Needles in a haystack.
Spots on a ladybug.
These are the things he counted every day. Every time he closed his eyes. Every chance his mind took to take him away from his current place. Hed see the curtains hanging daintily in the window and follow each fold from top to bottom, running his eyes up and down, up and down until he mapped out evert contour so that that night, he could ride through the curves like a child on a toboggan. It started and it never stopped. James and the Giant Peach:21. The Little Mermaid:16. One Hundred Best Recipes:21. 21 16 21 : 58, 7056, 457, 1/16. Time never ceased being counted. But time froze for minutes and hours. He thought like cogs on a gear, click click clicking from partial thought to complete idea by the fractured fragment. Music reduced to its meter. Cars reduced to glass and metal. Conversations reduced to mirror-monologues. Life reduced to numbers. Numbers reduced again and again. He counted every word he ever said.
BoB Harper never slept. BoB because he got his compulsions from his father. Harper because of his father, too. He grew up in a small town in Michigan, Nowheresville. His mother owned the dry cleaning store in the center of town and another out on the byway. Nothing made her happier than a freshly creased dress shirt. BoB was well dressed. His pants always matched his shirt and his sleeves were always pressed. His father, Mr. Harper, changed his name to H. when he was twenty-three, worked in an officebuilding. He went to work every morning and came home every night. He took a lunch break exactly halfway through his work day. He woke up exactly halfway through every nights sleep. H. Harper worked five days a week and rested on the weekends. He had become accustomed to this life years ago. To BoB, every day it was completely new. His medium brown hair messed the same way every morning. His toast tasted the same every morning. But his mind went about his routine in a new way each time.
BoB never once remembered his own birthday. He was technically there for it. But thats no reason to remember it:28. Thats what he liked to say. He was a clever boy. He ran for head of the cipher club at his school. In 11th Grade, he spoke only in clusters, a clean eleven. Eleven Month of an elevens. Never broken. He grew an inch every fourteen months of high school, on average. He grew to an average height by the end. His family went through spells. His summers were filled with lemonade and watermelon. His winters with hot cocoa and television. He watched television in twenty-two minute increments, because that was how long shows were. He always closed his eyes during commercials. He never saw the endings. He had two goldfish in a tank. Tom and Jerry. He would race them every afternoon. BoB confused the two. He never knew who won.
Myrtle lived in pink sweaters in the house across the street. She embroidered poodles and carnations and for book clubs. She went over to the Harper household every day from four to five to teach BoBs mother to embroider. She never learned. The clock ticked 3600 hurries. BoB finished his homework before dinner. He sharpened his pencils (3) and rubbed clean his erasers (2). BoB had three good friends. They saw each other every day at school and went for milkshakes every Tuesday. They all went together to the prom. They didnt see each other otherwise. BoB enjoyed most of his time alone.
He lay in his room most of the time, or on the back porch. He watched the ceiling or the sky, watched it change. His eyes would create cyclones on still surfaces. His ears would ring in an inaudible harmony. Major at day, minor during the night. Sleep, the only tacet.
BoB sat at his desk on a partly sunny mid-November afternoon. The clock told him 3:24 and 45 seconds, each second, a second later. His fingernail slid along the groove in the wooden desk, tracing the same grain he traced every day of the school year. His pencil never once tapped. The window was closed, minimal extraneous sound. He read the letters on the worksheet. A M P A M P L I T U U U A M P L I T U D E A M P L I T U D E A AND P E P P E R I O D O F O F OF T R I G T R I G O N O M O N O M E T R I C F U N C T I O N S T I O N S S. Three minutes later, next line. His mind worked and his Thoughts waited. Problem one done. 1/12; 8.333333%. Problem two done 2/12; ?; 16.666666%. Problem three done. 3/12;; 25%. One fourth. Every four seconds, one, two, three, four, the sequence would start over. Square, Triangle, Circle, Triangle. Red, Green, Green, Black. Right, Left, Right, Left. His eyes twitched. He did not blink. His breath followed his rhythm. Never syncopation. Four minutes, sixty cycles finished. His eyes refocused. The heavy episode of minimalism ended. Problem four done 4/12; ?; 33.333333%. Problem five done. 5/12; 41.666666% Five twelve drumming of the foot. Mental accompaniment. Mental storm of activity. Imagined needles spike. The beat goes chugging on, the accent never straying from the beat. Four-and-a-half minute oeuvre. Cadence. Problem six done. 6/12; ; 50%. Halfway there. x2 x5 x36 x4 1440. Written in his diary, amid the numbers and etchings, a poem of two lines: Cycles repeat, thats what cycles do./ Every day, 2. He wrote a poem for every day he lived his life. He erased a poem for every day of his life. He counted the hours gone to nothing. He enumerated his lifes passing by. Horribly aware, he passed the days filling in his mercurial routine. He watched the passing of every second as if the clock was melting.
He had never seen a Salvador Dali painting. He had imagined one. Horses walked along a swerving stream, reflecting the brown mountains in rippling lenses. Legs stretched to second-hands. Numeric pointillism shaded in the gnarled limb. A dim sun outlined in the clouds, filled the vacuum of the sky. A somber clock hung, waving in the wind of gravity on the branch of one of the horses leg-trees. Layered oil chipping. Frame: wooden, gold, absent. He dreamt this most every night but not once had the inclination to express it. Brushes went on hair. Canvas stayed blank. Ideas trapped.
BoB Harper made palindromes of all sentences.
Sec netn esl la fose mord nilape dam rep rah BoB.