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I've read Asimov's "Go, Little Book" story from Black Widowers series. All seems clear (and the story itself is good) except for one place, where I can't follow the author. Here is the excerpt:

Gonzalo [...] hurried to his seat to avoid Rubin's explosive reply.

At the other end of the table, James Drake said to Roger Halsted, "A, B-" and paused, lengthily.

"What?" said Halsted, his high, white forehead flushing and wrinkling as his eyebrows moved upward.

"Long time, no C," said Drake, coughing at his own cigarette smoke, which he frequently did.

Halsted looked disgusted. "I think I'll make it longer next time. I was here last month, but you weren't."

What is the A, B, and C about? If it's just a replacement for 1, 2, 3, and time counting, then what has been measured exactly?

I have 2 suggestions:

  • a time for Rubin to react to Gonzalo's joke (there was no reaction);
  • a time for Drake to stay without breathing;

The first one contradicts to the next Halsted's phrase "I think I'll make it longer next time". The second one is strange because Drake was smoking at that moment. And for both hypothesis, I don't understand how the last quoted phrase can be related: "I was here last month, but you weren't". This seems important.

Can someone explain?

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It's a pun.

When Drake pauses between B and C, it's a long time during which there is no C. Now read "long time, no C" aloud. "Long time, no see" = "haven't seen you for a while".

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    Reminds me of the joke with the bear going into the bar: "I'll have a ....... beer". Says the barman: "Why the big paws?" – Daniel Roseman Mar 19 '13 at 12:04
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    @Stan: Yes, Halsted promised to come less often -- since he was "disgusted" by Drake's pun. – Plutor Mar 19 '13 at 13:06

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