44 (Doing a Project)

(from March 10th, 2010)
———

80, 02, 40, 02 00, 02, 69, 91, 29, __

Roger barely looked up from his piece of paper in time to avoid walking into the annoyingly well-dressed kid strutting past. The kid looked like he’d just combed his hair back with a hamburger, and was talking on his blackberry. ‘Fuck’ thought Roger as he jumped onto the grass out of the way. “… some old leaf” he heard the kid say annoyingly to whatever annoying friend he was ‘talking’ to. ‘Leaf eh?’ Roger was convinced that there was a mastermind living underground somewhere, choosing random words from the dictionary to turn into slang. ‘I’m not a leaf’ he thought defiantly.

He went back to his piece of paper. ‘Eighty divided by two is forty, but then how do you get from forty to two? And why have two zeros, just so that every number is two digits? Does working this out on the street make me a leaf?’ Roger has just won $500 on a lottery ticket, but couldn’t figure out the skill-testing question. ‘This is hard! I never thought they were actually skill testing. And what kind of skill was this testing anyway?’ He kept working on it as he made his way down the street.

In the distance he saw someone he knew coming down the street, ‘fuck’. ‘I don’t want to take out my earphones. Should I do the polite one earphone out thing. Nah fuck it.’ He reached the person, who mouthed something with a smile, Roger couldn’t hear a word of it. “Good and you?” Roger guessed. The other person nodded, said something else and kept walking. ‘Phew! One day I’m going to get that wrong though. They’ll say something like my pancreas just exploded get help! Good and you?’

Roger had reached his destination, 33 Chestnut Drive, the home of Robert. ‘Robert, Robert, Robert… of all the people to be paired up with for this assignment why Robert.’ He banged in the door and waited for an answer. ‘What a barbaric idea that is. Can you imagine doing that in any other situation? If you’re eating dinner and want someone’s attention you start banging on the table. Or just banging on the wall if you want to call someone into a room’.

“Hi there!” Robert’s mother opened the door with a smile.

“Hey, hi, how are you, ma’am?” Roger fumbled. He hated talking to other people’s parents, he never knew how formal to be. For some reason he imagined that once you have a kid you immediately change into someone who only discusses routes to work and fiber; and your only idea of fun is playing ‘who can find the remote’.

“Robert is in his room, go on up!”

“Thank you, Mrs. ma’am”. Robert… Robert was an odd kid. Not a bad kid, but a kid with one VERY annoying habit. At some point between grades 10 and 11 some person, some EVIL person, had told Robert what a palindrome was. Ever since then Robert tried to turn every fucking sentence he ever spoke into one –
“Hey Roger!” said Robert from the top of the stairs. “Reg, or…yeh?” – only he was shit at it.

‘Does he want me to respond to that? Reg or yeh… what the hell does that mean.’ “Hey Robert, how’s it goin’?” He shook Robert’s hand hoping he wouldn’t say anything else. ‘I guess that sort of made sense. Regular, or… yeah regular. But why was it a question?’ He followed Robert into his bedroom. It was like any typical teenager’s bedroom, full of dirty clothes, plates with half-eaten sandwiches and so on. And it smelled like Jabba the Hutt’s jockstrap, whatever that meant. “All set to do this thing?”

“Yup! Puy.” …This was going to be a loooooong afternoon. The two of them had to write a presentation on kayaks and their influence on the fur trade, or some shit like that. Roger found a chair and sat down. He checked his watch 3:53; hopefully they could finish quickly. Roger looked at his new watch, water-resistant up to 100 m. He smiled, and remembered that when he was a kid he actually took depth of water resistance into account when buying watches. ‘Hundred…’ He pulled out the piece of paper with the string of numbers on it. ‘Eighty plus zero two reversed was a hundred. AND forty plus zero two reversed… was not a hundred.’ ‘Eighty, two, forty. Eighty to forty? Negative forty? No that doesn’t help.’ The first six numbers seemed somehow related… but those last three… He angrily put it away realizing that he shouldn’t ignore his word-smith of a friend.

“Did you get those books from the library?” Roger asked.

“Over there, er… eh t-revo.” Robert replied. He chuckled and smiled to himself as if that were a particularly good one. Roger felt himself getting annoyed. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with Robert mentally, so it was OK to think he was a moron. But really, how did he not clue in that the second half of whatever he said made no fucking sense. “See them? Meh, tee-”

“Yeah thanks” Roger cut him off. It was probably pretty hard to do actually, remembering what you just said and flipping it around… but so was head-butting yourself in the balls, that doesn’t mean it’s impressive. Well actually… bad example. Roger pulled out a book on kayaks and started reading. ‘Ah who am I kidding’ he thought and went to turn on Robert’s computer. He moved the mouse and the racecar screen saver disappeared. “Alrighty, wikipedia it is?”

“Good idea, a edid, OOG!” Sometimes he yelled his nonsense words as if that would make more sense. Robert pulled up a chair and sat beside Roger. While the computer loaded Roger pulled out the numbers again. ‘Maybe it’s an odd/even thing…’

“Zero…” he started to think outloud “is that always even?”

“Never odd or even. Ne, verod. Dore ven…” replied Robert. Roger hadn’t realized he was talking out loud. “Hmm”. The computer came on and Roger put the numbers on the desk. The weirdest thing was that Robert hadn’t noticed that his short name: Bob, was actually a palindrome. People made sure not to tell him too, Roger chuckled. Wikipedia came up and Roger typed in a word.

“How do you pronounce this word again?” he asked pointing to the screen.

“Flocci nauci nihili pili fication, No I tac, if I lip, I lihin, I cuanic. Colf?” Robert replied helpfully.

“Right, thanks.” Roger replied, annoyed that his scheme hadn’t worked. They sat there in silence for a second and then he said: “You know that doesn’t mean anything, that last thing you said”.

“It’s a palindrome! Emord… ni lap? As ti!” Robert replied, grinning like an idiot.

“Whatever.” Roger said sitting back in his chair. “So how should be split up the presenting… should I do all the talking or…”

“What’s that? Tah T.S.T. ahw.” Robert said pointing the piece of paper with the numbers on it.

“Oh nothing, a stupid puzzle I can’t figure out. So kayaks… they’re exciting eh?” Robert picked up the paper. ‘I guess he’s changing the subject, was I rude?’ “Ok we can both talk.”

Without saying anything Robert picked up a pen, wrote something and handed it to Roger.

91

“What are you doing. In pen? Really?”

“Leap years. Sra eypa el.”

Leap years..? Then Roger saw it. The commas melted away and he saw the numbers grouped in fours: 8002, 4002, 0002, 6991 and now 2991. Or 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008. Leap years… backwards. He looked up at Robert, who was smiling, happy he could help.

“Leap years… Robert…” Roger was at a loss for words. ‘Wow he just gave me $500.’ Something about the way Robert had just handed him the paper; so eager to help made Roger feel guilty. Guilty for not wanting to be here… guilty for being dissapointed when he’d found out they were partners… guilty.

“Thanks… Bob” Roger said. Robert thought for a second, and then it hit him. His eyes let up as a huge smile came across his face.

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