the uses of math by phoenix.writing

28 Feb

Julia wondered if her dad realized how predictable he was.  He’d started the conversation when they were three and half minutes away from Mom’s house—exactly where he always started the conversation if it was something he didn’t really want to talk about.

“You’ve been having trouble with math again at school.”

“I hate math,” Julia responded with the appropriate amount of passion even though it wasn’t as though this was news.  Apparently, it needed to be checked periodically in case she’d suddenly been abducted by aliens and her opinion had been altered.

“Julia.”  There was a warning in his voice now.  “You know that’s not an appropriate statement.”

Julia pouted, but her dad gave her that stern glare, and since it was more important that he watch the road than continue to give her the evil eye, she gave in.

“I strongly dislike math.”

She got a reproving look for this.

“What?” she asked.  “How is this my fault?  What use is long division?  Just in this car, we have two phones that can get the answer ten times faster than we could by hand.”

“You might not always have your phone with you, Jules.”

“Actually, I think you and Mom were the ones to tell me that I’m supposed to have it on me at all times,” Julia pointed out sweetly.  “So if I didn’t have my phone, long division would definitely not be my top priority—’cause it’s only in stupid math games that you escape or win or whatever if you solve the math problem.  My phone isn’t less likely to be stolen or broken if I know math.”

“What if you’re stuck on a desert island?”

Julia snorted.  “Then math wouldn’t be nearly as important as survival skills.”

“Now you’re just being stubborn.”

“How is that being stubborn?”

“Okay, never mind about the desert island, but you’re not supposed to be using the calculator on the phone.”

She made a face.  “How much sense does that make?  I’m allowed to play DoodleJump and Bejeweled, but I’m not allowed to use the calculator?”


She crossed her arms over her chest.  “You can’t make me like math.  It’s stupid and pointless, and I am always going to hate it.”

They went the rest of the way in silence, and she grabbed her bag and jumped out of the car as quickly as possible to ensure that he didn’t have any last-minute comments to make.

She used her key on the door, yelling a hello for her mom as she headed straight for the den, doubling back only once she heard her mother’s response and knew that she was going to meet Dad in the hall.  Julia positioned herself in the kitchen and listened carefully.

They exchanged greetings, addressing one another uneasily, as though they hadn’t been married for twelve years.

Her dad spoke.  “You’re going to have your hands full again, Sam; I tried to talk to her, but all she said was that she’s going to hate math forever.”

Her mom sighed.  “I don’t see why she had to get your genes on that one.”

“Hey, I don’t hate math, I’m just not a damn math genius like you are.  Just … don’t be too hard on her, all right?  I mean, I use the calculator on my phone, it’s hard to explain why she shouldn’t.”

Julia knew her mother was rolling her eyes.  “You drive, drink alcohol, and vote, just off the top of my head.  You don’t think you could have come up with something?”

“Clearly, it’s better if I leave everything math-related to you.”

“And common sense-related?” her mother muttered.

Julia crossed her fingers and let out a sigh of relief when all her dad said was, “I’ll be back on Friday.”

“Have a nice week.”

Her mother’s version of an apology, and was it any reason that they were divorced?

Julia heard the door close and grinned to herself in triumph.  Her mom’s new boyfriend and her dad’s new car had not come up once, and there hadn’t been a single screaming match in the hall for four weeks in a row.

One day, if they ever decided to actually behave like mature adults, maybe she’d tell them just how useful her hatred of math was.  For now, it would keep her mom distracted and secretly amuse her dad, and world war three would be averted.

“Julia,” her mom called.  “Dining room table.  All the math you’ve been avoiding this weekend.  Right now.”

This, of course, was the downside to immediately reminding her mom about Julia’s relationship with math.  But at least there weren’t that many hours of the weekend left now.

And she just wouldn’t think about the fact that her mother would point out that she’d used math to work that out.


5 Responses to “the uses of math by phoenix.writing”

  1. jadamthwaite February 28, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    I really liked this story. The dialogue seemed so natural and I really like the roundedness of it, Julia’s control of the entire situation. I also liked that your Sam was the mother; it was nice to have a prompt that was ambiguous in that way.

    • phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

      I’m glad you enjoyed it; I know it can be desperately tough for kids caught in the middle of a divorce, and I was trying to make it a little more hopeful here. I was happy with the ambiguity, too. ^_^

  2. jmforceton March 1, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    “Hey, I don’t hate math, I’m just not a damn math genius like you are. Just … don’t be too hard on her, all right? I mean, I use the calculator on my phone, it’s hard to explain why she shouldn’t.”
    Good dialog.
    Interesting that today sophisticated calculators are allowed in parts of the SAT exams.

    • phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

      Thanks. It is interesting, the move we’re making towards more and more technology. Makes me wonder if we’ll always teach the basics or if one day it’ll be straight to calculators in kindergarten or something. 😉


  1. infinite possibilities by phoenix.writing | the character project - May 16, 2010

    […] The Dangers of a Red Shirt, Conspicuous,  Consequences,  Falling-Out, The Uses of Math, and Subliminal […]

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