An Abundance of Katherines

Page 30

“Even on weekends?”
“Particularly on weekends, because then I can really focus on pleasure reading. ”
Hassan shook his head. “Dude, you’re such a geek. And that’s coming from an overweight Star Trek fan who scored a 5 on the AP Calculus test. So you know your condition is grave. ” He rubbed Colin’s Jew-fro as if for luck, and then turned away.
“You should go; keep them out of trouble,” Hollis yelled from the couch.
Without a word, Colin grabbed his book (a biography of Thomas Edison) 55 and headed upstairs to his room, where he lay on his bed and read in peace. Over the next five hours, he finished that book and started one he found on the bookshelf in his room called Foxfire. Foxfire discussed how people did things in the old days of Appalachia.
The reading quieted his brain a little. Without Katherine and without the Theorem and without his hopes of mattering, he had very little. But he always had books. Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.
Foxfire had just taught Colin how to skin a raccoon and cure it into a hide when Hassan burst into his room, laughing loudly, with the slow-moving gray furball known as Princess sauntering after him.
“I’m not going to lie, kafir. I drank half a beer. ”
Colin scrunched his nose and sniffled. “See, drinking is haram. I told you, you do haram shit all the time. ”
“Yeah, well, when in Gutshot, do as the Gutshotians do. ”
“Your religious commitment is an inspiration to us all,” Colin deadpanned.
“Come on. Don’t make me feel guilty. I split a beer with Lindsey. I didn’t feel anything. It’s really getting drunk that’s haram, not drinking half a beer. Anyway, cruising is fun. It’s amazingly fun. I got to sit in a pickup truck with TOC and JATT and SOCT for about an hour and a half, and they’re really not bad. I think I made them all like me. Plus Katrina, as it turns out, is very nice. And when I say nice, I mean gorgeous. Although it is ridiculous the way everyone hangs on TOC like he’s God’s gift to Gutshot. I guess he’s the quarterback or cornerback or something on the football team, except he just graduated, so I don’t think he’s anything anymore, but apparently being quarterback or cornerback is like being a Marine: it’s a once/always thing. Also when Lindsey is not around, TOC talks about her ass constantly. He has no other topic of conversation. Apparently he spends a lot of his free time grabbing her ass, so that’s a nice image. I never even noticed her ass. ”
“Me neither,” Colin said. He never really thought to notice butts, unless they were unusually massive.
“Anyway,” Hassan went on, “so there’s this hunt camp in the woods, and we’re going hunting with them and Lindsey and some guy from the factory. Hunting. With guns! For pigs!”
Colin had no desire to shoot pigs—or anything else, for that matter. “Um,” Colin said. “I don’t even know how to shoot a gun. ”
“Yeah, me neither, but how hard can it be? Complete fugging idiots shoot guns all the time. That’s why there are so many dead people. ”
“Maybe, instead, you and I could just, like, go out in the woods that weekend and hang out. Like build a fire or something and go camping. ”
“Are you shitting me?”
“No, it could be fun. Reading by firelight and cooking our own food on the fire and stuff. I know how to build a fire even without a match. I read about it in this book,” Colin said, gesturing to Foxfire.
“Do I look like an eighth-grade Boy Scout, sitzpinkler? We’ll go out. We’ll have fun. We’ll get up early and drink coffee and hunt pigs and everyone will be drunk and hilarious except for us. ”
“You can’t make me go with you,” Colin shot back.
Hassan took a step toward the doorway. “That’s true, sitzpinkler. You don’t have to come. I won’t begrudge you sitting on your ass. God knows I have always loved it. I just feel like a little adventure lately. ”
Colin felt vaguely like he’d been dumped. He’d tried to come up with a compromise. He did want to hang out with Hassan, but not with those oh-so-cool guys. “I don’t get it,” Colin said. “Do you want to make out with Lindsey or something?”
Hassan stood up, petting the fluff ball, releasing her pet dander into the air for Colin to sneeze at. “Again with that? No. God. I don’t want to date anyone. I see what it’s done to you. As you well know, I believe in saving Thunderstick for one very special lady. ”
“Also, you believe in not drinking. ”
“Touché, mon ami. Too fugging shay. ”
The Middle (of the Middle )
The biggest study of highly gifted children ever undertaken was the brain-child (as it were) of one Lewis Terman, a psychologist in California. With the help of teachers around the state, Terman chose some seven thousand gifted children, who have now been followed for almost sixty years. Not all the kids were prodigies, of course—their IQs ranged from 145 to 190, and Colin, by comparison, had an IQ that sometimes measured above 200—but they represented many of the best and brightest children of that generation of Americans. The results were somewhat startling: the highly gifted kids in the study weren’t much more likely to become prominent intellectuals than normal kids. Most of the children in the study became successful enough—bankers and doctors and lawyers and college professors—but almost none of them turned out to be real geniuses, and there was little correlation between a really high IQ and making a significant contribution to the world. Terman’s gifted children, in short, rarely ended up being as special as they initially promised to be.
Take, for instance, the curious case of George Hodel. With one of the highest IQs in the study, one might have expected Hodel to discover the structure of DNA or something. Instead, he was a fairly successful doctor in California who later lived in Asia. He never became a genius, but Hodel did manage to become infamous: he was quite probably a serial killer. 56 So much for the benefits of prodigy.
As a sociologist, Colin’s dad studied people, and he had a theory on how to transform a prodigy into a grown-up genius. He believed Colin’s development ought to involve a delicate interplay between what he called “active, results-oriented parenting” and Colin’s natural predisposition to studying. This basically meant letting Colin study and setting “markers,” which were exactly like goals except they were called markers. Colin’s father believed that this kind of prodigy—born and then made smarter by the right environment and education—could become a considerable genius, remembered forever. He told Colin this sometimes, when Colin would come home from school sullen, tired of the Abdominal Snowman, tired of pretending that his abject friendlessness didn’t bother him.