Collision Theory Added£1.29
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(A short story of 2375 words)

Collision Theory


by Kath McKay

When she was seventy four my mother began corresponding with an elderly Scottish widower called Robert who was working on a maths problem.

She got a ticket to the university library. A tiny woman, my mother: young people towered above her.

‘But they showed me how the computers worked, how to scan in books,’ she assured me on her regular phone call.

I imagined they treated her as a member of a rare species, surprised to find her in their territory. She soon spent days immersed in Californian maths and physics journals. Amongst the formal jargon were spattered Californian idioms: gotten, freshen up, dude.

Robert, seventy six, had a house full of books and journals. Since his wife died, he’d given up vacuuming. After four years the dust settled, he told her. Yet the picture he sent her of himself was fuzzy, as if he was in his own galaxy, at the top of his old creaky house.

‘Numbers; matter; creation: that’s what he’s concerned about.’

I stifled a laugh.

Next time I visited, she had ditched the Black Forest Gateaux, and was growing bean shoots on saucers, and eating quinoa. It tasted like shit. I spooned in flourless soy teacake. She said she had to look after her health now, couldn’t talk for long, she had to get back on the computer. Referred to a world-wide network of maths and physics freaks labouring over the problem. Except she called them colleagues. My mother had colleagues?

‘No one has ever been able to crack this problem. People dream of doing so. They talk about it at Maths Conventions. There’s one coming up. I’m thinking of going.’
A sharp pain gashed my stomach. She was uprooting us...

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