Her Average Life


I wrote this for Creative Loafing’s 2011 Fiction Contest (the theme was Math). I had forgotten about the contest until the night before submissions were due, so I wrote this in about an hour, glanced over it the next morning to make sure  there were no glaring problems, and submitted it. Needless to say, it didn’t win.

Mary had always been good at math. Unfortunately, it was about the only thing she was good at. It’s not as though she was terrible at other things, but she was solidly average (though whether mean, median or mode was less certain).

While she had a few male friends, she had never been seriously romantically involved with anyone. By an improbably slim chance, her last semester in college Mary finally happened to meet someone she could see as an equal. He sat in front of her in advanced calculus, and each time the professor returned the tests she was able to see that his grades were almost as good as hers.

She managed to work up the courage to talk to him, and was surprised to find that he liked math as much as she did. They talked more and more until eventually they somehow ended up dating. Many people considered their relationship odd. Like most couples, they often spent evenings at one another’s homes, staying up late into the night. More often than not, however, the two were engaged in writing and solving equations, each trying to outdo the other in complexity and difficulty. Mary was always able to beat him, but to make him feel better she sometimes pretended that he had stumped her.

Their time together added up as a few years passed. He eventually worked up the resolve to ask her to marry him. She agreed without hesitation, and before long the two had publicly pledged that they would forever be two halves of an indivisible whole. Most people at the ceremony had no idea what the vows they had written each other meant, though almost everyone agreed they were “probably very sweet.”

Their wedded life was blissful and their love for each other grew exponentially. Their lives continued much as they had before, with perhaps a few additions. He got a job as a university math professor, and she started working as a statistician for the government.

One day, however, Mary had a realization that would change the course of their relationship forever. Fearing his reaction to the news, she walked slowly into the room as he sat at his desk grading papers. He was so involved in his work that he didn’t notice her until she spoke.

“Honey,” Mary said, “I’ve got something to tell you.”

“What is it?” he said, turning and smiling at her.

“I’m pregnant,” she said.

His smile widened. “That’s great!” he said, “I’ve always wanted to multiply!”

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