‘I imagined this today,’ I said. ‘Three boys dressed in school uniform, including their blazers, sitting cross-legged on a concrete floor, under a single light bulb, in a basement. Their calculators are before them. Each calculator’s case is held together by some combination of duct-tape, blue-tac, and elastic bands. All the screens have a missing or permanent light on the numeric panel, such as the middle bar that should show on the number eight. A circuit failure may be guessed at from the cracks in the corners of the screens. On one calculator the button for the number nine and the addition symbol do not work. On another the button for co-sin and root is missing. The third has two buttons for six, though one of these is actually a replacement for a missing seven.
‘The light pools around the boys, darkness everywhere else. One of them says, “Maybe we should tell some girls about Maths Club?” And they continue to sit in silence.’
Annabelle watched me from her side of the porch. She drew a thick of hair, perhaps it could also be called a lock of hair but writing lock of hair has a connotation to a baby’s hair cut, so she drew a thick of hair back from her temple to behind her ear and said, ‘Why are there only boys?’
‘Women like maths too.’
‘I know, that’s one problem.’
‘You have to show that women have every right to study mathematics as any boy does.’
‘But why are there only boys?’
‘It’s modelled on Fight Club.’
‘Guys who study mathematics are great.’
‘They would already have heaps of girls hanging off them.’
‘That sounds like a stretch.’
‘They wouldn’t be single is all I’m saying. It’s a negative stereotype.’
‘In my mind they’re thirteen. Maybe just thinking about girls for the first time.’
‘Kids who are thirteen already think about girls. They even have partners. That’s the way the world has grown.’
‘They call them partners.’
‘I know,’ I glanced to the floor.
‘It doesn’t make sense. Why are they meeting in a basement with broken calculators?’
‘It’s a Fight Club thing. You know Fight Club?’
‘No, not really.’
‘The film has people meeting in a basement of a bar, guys meeting, to fight each other. It’s like a male social group where they let their emotions out through fist fights.’
‘It’s male therapy.’
‘Better then crochet.’
‘Says you,’ the wisp… no, we’re calling it a thick aren’t we? … Annabelle took the thick of hair that had unspun itself from her ear and tucked it back into place. This cleared her brow from the irritating brush of its strands. ‘I like crochet.’
‘Me too,’ I don’t actually like crochet but I adopted the agreeable stance in the face of this argument. ‘The point is they are sitting alone, thinking they are in a Fight Club kind of Maths Challenge, and being nerds they had followed the rules too tightly.’
‘Geeks, whatever, you know what I’m saying.’
‘I know what you mean,’ she accepted.
‘I imagined that there was four of them to start with, but because one of the rules of Fight Club, in the movie, is that You don’t talk about Fight Club, one of the four kids forgot which night the meeting was and the other three couldn’t tell him because one of the rules of Maths Club is that You don’t talk about Maths Club.’
‘Oh, I see.’ She leant back so her face could feel the sun. I though it odd that a figment of my imagination would warm itself in such a way. As a lizard might to aid its movement. The shine gave her more reality, then it overdid it and she had a god like glow. ‘It’s really that they should tell people about Maths Club. Not just girls.’
‘That would be funnier.’
‘Thanks for you help.’
She grinned at me, knowing her role in the mockery of my joke. This was until I couldn’t accept the fiction of her comfort any longer. I blinked with purpose. Her smiled faded. It took four more blinks to wipe the hallucination of her away.