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The Formula (Part III- The End)

The next weekend, when Ada was out of town, he let his two children play with the formula. This way she couldn’t worry and say, "Don’t break it, don’t break it," even though she wouldn’t know what it was in the first place. The children broke a vase, a corner of a picture frame, an area of skin on their ankle, but the formula never took one scratch.

The night his wife returned home he prepared a savory bouillabaisse soup to which he added the formula. He made sure, of course, that it was ladled into his serving. They sat down together in the dining room, full bowls steaming in front of them, spoons dipping and being emptied, and he, inconspicuously, reaching the formula. It rested silently next to a pea. As recommended, he chewed it twenty-five times. Then, he swallowed it. It felt good going down. All evening he could feel it traversing through and around his tract. After dinner, the scientist sat happily in his favorite armchair watching the children play pick-up sticks while Ada asked him intermittently about 4 Down, seven letters, starts with T. He would have to wait some time for this test’s result. Although he tried to be patient, there were a few times when he felt like his mother’s old little Dachshund, waiting, shaking in anticipation of a small wedge of smoked Gouda. But, being scientific, he insisted on things being done the proper way. So, for science, he pre-placed section A of the newspaper and a copy of an old article on the double-helix between the toilet and the wastebasket.

The next morning, after a slow fourteen minutes, he discovered the formula in one piece. He felt how a dog might, if a great block of cheese had been left out as a reward for his lifetime achievements of rolling over and playing dead. Pleased even more because it never once gave him indigestion.

With all the gratification he felt after this experiment, he nearly mistook himself for finished, but quickly realized he had forgotten one test.

That night he stayed up long past his wife and children. When he was sure they were all well into the cosmos of their own resting heads, he went to all three and plucked out an eyelash from each one in a way that only a scientist could (so very carefully and conscientiously), that his family did not wake, but gave only the slightest flinch. And of course, an eyelash from himself, as well. Now he would have to wait till morning. He couldn’t sleep all night, so he sat in the armchair, and stayed up with his formula. He only took it from the pocket of his dark brown robe every few hours, to toss it around in his hands, to make sure it was still there.

As soon as he thought it felt right, he was outside with the sun that rose like a tired but determined old man. On a morning that sheathed their winter rye in a thick December frost, he placed the formula on a bed of cotton balls which he gathered into a floral-patterned antique china bowl. The test was almost done. He sprinkled the eyelashes one by one by one on top of the beautiful formula. Then, the last one landed—
and the odd, complex equation could no longer withstand the brutal examinations. The formula crumbled in an instant, before his wide, tired eyes, into what looked like white sand and onyx powder.

Perhaps the vibration it made only felt audible
like the prick of an anticipated needle; perhaps the sound
only seemed faintly, daintily,
of harmony and rhythm;
but somewhere, it seemed, there must have been playing
a distant, dying music box.

All of that work, he thought. And for this.

He ran inside to tell his wife the horrible, wonderful news.

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