Doris was excited about her pheasant-hatching unit. Each of her middle schoolers in special education would "adopt" an egg and learn how to care for something fragile and dependent.
At an age in which they were just beginning an honest examination of their own parents, students would start (more)thinking about what kind of parent they wanted to be. They would carefully candle the eggs, using the overhead projector to chart each chick's growth. They would draw pictures, write stories, and make comparisons to human development. They would sing songs and dance the chicken dance, collapsing in laughter every time.
The kids always named the hatchlings. Winged teachers like Davy Crocket, Chuck Norris, Germy and PeePee Head had graced Doris’s portable. Each had taught students things books cannot bring to life. Even chicks that had failed to hatch, and those missing a foot or unable to fly, had been opportunities for learning. Over the years, there had been more than a few Stephen Hawkings, Stubbies, Elvis’ and John Candys, but, for the most part, things had gone well.
This morning, when the eggs were delivered, the students gathered round to size up them up and choose their babies. Each made a mark on “their egg,” ready to be the perfect mom or dad.
After placing the babies in the hatchery, it was time for a little math.
"Last year 10 out of 30 eggs hatched. Let’s write that fraction on the board." Said Doris.
"This year we have 18 eggs. Using the fraction on the board, how many do you think will hatch?"
"23!" Shouted Klayton.
It was going to be a long incubation for these chicks.
We are men who take 1/32 of an inch seriously. 1/64 of an inch is too small. Let's not get crazy. But a lot can happen in 1/32nd. There are men who look like us, but who won't trifle with 1/16ths. We call them butchers. Their work falls out(more) of buildings, kills children, makes us all look bad.
Simple, stupid, time worn sayings: Measure twice, cut once. No wasted trips. Right tool for the job. This aint our first fucking barbecue. We watch the others cracking clams off the edges of the lites; they couldn't cut a piece of 1/4" plate to save their lives. We watch the careless forget to tie off, fall down 2 and 1/2 stories to impale themselves on rebar. Asshole in a hurry tips over the boomlift, squishes the foreman.
100 yards of curtain wall: we erect it in a day. Only two things we ask of ourselves: do it fast and do it perfect. We don't care about the others, 25 donkeys all lined up to jerk off in the port-a-shitter. We unload the crates off the flatbed, careful to stand aside. We learned from watching one of us once, who unsnapped the ties and flipped the crate onto his body. We could hear him gurgling, metal lung wheezing, and bubbling blood as he died beneath the pounds.
We are careful not to flip these; prized, expensive. 1/4" over 1/4" insulated lites with intercept spacers. Each one a 1,000 lb radius from Spain.
Each of us lifts one, sweats and struggles. But we are proud. Balanced on the suction cup, against our forearms, they're like shields.
"Bring the left up just 1/16th!"
"Ok, now back down."
"There, now left 1/32nd."
We never tire. Unlike others.
"Almost. 1/32nd right."
"Fuck it. Move it left 1/64th."(less)
The truth is, I don't. I was an english major, and now I'm a 24-year-old who's adrift in adulthood, aside from my connection to tutoring middle school kids. It just happens to be in math.
I tell her as much.(more) Well, that I don't like math. Not so much about my personal quarterlife crisis. Maybe I should. But my problems seem pretty milquetoast. I don't have college debt. She can't focus on her fractions because she's texting with a boy who's filling the gaps in love her mother left, her mother, who's dating someone younger than me.
Next period, I'm going over how to multiply fractions for the seventeenth time with the kid across from me--eighth grade, Mexican, teetering on the edge of cutting out at all times. Whenever he speaks, I shut up and listen. "You know," he says. "I think, when my parents had me, they had me to be, like, a criminal." I have nothing to say. This is the first honest thing I've heard him say in a long time. Who am I, to tell him he's wrong, that he can be something better? Who am I, to combat generational malaise? Who am I, but some damn overprivledged 24-year-old trying to teach kids ten years younger than me how to do fractions?(less)
"Of course I love you. I mean . . . Okay, let's say two thirds of the time."
