“Dip in the Pool”

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Plot Description

This story is an exercise in subtlety, from the gentle joke of its title to the surprise catch at its ending. The main character, Mr. Botibol, also has the same name as the protagonist from another Dahl story, “Mr. Botibol”.

Spoiler warning! Mr. Botibol is traveling across the ocean in a large ship and wants desperately to win the passenger auction. Each night the captain of the ship estimates the distance that they will cover in 24 hours, and a range of possible numbers are then auctioned off to the guests. Whoever owns the correct number the next day wins the amount of money in the pool. Mr. Botibol notices that the sea has suddenly gotten rough and that this will surely slow down the ship and throw off the captain’s estimate. Confident in victory, then, he uses his life savings to win the “low field” number (meaning any number more than 10 less than the estimate). When he wakes up the next morning, though, the sea is calm and the ship is making up for lost time. Mr. Botibol arrives at the desperate conclusion that jumping overboard is the only way to slow down the ship and therefore win the pool. He plans his strategy very deliberately – he will wear light tennis clothes (so he can swim better), he will make sure another person witnesses his “fall” and reports it to the captain, and he will swim as far from the ship as possible so that it must turn completely astern to pick him up. He finds the deck deserted except for one older woman. After talking to her briefly he concludes that she is neither deaf nor blind, and within moments he has plunged into the water screaming for help. The woman acts confused for a moment, then relaxes and watches the small bobbing man get further and further away. At the very end of the story, a bony woman comes out to collect the older lady and admonishes her for “wandering about.” The old woman is seemingly a mental patient!


Teacher Ideas