## THE FORMULA (Part I)

*I wrote this story years ago, and here and there I've made many tweaks to it. Short fiction is not something I'm extremely comfortable with writing, which is probably why it actually started out as a long, narrative poem. I decided to keep some of that structure in it for now, sort of experimenting with moving in and out of the poetic and prose structures. I don't know how effective it is, but, anyway, here it is. I am going to put it up in 3 or 4 parts...kind of like a serial novel, except, you know, not quite...*

THE FORMULA

* It’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is*

*wrong.*

-Valentine,

*Arcadia*, by Tom Stoppard.

He finished it.

One morning in mid-November

before the winter-weak sun even tepidly began

to glow its way through the study’s mustard curtain

and before Ada had time to even wake,

let alone start breakfast,

he finished it.

The formula was complete.

After month upon month of laborious study,

so many nights alone in his laboratory,

tens of notebooks of the most labyrinthine calculations

to the most banal mathematical minutiae,

he finally finished what he knew would uncover

every secret the Universe had been trying to hide.

The formula would answer everything.

*What is all the dark matter?*

Is there a quantum theory of gravity?

Does the proton decay?

How do you read Linear B?

What is the proof for Goldbach’s Conjecture?

Are there such things as ghosts?

What is the operating mechanism of prions?

How did his mother always know exactly when

he was twisting the truth, telling half-truths,

telling only part of the truth, and telling nothing of the truth?

Is it moral to eat meat?

Why did Gretchen Hemmerly spit in his applesuace in fourth grade?

Who is the best candidate in the coming election?

And the classics, like, Why am I here?,

Is there life on other planet?s, and,

Do ducks’ quacks echo?

Is there a quantum theory of gravity?

Does the proton decay?

How do you read Linear B?

What is the proof for Goldbach’s Conjecture?

Are there such things as ghosts?

What is the operating mechanism of prions?

How did his mother always know exactly when

he was twisting the truth, telling half-truths,

telling only part of the truth, and telling nothing of the truth?

Is it moral to eat meat?

Why did Gretchen Hemmerly spit in his applesuace in fourth grade?

Who is the best candidate in the coming election?

And the classics, like, Why am I here?,

Is there life on other planet?s, and,

Do ducks’ quacks echo?

The formula was going to be a gift for his wife.

Although he could not remember off the top of his head

how long they had been married— perhaps a decade, or two?—

he could remember the auburn-rimmed glasses she wore the first time they met,

and he could remember when she taught him to play chess on their honeymoon (because after the age of twenty-seven it was too embarrassing to admit to anyone else that he didn’t know how), and then there was the time they buried their dead blue parakeet in an empty checkbook box in the backyard. Yes, it had been long enough and wonderful enough that he could give the universal formula for everything to Ada as a gift.

As for what the equation could do for him, it was not that the scientist minded teaching introductory physics. In fact, there was something he enjoyed about being the first to guide the young collegians through their maiden experience of the subject at university level. But if the Formula was right, if he was right, if, indeed, his math and his reason were right, he would never again have to grade stacks of well-intentioned but poorly executed and inadequately researched term papers that each semester he considered cutting from the syllabus because it was, after all, a first-year science course; yet each semester he could not help but be newly hopeful that the students would— after spending hours pouring over their physics topic of choice, caught in the throes of the self-learning process— be inspired into, if not a science-induced euphoria, then at least a state of mild interest that might sustain them through the last month of the semester. Yes, that was a feeling he would not miss. And, if his Formula was correct, if his proofs proved themselves correct, if his studies and experimentations served him correctly, as he was certain they had, he would never again be pressured into sharing publishing rights on studies he conducted independently, or be coerced by the head of the program to voluntarily schedule and give tours of the department to local junior high school classes. Instead, he would be outstandingly respected and admired. He would be the greatest mind of at least a dozen centuries; he would have a place on his very own float in the veteran’s day parade— or any parade for that matter; and his name would be deemed immortal, living forever in the annals of science.

Thus far, every operation had gone perfectly. Every law and fact and protocol had been checked and rechecked, then again, and once again. But like any good scientist would do, he still needed to make sure of the formula’s sturdiness. Before he dared use it, and before it could be published, it would have to be tested; it would have to be perfect, or he would be laughed at; no one would believe he was a real scientist. He told no one— not even Ada— about it, so he would have to make sure for himself.

Through fried eggs and blueberry muffins he thought over the initial trials.

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