An Abundance of Katherines

Page 18

“Went to college, right. God, so predictable,” Hassan said. Then he turned to Lindsey and said, “We are not speaking gibberish. We’re speaking the sacred language of the Qur’an, the language of great calipha and Saladin, the most beautiful and intricate of all human tongues. ”
“Well, it sounds like a raccoon clearing its throat,” Lindsey noted. Colin stopped for a moment to ponder that.
“I need time to do my work,” Colin said, and Hollis just nodded.
“Splendid,” Lindsey said, seemingly genuine. “Splendid. But you can’t have my room. ”
His mouth half-full of rice, Hassan said, “I think we’ll be able to find a place to hunker down somewhere in this house. ”
After awhile Hollis announced, “We should play Scrabble. ” Lindsey groaned.
“I’ve never played,” Colin said.
“A genius who’s never played Scrabble?” Lindsey asked.
“I’m not a genius. ”
“Okay. A smartypants?”
Colin laughed. It suited him. No longer a prodigy, not yet a genius—but still a smartypants. “I don’t play games,” Colin said. “I don’t really play much. ”
“Well, you should. Playing is fun. Although Scrabble isn’t really the A#1 way of doing it,” Lindsey said.
Final Score:
Hollis: 158
Colin: 521
Lindsey: 293
Hassan: 035
After he called his parents and told them he was in a town called Gutshot but failed to mention he was boarding with strangers, Colin stayed up late working on the Theorem in his new bedroom on the second floor, which featured a nice oak desk with empty drawers. Colin, for whatever reason, had always loved desks with empty drawers. But the Theorem didn’t go well; he was beginning to worry that he might lack the math expertise for the job when he glanced up to see the bedroom door opening. Lindsey Lee Wells was wearing paisley pajamas.
“How’s the head?” she asked, sitting down on his bed.
He closed his right eye, then opened it, and then pressed a finger against his cut. “It hurts,” he responded. “Thanks for your treatment, though. ”
She folded her legs beneath her, smiled, and sang, “That’s what friends are for. ” But then she turned serious, almost shy. “Listen, I wonder if I can just tell you something. ” She bit at the inside of her thumb.
“Hey IDo That,” Colin said, pointing.
“Oh, weird. It’s like the poor man’s thumb sucking, isn’t it? Anyway, I only do it in private,” Lindsey said, and it occurred to Colin that being around him was not really “private,” but he didn’t pursue it. “Right so anyway. This will sound retarded, but can I just tell you about that picture so you don’t think I’m an absolute asshole? Because I’ve been lying in bed thinking about what an asshole you probably think I am, and how you and Hassan are probably talking about what an asshole I am and everything. ”
“Um, okay,” he said, although frankly he and Hassan had plenty of other things to talk about.
“So I was ugly. I was never fat, really, and I never wore headgear or had zits or anything. But I was ugly. I don’t even know how ugly and pretty get decided—maybe there’s like a secret cabal of boys who meet in the locker room and decide who’s ugly and who’s hot, because as far as I can remember, there was no such thing as a hot fourth-grader. ”
“Clearly, you never met Katherine I,” interrupted Colin.
“Rule 1 of stories: no interrupting. But, ha ha. Perv. Anyway, I was ugly. I got picked on a lot. I’m not going to bore you with stories about how bad it was, but it was pretty bad. I was miserable. And so in eighth grade I went all alternative. Hollis and I drove to Memphis and bought me a whole new wardrobe, and I got me a Zelda haircut and dyed it black and stopped going outside in the sun, and I was like half-emo and half-goth and half-punk and half-nerd chic. Basically, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but it didn’t matter because the middle school in Milan, Tennessee, had never seen emo or goth or punk or nerd chic. I was different, that was all. And I hated all of them, and they hated all of me fo
r an entire year. And then high school started, and I decided to make them like me. I just decided. It was so easy, dude. It was so, so easy. I just became it. If it walks like a cool kid and talks like a cool kid and dresses like a cool kid and has the right mix of naughtyandnastyandnice like a cool kid, it becomes a cool kid. But I’m not an asshole to people. There’s not even really popularity at my school. ”
“That,” Colin said emphatically, “is a sentence that has only ever been spoken by popular people. ”
“Well, okay. But I’m not just some former ugly girl who sold her soul to date hotties and go to the finest keg parties the Greater Gutshot Area has to offer. ” She repeated it, almost defensively. “I didn’t sell my soul. ”