By the Numbers

fibonacci(Hello, Stumblers! Welcome to the site. Set a bookmark and drop in again! – GPG)


Lucy was sitting on her floor, bent over her laptop which was balanced on a pile of books, when the phone rang.

First she glared at it, then she reached for it.


“Luce, it’s Margaret. We’re going out to hear some music. Wrap it up for the night and come with us.”

“Nah. I’m okay here.”

“It’s Saturday night and you’re still studying. That’s not ‘okay’.”

“But I’m on to something.”

Margaret’s voice softened. “Luce, you’re always on to something. You’re going to have a lifetime full of somethings. Let’s go out and find you a somebody.”

“Geez, M.J., I’m a mess right now, and it’s already so late. Please, not tonight.”

“Jump in the shower and we’ll be there in 20 minutes to get you.”

Lucy heard her hang up the phone. She had no idea who M.J.’s “we” was, but she was sure it would be friends from one of her women’s studies work groups. Lucy was finding that the deeper she got into her research, the harder it was to connect with M.J.’s crowd of liberal arts and psych majors. Usually she just sat quietly as they threw around the names of post-feminist authors like they knew them personally, and then, at the end of the night, she split up the check and calculated their tips for them.

She pounded out a few more lines and then saved the file. She renamed it and saved it again for good measure, and then shut her laptop. Looking around the room she suddenly realized how dark it was. A reading lamp on a pole shined down on her workspace, defining the room’s only island of light. How long had she been sitting there? Three hours? Four?

The first stop was the kitchen where she flipped on the light and made herself a peanut butter and honey sandwich, grabbing a root beer out of the fridge. She ate the sandwich in the shower, carefully holding it out of the water, and setting it on the side of the tub while she washed her hair. She wrapped herself in a towel and took a long swig of the cold root beer. “Now that’s the life,” she said, raising the  bottle to her image in the foggy mirror.

She was pulling on her boot when the pounding started on her front door.

“Come on, Luce. I know you’re in there. Open up and let me in!” M.J.’s voice rose to a wail. “I want… to have… your… baby!”

Lucy bounded for the door. On the first pull, the safety chain was still hooked and the abrupt stop almost knocked her over. M.J. immediately stuck her foot in the door, just as Lucy was closing it again.

“Ow. Oh ow. Ow.”

“Well it serves you right. What are my neighbors going to think?”

M.J. shrugged. “That I want to have your incredibly brainy lesbian baby?”

“I have to live here.”

M.J. looked around the spartan room, still lit by the single lamp, and at the piles of books. “If you call this living.”

Lucy reached for her grey hoodie and tied it around her waist. “If we’re going to do this, let’s go.”

The rest of M.J.’s group was clustered around the door to Lucy’s apartment building. One of the girls was smoking and two were clutching paper cups of coffee.

“Luce, this is Rebecca, Becky, and Becca. Girls, this is my isolationist friend, Lucy.”

“Great name,” said Rebecca.

“Hey,” said Becky, blowing a smoke ring.

Unexpectedly, Becca hugged her. “I’m so glad you’re coming with us,” she said.

“Thanks,” Lucy said, looking at M.J., who just shrugged.

They took off walking down the street.

“You guys all really have the same name?” Lucy asked.

“No,” Rebecca said, patiently, as if talking to a kid. “I’m Rebecca. She’s Becky, and the perky one’s Becca.”

Becca waved.

Lucy decided not to pursue it. “Where are we going again?”

“To hear some music,” M.J. said. “A new band.”


“Du Nord.”

“What the band?”

“Martha and the Golden Ratio.”

“No kidding?” Lucy laughed.

“Why’s that funny?” Becca asked.

Lucy decided to ignore her.

“They’re good,” Rebecca said. “I saw them last month.”

“What kind of music?” Lucy asked, when what she really meant was “will this be really loud?”

Becky said, “They’re complicated.”

“How do you guys know M.J.?” Lucy asked.

“Through our friend Bex,” Becca said.

They walked on in silence.

Outside the club they fished around in their pockets to dig out the cover charge.

“Not tonight, ladies,” said the doorman. “Martha says everyone comes in.”

He threw out his arm as they walked forward.

“If you’re 21, that is.”

They ponied up their i.d.s.

“Show’ll start in about 15,” he said.

They found a table in the center of the room with no problem. Lucy realized the place was pretty empty. She thought about the pile of books on her floor, and wished she was still at home.

“I’ll make the first run,” Rebecca said. “Shots all around?”

There was assent. M.J. looked at Lucy questioningly. “Tequila?”

“I guess I’m in for a penny, right?”

“What?” Rebecca asked.

“She means ‘yes”,” M.J. said.

A few minutes later Rebecca clunked a shot-glass of clear liquid down in front of her.

“What’s this?” Lucy asked.

“Patron Silver,” Becca said. “Yummy.”


“Tequila,” M.J. said. “Only it’s clear. It’s good.” She raised her glass. “Drink up.”

Lucy watched M.J. toss back her shot, then followed suit.

“Eh,” she gasped. “Eh, eh, eh.”

The cluster around the table laughed.

“Like it?” Becky asked.

Lucy felt the glow starting in her chest and spreading out into her arms and legs. “Yeah.”

A dark-haired woman walked out onto the club’s tiny stage.

“That’s Martha,” Rebecca whispered. “She’s so fuckin’ hot.”

Lucy peered through the gloom. The stage lights were low and it was hard to see her. As she moved near the front edge of the stage, Lucy saw a wiry woman with a long dark braid and dark bangs. She was wearing a tight black undershirt and the jeans that hung low from her hips were held in place by a western belt with a big rodeo belt buckle. As she whipped a couple of cables around the stage, the lights began to come up a little. Lucy could see the tattoos covering her sinewy arms. She walked to the microphone.

