An Abundance of Katherines

Page 45

“Yeah,” said Colin, absentmindedly.
“Hey, d’you bring the minirecorder?” asked Hassan.
“Yeah, why?”
“Gimme,” he said. Colin pulled it out of his pocket and handed it over.
Hassan pressed record, and then started up with his best Star Trek voice. “Captain’s log. Stardate 9326. 5. Hog hunting is incredibly boring. I think I’ll take a nap and trust in my brilliant Vulcan companion to let me know if any extremely dangerous feral hogs walk by. ” Hassan handed back the minirecorder and scooted over to lie down beside the fallen tree. Colin watched Hassan close his eyes. “Now this,” Hassan said, “is huntin’. ”
Colin sat there for a while listening to the wind tease the trees as clouds moved in above them, and he let his mind wander. It went to a predictable place, and he missed her. She was at camp still, and they didn’t let her use a cell phone, at least not last year, but just to be sure he pulled his phone out of his camouflage pants pocket. He got reception, amazingly, but had no missed calls. He thought of calling but decided against it.
He would call when he completed the Theorem, which led him back to it and the seemingly intractable III Anomaly. Eighteen out of nineteen Katherines worked, but this utterly insignificant blip on the Katherinadar came out looking like a jacked-up smiley face every time. He remembered her again, thought back to whether he’d failed to account for some facet of her personality in his calculations. Admittedly, he’d only known her for twelve days, but the whole idea of the Theorem was that you didn’t have to know someone intimately in order for it to work. Katherine III. Katherine III. Who would have thought that she, among the least important to him, would prove the Theorem’s downfall?
Colin spent the next ninety minutes thinking, without ceasing, about a girl he’d known for less than two weeks. But eventually, even he grew tired. To pass the time, he anagrammed her sprawling name: Katherine Mutsensberger. He’d never anagrammed her before, and he was fascinated to find the word “eighteen” within her. “Me returns eighteen barks; eighteen errs makes burnt. ” His favorite: “Remark eighteen, snub rest. ” But that didn’t really make sense, because Colin had certainly remarked all nineteen.
Hassan sniffled and his eyes shot open and he looked around. “Fug, are we still hunting? Big Daddy needs some lunch. ” Hassan stood up, reached into the cargo pockets of his pants, and pulled out two badly smushed sandwiches in Ziploc bags. “Sorry, dude. I fell asleep on lunch. ” Colin opened the canteen hooked to his belt buckle, and they sat down for turkey sandwiches and water. “How long did I sleep?”
“Almost two hours,” Colin said between bites.
“What the fug d’you do?”
“I should have brought a book. I just tried to finish the Theorem. The only problem left is Katherine III. ”
“Oo vat?” Hassan asked, his mouth full of a too-mayonnaisy sandwich.
“Summer after fourth grade. From Chicago, but she was homeschooled. Katherine Mutsensberger. One brother. Lived in Lincoln Square on Leavitt just south of Lawrence, but I never visited her there because she dumped me on the third-to-last day of smart kid camp in Michigan. She had dirty blond hair that was a little curly and she bit her nails and her favorite song when she was ten was ‘Stuck with You’ by Huey Lewis and the News and her mother was a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art and when she grew up she wanted to be a veterinarian. ”
“How long d’you know her?” asked Hassan. His sandwich was finished, and he wiped the remnants of it on his pants.
“Twelve days. ”
“Huh. You know what’s funny? I knew that girl. ”
“Yeah. Mutsensberger. We went to all these lame-o homeschooling events together. Like, bring your homeschooled kid to the park so she learns how to be less nerdy. And, take your homeschooled kid for a homeschool picnic so the Muslim kid can get his ass kicked by all the evangelical Christians. ”
“Wait, you know her?”
“Well, I mean, we don’t keep in touch or anything. But yeah. I could pick her out of a lineup. ”
“Well, was she quite introverted and a little dorky and she’d had one boyfriend when she was seven who dumped her?”
“Yup,” said Hassan. “Well, I don’t know about the
boyfriend. She had a brother. He was a first-rate nutcase, actually. He was into spelling bees. Went to Nationals, I think. ”
“Weird. Well, the formula doesn’t work for her. ”
“Maybe you’re forgetting something. There can’t be that many goddamned Mutsensbergers in Chicago. Why don’t you call her and ask?” And the answer to that question—“because it literally has never occurred to me”—was so outrageously dumb that Colin just picked up the phone without another word and dialed 773. 555. 1212.
“What city?”
“Chicago,” he said.
“What listing?”
“Mutsensberger. MUTSENSBERGER. ”