This week’s assignment for my writing class was to experiment with Word Play. We were given a pretty wide mandate: it could be anything from a limerick, to a story with puns in it, to a piece of complete nonsense text- like Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, or Party in the U.S.A. by Miley Cyrus. (P.S. did you hear Miley also dressed up as Nicki Minaj for Halloween? copycat.)
Anyway, I decided to do a short story inspired by my birthday on Wednesday. It’ pretty different from anything I’ve done before, but maybe you guys will dig it. It also involves a LOT of groaners and math jokes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
It was nearly midnight on October 30th, and a number 2 sat idly on a park bench, staring up at the grandfather clock of a nearby building. In a few moments, it would be Halloween; the crisp, fall air pregnant with anticipation. But for the 2, this date meant more than just fun-sized chocolate bars, naughty nurse costumes and spiked Witch’s Brew. Halloween, as it happened, was also the 2’s birthday.
Although birthdays were something the 2 ordinarily relished, this year seemed different. A party felt like too much effort. Cupcakes seemed boring. Even the prospect of being the most popular person on NumberBook for a day didn’t hold its usual lustre.
Just then, the clock struck 12, and a second figure emerged from the darkness; long, lean, and menacing looking.
“So,” said the 2, “We finally meet.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” replied the 7.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” said the 2, “not all of it good things.”
“Let me guess”, asked the 7, “that I’m all about the 3M’s: Marriage, Mortgage and Maternity?
“Jeeze we just met, and you’re already talking commitment” scoffed the 2.
“Supposed to be” replied the 7, “but it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me with you. It’s clear 5 and 6 didn’t leave things in very good shape.”
“6,” sighed the 2. “I miss 6. We had so many good times together. And 3! We were such a pair! So.. sequential. And then there was 1. I could never forget my first.”
“You on the other hand,” said the 2, “you’re all sharp lines and angles. You’re just so….. odd.”
“Stop giving me so much grief,” cried the 7, exacerbated, “You barely know me!”
“Ok. So tell me a little about yourself.”
“Well, I came here straight from my gig at Sesame Street,” replied the 7. “And let me tell you, that Letter Q is a real diva, making outlandish demands for her trailer and whatnot. Do you know that she once asked for 17 cans of Alphabet soup with all the letter “S”‘s removed? That’s her ex, apparently, and things did not end well. That’s the thing about Q. She always has to be with somebody. Be glad you’re not stuck with her.”
…”And then before that I was overseeing my wonders of the world.” The 7 continued, “Which have really become more like, 49, since no one can agree on the damn things. Between pruning the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and posing for pictures at the Grand Canyon, I’m spent! Not to mention I’ve got all my sins to worry about. Have you seen that “Rich Kids of Instagram” site lately?”
“Mmm…” mumbled a disinterested 2.
“Keep in mind, that’s my single life,” explained 7, “I’m totally different when I’m in a relationship.”
“What about the fact that together, you and I have seen the deaths of basically every famous musician from Jimi Hendrix to Amy Winehouse?” demanded the 2.
“Add that to your disillusionment and my fear of commitment, and we’re really looking at a bright future here,” she added, sarcastically.
“Oh come on, be rational,” said the 7.
“I am rational! I’m always rational!” cried the 2. “I don’t know, I guess I just feel like all my best numbers are behind me, you know? That I’m past my prime”.
“First of all, that’s not even possible,” replied the 7. “Secondly, I think you’re suffering from selective memory, missy. Do you remember when you and 1 were together? If you weren’t getting pissed on box of cheap wine, you were puking into a toilet somewhere. That relationship really did a number on you. And 3? 3 convinced you to go to law school. Do you really want that paragon of good decision-making back in your life? And as for 6… Come on, woman. You and 6 spent 90% of your time cooped up in your apartment writing cute little blog posts”
“They were cute,” sighed the 2.
“Well, like it or not, we’re stuck together, so you better get used to it. Plus, I’m not all bad. “
“Oh yeah? Try me.”
“Well, with me, you can finally cash in on that health insurance plan you’ve been paying into”.
” Oh stop being so obtuse,” said the 2.
“I think the word you’re really looking for here is “acute”.
“Don’t flatter yourself!” snapped the 2.
“In all seriousness, we could be amazing together, you and I,” said the 7. “Historically, we’ve done great things. Well, you know, besides the whole, “’Death Club’ thing.”
“Ernest Hemingway published his first novel at 27, ” offered the 7. “Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. And at 27, Salvador Dali painted ‘The Persistence of Memory.’
All amazing things! And look on the bright side. At least I’m not 8 or 9. Or worse- thir-“
“I get it, I get it!” winced the 2; “No need to rub in my limited shelf life.”
“Plus, maybe this is the year you’ll finally start embracing your curves.”
“Doubtful,” replied the 2.
“Look, I’m not saying things won’t be a little different, ” said the 7, “there are a few things you should probably brace yourself for”
“Like more of these terrible number puns?”
“Maybe a few”, smiled the 7, “And that you should probably learn how to cook and clean at some point. Also, I hate to say it, but you’re not going to be able to shop at Forever 21 for much longer,” added the 7, “the irony is becoming much too painful.”
“And there is one more thing….” continued the 7. You’re probably going to have to start using a….”
“No! Don’t say it!” said the 2, cowering in fear.
…. ” night cream”.
“Don’t worry. They make lots of affordable, non-greasy formulas these days.”
“Can I at least still drink wine?” Asked the 2
“Of course. No number would deny you of that.”
“Phew,” sighed the 2. “You know, maybe I misjudged you.”
“Well, you know what they say…” said the 7, “Don’t judge a number by its figure!”
“Ugh. Who gave you that gem?”
“Big Bird. He’s very insightful. Shame about the whole Mitt Romney situation.”
“Hey, you wanna go dancing?” asked the 7, “My friends tell me I’ve got mad algorithm”.
The 2 rolled her eyes.
“Come on, there’s supposed to be a great Polynomial bar around here. Reviews on this place are undivided!”
“Ok,” replied 2, laughing in spite of herself. And as the pair walked off into the night, she thought, maybe, just maybe, they might not be so bad together after all.