The sound system buzzed to life.

“I’m Martha,” she said. She pronounced it “Marta”. “We’ll be starting in just a minute. No roadies. We roll our own.”

“Testing,” Martha said, bending forward slightly toward microphone.

Lucy watched her, noticing how the smooth skin across her chest gleamed under the lights. She realized she was feeling a little light-headed.

“Testing,” Marta said again. “Testing zero, one, one, two, three, five, eight, thirteen, twenty-one…”

Lucy laughed.

The rest of the group looked at her questioningly.

“Are you okay?” M.J. asked, tapping her on the arm.

“Shhh,” Lucy said, her eyes focused on the stage.

Martha was looking her way, shielding her eyes from the stage lights.

“Testing, 34, 55, 89, one-forty-four…” she said. “Anyone? This is our first sing-along.”

“Two-thirty-three,” Lucy called out, surprising herself.

Martha smiled. “Three-seventy-seven,” she said.

“Six-ten,” Lucy called back.

“What the hell?” Rebecca said.

Martha focused her gaze on Lucy and Lucy felt herself grow even warmer. “Nine eighty-seven,” Martha said, her voice growing lower and huskier. The band began to wander onto stage behind her.

“Fifteen ninety-seven,” Lucy replied, her voice trailing off.

“What’s going on?” Becca asked.

“That’s sexy,” Martha said. “Stand up so I can see you..”

Lucy stood, her legs shaking a little.

“Twenty. Five. Eighty. Four.” She threw down the number like a challenge.

Lucy thought for a minute. “Forty-one eighty-one,” she said.

Martha’s voice grew sibilant and caressing, “Six-thousand, seven hundred sixty-five,” she said.

Lucy felt the room fall away. “Ten-thousand, nine hundred, and eighty six,” she replied, her voice dropping.

“What was that last part?” Martha said, as though they were standing side by side.

“Eighty-six,” Lucy said, clearly, but suddenly aware of all the eyes on her.

“You could do this all night, couldn’t you?” Martha asked. She didn’t sound like she was talking about exchanging numbers.

Lucy nodded. “I think I could,” she said slowly.

Martha picked up her guitar and slung it around her body. While she fiddled with the tuning, Lucy stood awkwardly, wondering if she should sit down. M.J. made the decision, grabbing her by the belt and yanking her down.

“What was that?” she asked.

“What?” Lucy asked, through a fog.

“That whole freakish exchange.”

“It was the Fibonacci sequence. Well, the first part anyway.”

“I don’t get it,” M.J. said.

“It’s a math thing,” Lucy said. “Every number in the sequence is equal to the sum of the previous two numbers of the sequence.”

“Whatever,” M.J. said. “But that looked a whole more intense than math.”

The bass player began a slow thumping line, vibrating the room.

“I’m dedicating this first song to the number-crunching hottie at the middle table,” Martha said. “And I’m hoping she’ll have a drink with me after the show.”

Lucy felt her face color as M.J. elbowed her in the ribs.

Martha leaned into the mike, “It’s called ‘You’re So Prime'”.


13 responses to “By the Numbers

  1. This came today from a reader, by email, and made my day:

    “That was one very hot piece of prose! Mathematician, physicist, numerically gifted? I think you captured the plight of the geek lesbian so aptly as you described, ‘the deeper she got into her research, the harder it was to connect with M.J.’s crowd of liberal arts and psych majors. Usually she just sat quietly as they threw around the names of post-feminist authors like they knew them personally, and then, at the end of the night, she split up the check and calculated their tips for them.’ I can personally state that that sentiment is so true.!”

  2. Love this and will stumble it on to all my female friends!!! Yes and thank you!

  3. Absolutely extraordinary. I’m an older straight guy and I loved – loved this. You have a bitchin’ website, I’ll be back

  4. The only problem I have with short fiction is I can’t help but want to read more of it. What happens next?!

    (This was a wonderful story.)

  5. Haha. This was great. I love the Fibonacci sequence.

  6. That’s amazing, I used to be a roadie and am now a programmer, I wish I’d worked for that band.

  7. Very well written.

    I have to applaud the Fibonacci toss-in. I’m afraid at this rate, nerd culture is going to end up going mainstream.

    I think I was about half way through the story before noticing the subject of the blog, (Hooray for stumble hits!) so, I feel pretty neutral in saying that the character introduction was very well executed. Core character details like that shouldn’t have to be very explicitly stated. I wish more writers could do it so elegantly.

  8. I’d love to see that band – are they based in non-fiction?
    Yay for math! Wish I could speak it better – I do love calculations tho.

  9. So after reading this story, I started chanting out the numbers:
    “Zero, One, Two, Three,
    Five, Eight, Thir-Teen!
    Twenty-One! Thirty-Four!
    Fifty-Five! Eighty-Nine!
    Zero, One, Two, Three,
    Five, Eight, Thir-Teen!
    Twenty-One! Thirty-Four!
    Fifty-Five! Eighty-Nine!”

    On the one side, it’s got kind of a nifty rhythm. On the other side, I need a lotta help.

  10. superb, as always.

    i only have two questions: where is that bar & why am i not there right now?

    i can taste the tequila.

  11. That’s the way the Fibonacci Sequence should always be used.

    This story had wonderful characterization and had no unnecessary words. I’m glad I clicked “stumble” one last time before I went to bed.

  12. So glad I found this blog! You make math even sexier…

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