'Fair enough. I'm at three fifths with you."
"Three fifths .(more) . . that's more than two thirds, right?"
"Nope. Two thirds wins."
"What can I tell you? I majored in Political Science. ButI guess that means that I love you more than you love me."
"By one fifteenth. That's less than the standard deviation. So let's say that we love each other equally."
"Not so fast. That one fifteenth -- what's that all about?"
"One fifteenth, honey. Don't sweat it. It's nothing."
"I'm not sweating it. But suddenly I'm feeling alone here, with all this love I have for you. While apparently, you don't feel the same way about me. What gives?"
"One fifteenth, babe. It's nothing."
"Nothing my eye. In political-science terms, one fifteenth could mean an entire election. One fifteenth is all you'd need to take over the country. What if the bad guys win by fifteen percent? Before you know it, they're turning the malls into concentration camps."
"Concentration camps? You're being ridiculous."
"I'm not being ridiculous. But I am feeling . . . oh, I don't know . . . two fifteenths less in love with you. So how's that feel?"
"You're blowing this way out of proportion, sweetie."
My dad got in a mood sometimes where he could only eat in geometric series. From the slice of meatloaf on his plate, he’d cut off half and eat it, then half of what was left, then half of what was left, and so on until the crumb of(more) meatloaf was too small to cut with the sharpest knife in the house. Then the same with the peas, though he might start with two-thirds to hurry it up.
Mom had a rule that no one left the table until everyone was done, but on those nights she let us read comics or do our homework while we waited.
Dad joked halfheartedly that at least we should be great at fractions when we got to them in school. Brian, who was a year older, failed his fractions test on purpose, and I swore to myself I was going to do the same, but when it was my turn I couldn’t do that to Dad.(less)
If she were taller, by even an eighth of an inch, this wouldn't have happened. Her legs would have been longer, her steps bigger and her pace faster. He wouldn't have cornered her in this alley because she would have been smarter by half than to make this turn. She would have(more) used her head and her longer legs and run a different direction.
Her heart wouldn't be pounding so hard and she wouldn't be so terrified.
But she wasn't afraid of him. She was afraid of what she could do to him. Afraid of what would happen if he got too close. She wanted to warn him, but they don't ever listen to the Scry. It's all shoot first and no questions after. They don't even capture them anymore. It's all about annihilation nine-tenths of the time. Even that number is a low estimation because she thinks she is the last. They die when she's panicked. They die and they fall and they are one hundred percent gone. And it's her fault.
"I just want to talk," he says with a wheezing breath.
The words catch her off guard. So far off guard that her mouth drops open. Is this the mysterious one-tenth that people murmur about? When they decide not to shoot and not to dismember? Her heart still beats its erratic ba-dump-a-dump-dump and all she can think is how best she can escape this situation. She doesn't want to talk to him. She wants this to end the way she has foreseen it. With her walking away. With him.
But is it changing now?
She doesn't see the full picture. Only pieces of it. One sixth? Two-thirds? Is he dead this time? Her hands bloody? Why has it changed so quickly this time? Is he special somehow?(less)
Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago there lived a man in a tree with only one window. Through that window he could see anything he chose to see.
In the mornings he would watch the opening of the market, where vegetable and fish monger(more)s set their stands up for a day's work. Not to him, though, he pictured a square full of gypsies reading palms, playing music and dancing. He would turn daytime in to night time.
When the marked closed the morning came and he would see the townspeople dressed up as ancient people walking around in togas and conversing about the nature of life.
It was his world. He could do whatever he wanted.
Then one day he turned everything black. He killed all the people. He ravished all the land.
And in 9 days he created a new world where he molded the humans after himself. These humans he made were handed the task to discover the land around them and also themselves. They would only know fractions of what was long before.
Curious, he thought. I wonder what they will come up with.