“Hollis,” she said to Lindsey. “Is that Dr. Dinzanfar’s son-in-law?” Ms. Mabel leaned forward and pointed a finger that would not straighten in Hassan’s direction.
“No, Ms. Mabel. I’m Hollis’s daughter, Lindsey. Dr. Dinzanfar’s daughter, Grace, was my grandma, and Corville Wells was my grandpa. This is Hassan, a friend of mine who wants to talk to you about the old days in Gutshot. ”
“Oh, well that’s fine,” Ms. Mabel said. “I get confused sometimes,” she explained.
“That’s okay,” said Lindsey. “It’s awful good to see you. ”
“And you, Lindsey. I can’t get over how pretty you look. You right grew into that face, didn’t you?” Lindsey smiled, and now Colin noticed that Lindsey had tears in her eyes.
“Tell us a story about the old days in Gutshot,” Lindsey said, and it became clear to Colin that this was not an occasion to be asking Hollis’s four questions.
“I’ve been thinking on Dr. Dinzanfar. Before he started that tactilery, he owned the General Store. I was just a little thing, knee-high to a bird dog. And he’s only got one eye, you know. Fought in the first War. Well one day, we was at the store and daddy gave me one red penny and I ran up to the counter there and I said, ‘Doctor Dinzanfar, do you have any penny candy?’ And he looked down at me, and he said, ‘I’m sorry, Mabel. We don’t have any penny candy in Gutshot. All we got is free candy. ’” Mabel closed her eyes as they all let the story sink in a bit. She seemed almost asleep, her breathing slow and rhythmic, but then her eyes snapped open and she said, “Lindsey, I sure missed seeing you. I missed holding this hand. ”
And then Lindsey began crying in earnest. “Ms. Mabel, we gotta go, but I’m-a gonna come back later this week and see you again, I promise. I’m s—I’m sorry I haven’t visited in so long. ”
“Well that’s fine, sweetie. Don’t you go gettin’ upset about it. Next time you come, show up ’tween twelve-thirty and one and I’ll give you my Jell-O. Sugar free, but it ain’t bad. ” Mabel finally let go of Lindsey’s hand, and Lindsey blew a kiss and left.
Colin and Hassan lingered behind to say good-bye, and when they got into the common room, they found Lindsey sobbing—death-cry-of-a-hyena sobbing. She disappeared into a bathroom, and Colin followed Hassan out the door. Hassan sat down on the curb. “I can’t handle that place,” he said. “We’re never going back in there. ”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s sad, and not in a funny way,” Hassan said. “It’s not the least bit fugging funny. And it’s really getting to me. ”
“Why does everything have to be funny to you?” asked Colin. “So you don’t have to ever really care about anything?”
“Dingleberries, Dr. Freud. I’m actually just going to issue a blanket dingleberries on all attempts to psychoanalyze me. ”
“Aye, aye, Cap’n Funnypants. ”
Lindsey showed up outside then, seeming to be fully recovered. “I’m fine and don’t need to talk about it,” she said, unprompted.
That night he finished the Theorem. It proved relatively easy, actually, because for the first time in several days, he had no distractions. Lindsey was locked in her room. Hollis was downstairs, so entranced in her work/TV that she never so much as said a word about Hassan’s blue-black eye or the fist-shaped bruise on Colin’s jaw. Hassan was off somewhere, too. A lot of people could lose themselves in the Pink Mansion, and that night, a lot of people did.
It proved almost unfairly easy to finish it—now that he knew about his time as a Dumper, the formula as he had it was very close to accurate. He needed only to tweak a radical to finalize the formula.
Everyone came out looking correct, which is to say that Katherine Mutsenberger looked like so:
A perfect graph for a fourth-grade love story.
Upon putting down his pencil, he held up his hands, fists clenched tight. Like a marathoner winning a race. Like the hare, coming from behind and screwing up the story by beating the tortoise.
He went looking for Lindsey and Hassan, and eventually found them in the Game Room. “I finished our Theorem,” he told Lindsey, who was seated on the pink felt of the pool table, her brown eyes still puffy. Hassan was ensconced in the green leather couch.
“Really?” asked Lindsey.
“Yeah. It took like eight seconds. I actually almost finished it like two weeks ago; I just didn’t realize it worked. ”
“Kafir,” said Hassan, “that is such good news that I almost want to get off the couch and shake your hand. But God, it’s comfortable. So now can you use it for, like, anything? Like for any two people?”
“Yeah, I think so. ”
“Are you going to use it to predict the future?”
“Sure,” offered Colin. “Who are you looking to date?”
“Uh-uh, dude. I tried it your way with the dating and the girls and the kissing and the drama, and man, I didn’t like it. Plus, my best friend is a walking cautionary tale of what happens to you when romantic relationships don’t involve marriage. Like you always say, kafir, everything ends in breakup, divorce, or death. I want to narrow my misery options to divorce or death—that’s all. That said, you could do it for me and Lindsay Lohan. I wouldn’t mind converting her to Islam, if you catch my drift. ”
Colin laughed but otherwise ignored the diatribe.