One evening, Thomas pushes his unfinished maths homework aside and reaches for his sketchbook. He picks up his grandfather’s antique fountain pen. He draws a cat on the paper – up, into the space above it. The animal scampers from the page and disappears. Thomas anchors his next sketch more firmly. He folds it between the book's covers where it wriggles, then waits. The next day, Thomas’s homework falls short once again. When the answers his maths teacher asks for elude him, Thomas’s artwork makes a dramatic rescue.
Thirty years ago, as I sat through night after night of mathematics homework and combed through conundrums which became increasingly puzzling as time passed, it never occurred to me to tell my parents that, while I appreciated mathematical solutions were – supposedly – there for the calculating, and the roads to finding those answers were – apparently – mapped out in logical, black and white trails, I was having an increasingly ticklish time with all of it. Still, I kept doggedly on because convention and my father said it was the thing to do.
Determination notwithstanding, my way of approaching the world would never give correct mathematical outcomes and the humiliations involved in striving for them would insinuate themselves into my dreams well after school was done. I’m still grateful to the alternative-thinking English teacher who gave my first piece of fiction full marks. Who insisted words were more powerful than numbers, and held they meant more. She said the way we arranged words would depend on who we were, and that the outcomes would be different each time – would be correct each time – if we worked without pretence. I stepped out of mathematics a year before graduating. For me, it was the thing to do.
Where can I read it?
Available for publication.