Basic Math

72 beats a minute. 4,320 an hour. That’s 103,680 a day, or 37,843,200 a year. Now subtract for the cigarettes, the bourbon, the sleepless nights, the lost weekend in the Poconos. That leaves 567,600,000 taps until the clouds part, the dust bows down, until the little black train comes to take me away, O Lord. All this I calculated this morning, Ash Wednesday, as I sit here under duress—one hand over my heart pledging allegiance, the other drumming furiously at the calculator, while snow drifts down over the empty lawn chairs, the flakes too many to count—and dedicate to Pythagoras, Euclid, and all the other early mathematicians, but mostly to those three overworked draft horses who darkened the stables at Washington Elementary—Miss Keeley, Miss Ramsey, and Miss Loper—whom I thank now for the flash cards, the mountains of homework, and the long-suffering hours I spent at the blackboard, adding columns taller than I was. May they rest in peace, wherever they are.

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