He twisted fate between his fingers
Jacob Atkins sat amongst the wading sea of children at Gateway Primary. Assembly was a dull dreary ritual that the school conducted to deliver important messages to the children, and make them sing songs about being a good person and other such rubbish. Today, however, was slightly different. The messages had been gathered throughout the year and saved for this particular assembly on the last day of school (hopefully ever, he thought). Jacob never much cared for primary-school level education. But could he truly be blamed? The teachers were dull and uninspiring. The curriculum was basic knowledge, all leading up to one exam which he passed easily yesterday.
His father had taught him most things about the world when he was younger. Home-schooling meant he knew of photosynthesis, probability and proper spelling, so what use was public school? But, his mother had insisted on his going to make friends and ‘become part of the world’ and ‘build his own story’ rather than ‘following in the family’s footsteps’.
But, what story?
Jacob understood that life was merely a set of problems and solutions, not a set of winding pathways burdened with the weight of extra language. You can express yourself clearly and directly in two words – yes and no – and most of his classmates seem to appreciate his clarity. After drawing them in, making friends was a simple enough formula to create and run through each time, once x, the person’s interests, concerns and ideas life, were solved and accounted for:
f =(x+t) ÷t2
Friendship = (Interests + Time) ÷ Average Time Spent Together 2
However, there was one equation which had yet to be solved – his escape from school and his mother. He began again with the usual two moduli, Assembly (a) , Escape (e)… But where to? How far? Where would I go? By myself? Where will I end up? Where will I end up? Where to? How far?
And he again found himself without a solution to his equation, wiping one of his sweaty palms on his trousers and scrunching a rubber band in the other. In fact, he realised, it was hardly an equation at all. It was simply two unknown values x and x , no connecting factor, no equality, no functions, nothing.
However, perhaps.. he could work backwards, slowly… He tied the rubber band around his fingers, again and again, thinking and testing each formula.
The headmaster’s insistent dronings about the school’s legacy and its central values of ‘kindness’, ‘friendship’ and ‘love’ (whatever those buzzwords truly meant) were easily overpowered in Jacob’s head by his whirring brain. Like everything else at school it was merely the backdrop for mathematics, a wall to lean his chalkboard against.
What if he added the rubber band into the equation? x + x = r? √ r = (2x-e)… Where was he trying to get to exactly? Why did he want to escape? What was e? Where was e? How —
‘Now we would like to invite on stage, Jacob Atkins, to wish his fellow classmates goodbye.’
Applause. Lots of it. Jacob instinctively rose this feet. He felt his palms get wetter and his body begin to shake slightly as he headed towards the stage. The equations began to turn to jumbles of letters and symbols, he had to escape before they noticed him.
x c y h u = + o ( t *L)… e
The letter kept appearing, as he climbed the stair-case to the stage.
There had to be some factor he wasn’t accounting for…
E / …
Then he remembered, F and R. He’d been twisting fate in his fingers the whole time.
Right foot. Left foot.
The podium and his fellow classmates were before him.
And so, he uncurled r from his fingers, steadily raised it towards the fire alarm, let go.
e = r + f
Escape = Rubber Band + Fire Alarm