Written for Yinathing 08, remixing her story Spark.
(1) a flight maneuver; to tip laterally
(2) to cover with ashes so to control the rate of burning
John got his first scientific calculator in junior high. His mom bought it for him two weeks before he started Algebra 1. She sat next to him, shoulder to shoulder at the kitchen table, while he took it out of the box. Dave kicked him under the table, and his dad ruffled John's hair in what he was pretty sure was the most embarrassing way possible.
He didn't really use it much for school until Honors Geometry. By then, the little squarebound book of instructions had fallen behind the hamper in his closet. It took a while to find. That day, when he went down for breakfast, mom was standing by the kitchen window, her arms folded tightly around her body. Dad was already in the car. When he said goodbye to her, she managed to kiss his cheek without touching him at all.
Geometry was second period, right after swim class, and he was usually still a little damp when he got there, under his clothes. By the end of the hour, his skin felt tight, dry and cool from the chlorine he never managed to shower off well enough. It made it hard to focus on the problems Mr. Siefert drew on the board. He kept his head down, instead, and worked his own way through the textbook. The calculator was good for differentials, for thinking about curves and movement through space.
That was the year that he stopped doing his homework at the kitchen table. It seemed too obvious that the numbers weren't just numbers anymore. Variables: the volume of the voices in the next room; the gradual increase in physical distance between his mother and father; the relationship between that distance and the size of the given space they were in. How close he or Dave needed to be to either of them before they started to move away, to leave.
When he started Calculus, senior year of high school, he started plotting flight paths for himself, slipping between the bodies moving toward him, climbing above the turbulence. The LCD screen finally went bad, and he threw out the calculator.
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