AW Flash Fiction — 12/27/09 — “Numbers”

As soon as the theme word of “Numbers” was revealed, my brain started making associations–numbers–>accounting, numbers–>gangs/majority, numbers–>money and then my memory dredged up Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) singing Jzero, Monad’s Anthem and Novim’s Nightmare from his Numbers album.  Numbers became the characters of the piece.  So, while it’s not one of my better pieces (lots of bad structure and grammar), it’s certainly one of my more unusual ones:


One sat on the sidelines looking sad. There were times such as now that he cursed his solitary nature. An only child, he’d never had to share but he’d never had a regular companion either. Now was one of those times that he wished he could be more like Two. He hoped Zero would show up soon so they could play Boolean wars. Though One couldn’t necessarily call Zero a friend, he felt a close kinship to him, as if only a single degree separated them. That wasn’t far from the truth.

Two looked for a companion with whom to play catch. His partner hadn’t been feeling too well today, leaving Two out of sorts. He had no inkling how to amuse himself and often envied One who sat on the sidelines looking singularly contented. But his hot and cold outlook on life tended to confuse his fellow numbers and so they usually left him alone to stew in his own yin and yang juices.

Three wobbled over to where Two stood only to be greeted with a nasty quip of “Too crowded; get lost!” She was familiar with discord, unfortunately, because she always felt at least partially left out of stuff. Oh sure, she was sturdy enough to take most of what life in the numeral system doled out but as both an odd and a prime number, she didn’t have many friends…well, other than Pythagoras, but he wasn’t a number and her parents didn’t approve.

Four whooped it up as she played her favorite game of four-square. Later in the evening, she’d do a bit of square dancing after she’d had her fourth square meal of the day. Even-tempered, Four was a beloved numeral with a balanced outlook on life.

Five strolled in, smug as usual. He was the accountant of the group because he had the easiest time adding and multiplying. Every other generation of his family members bore an uncanny resemblance to each other.

Gamers Six, Seven, Eight and Nine hung out at the craps table. Six and Eight ribbed Seven mercilessly about being lucky but a natural with the ladies. Seven took it in stride, his smug confidence in his universal appeal unshakable. As good-natured as they generally were, however, they shared a strong distaste for Two and Three and kept their distance.

The digits milled around, doing their usual numerical activities, waiting as they always did for Zero to show up. Zero was a free spirit but generally left his companions feeling empty. Still, he was a highly valued digit. He worked for nothing but had logarithmic properties that made his skills greatly sought after (in addition to One constantly hounding him). He was just as comfortable leading his fellow numbers as he was following them. He didn’t care, had nothing to prove.

Once Zero rolled in, the numerals would gather together to plot their latest offensive and defensive strategies. There was a new gang in town and a nasty bunch from all accounts thus far. The Alphabet Gang, they called themselves and they were just so…loud. And the numerals never knew what to call them–tomato (long A sound) or tomato (short O sound), potato / potato. Ugh, so confusing.

It was a foregone conclusion that their safety lay in numbers, with all ten digits typically sticking together but never venturing far from their base-ten. But, they drew comfort from a single truth–together they were infinite and they were not subject to the arbitrary rules that they had heard several of the Alphabet members grumbling about, especially the “ie” twins (or was that the “ei” twins?). And yet, something about the joie de vivre that surrounded the Letters whenever they gathered gave the numbers a puzzle to both compute and ponder. They never got the same answer twice and it drove them nuts.

But eventually the Passwords would arrive and in their usual fashion would convince the two gangs that their strength lay in alphanumeric combinations. While the Numbers and Letters would eventually concede to the logic of the Passwords, they remained suspicious of each other and they absolutely drew the line at admitting the Symbols. The Passwords typically sighed and nodded at each other, whispering, “Someday they’ll see what we mean.”


Ok, I have no idea what the heck this was supposed to be and my tenses were all over the place but it was kind of fun. Alas now time’s up.


And for fun, here are YouTube clips of Cat Stevens’  Jzero and Novim’s Nightmare.  Before he became a radical Muslim, he used to be a great favorite in the Gillian household.  In my teens, I adored this album and the booklet that came with it.  This is from 1975.