric has found amusement in my lack of knowledge about the Crimean War and my confusion between fission and fusion. This is something I’d never had before—a condescending older brother. When I was growing up with my sister, I was considered the scholar. Beryl had other advantages—friends, for one thing. But I was the acknowledged bookworm. Then, at age thirty-one, I suddenly inherited this brother-in-law who not only was far more knowledgeable than I was, but who loved to emphasize that point whenever he saw me.

I have my cereal, and I’m reminded of the world’s longest breakfast table, in Battle Creek, Michigan. I read about a Boy Scouts controversy in the newspaper and I think of the scout movement’s founder, Robert Baden-Powell, who also, incidentally, pioneered the use of hot-air balloons in military spying. These little sparks happen so often that I couldn’t possibly work them all into conversation. Which, I’m sure, is a great relief to those around me. But I can mention some of them—and I do. Like today at the office.

My piece, on the other hand, remained empty. Hollow. If you listened closely, you could hear a tiny echo in it. ” asked Eric. I sat there trying to remember what the hell my geometry teacher had taught me in ninth grade, but could recall only that he had a thick German accent and a comb-over. “I’ll give you a hint. ” I tried. “Zero,” said Eric, snickering. He actually snickered. ” I drew a blank. I was even flubbing the entertainment category, my supposed strong point. The irritating Trivial Pursuit people loved to ask about old-timey entertainment, the kind before DVDs and stalkerazzi.

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