Banter Latte

Lovelace½ #4

This entry is part 4 of 15 in the series Lovelace½

Part four of Lovelace 1/2. I’ve been enjoying the speculation of the limits of Andi’s new abilities. There’s some good meat for that discussion in this one — I think, at least. As well as the seeds of… well, what’s going to come next. Enjoy!


Andi stared. “What did you say?”

“I said you played that guitar like an expert — like you’d been playing for years.”

“How is that possible?”

“I don’t know how,” Mister Stone continued, stepping behind his desk. “The same way I don’t know how you’re suddenly a math genius.”

Andi shook her head. “I… don’t understand why any of this is happening.”

“Me either. Which just means we don’t understand it.” Mister Stone leaned forward. “We should experiment a little. Try to figure out your limits. If you have them — I’m beginning to wonder.” He half-smiled.

Andi looked away. “I guess I’m not finding any of this very funny. I don’t know what’s going on, and it’s kind of scaring me.”

Mister Stone sobered. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Though whatever this is, it doesn’t seem to be a bad thing, does it?”

“Well, I was just called into the Dean’s office and accused of cheating, followed by being screamed at for apparently being a fast guitar study. So far, I can’t say this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Am I missing something?”

Mister Stone chuckled ruefully, shaking his head. “You’ve got another point. At the same time… Andi, something truly remarkable is happening to you. Look, I can understand why it scares you–”

Andi rubbed the bridge of her nose. She could feel a headache coming on. “Mister Stone… this isn’t just weird for me, all right? I really don’t need a pep talk. I need to try and understand what’s happening to me and why.”

“All right. Well, first off, now that we know it’s happening… well, we can manage expectations. Get your teachers a little more prepared, so you don’t catch them by surprise and find yourself back in Dean Forrester’s office. Assuming this lasts and that it’s not limited to math. We don’t really know how far this extends.”

“What about the guitar?”

“Music’s mathematical, if you dig down below the surface. It’s a related skillset.” Mister Stone leaned back against his desk. “I’m trying to figure out how to approach this. Tell me — do you feel any… I don’t know. Different?”

“You mean do I suddenly feel ‘smarter?’ No, I feel exactly the same way I did yesterday. Nothing’s different inside, at least as far as I can tell.”

“Have you noticed any other… manifestations?”

“Well… my memory seems to be better. And… I figured out Ms. Seok didn’t actually like Lacrosse.”

Mister Stone cocked his head. “I… what… makes you say that?”

“Just… patterns, you know? I remembered things she said, things she’d done, I–” Andi narrowed her eyes. “You knew that. You know she wants to coach soccer.” Mister Stone and Miss Seok talking in the dining hall. A laugh. A touch of the backs of the hands briefly in the hall. Even in the Dean’s office, they locked eyes for a tenth of a second…. “…you and she, you’re a item. And have been at least all this school year. And no one knows, except you two and now me.”

Mister Stone stared for a moment. “All this from little things you remember?” he said, finally. He didn’t try to deny it.

“Well, yeah.”

“Let’s add pattern recognition.”

“You’re… not mad? That I figured that out?”

Mister Stone looked at Andi, then looked down, laughing. “Mad? No, Andi. You’re… you’re remarkable. And… I’ll ask you to be discreet–”

Andi half-smiled. “I should make you work for it.”

“Oh, like I’m not working here?”

“I know.” Andi looked out the classroom window. “You really care about us. And not in some weird stalkery teacher way. You actually buy into all this.”

“All what?”

“You know. The whole… I don’t know. The Dead Poet’s Society thing.”

“Are you kidding? No way. Robin Williams was a terrible teacher in that movie. Seriously, aphorisms and pep talks don’t teach Blake.”

Andi laughed again. Slowly, she felt herself relaxing.

“Hey, I meant to ask you. What did you do for Spring Break this past March? Go home and see your folks?”

Andi rolled her eyes. “We’re not really ‘get together over a holiday’ sort of people. I went to New York with Bell and her family.”

“Really? That’s great — so you were in New York on March 17th?”

“Well, of course.”

“What was the weather like?”

“On 17 March? Well, that was Saturday — we got up pretty early. It was cloudy and moist and a little cool in the morning. Like there’d been a fog. Still, that had burned off by eleven — we were walking through Central Park that day and it was sunny. The temperature was almost perfect, far as I was concerned. Call it twenty degrees. Sorry, I mean sixty-eight.”

Mister Stone nodded. “What about the fourteenth?”

“Wednesday? Well, the sun was out but it was about twenty degrees cooler. I’d packed my blue windbreaker so it didn’t really matter that much but still. It was good for walking, though. We kept going up and down the streets on the Upper East Side, stopping in the shops along the way?”

“What about the fourth of July five years ago? Do anything special?”

“Well, it’s not exactly a bank holiday in Britain. Still, that was a Wednesday — I was actually home. I’d been at a camp and was going to be going to another one, but there was a week where I was back in London–”

“What did you have for breakfast?”

“That day? I didn’t. I got up sort of late and I tagged along with the housekeeper as she ran errands. Still, we stopped off at a restaurant around eleven — Joe’s Cafe, on Sloane up in Kensington? Anyway, it was a bit posh but since I was with her she could pay for brunch with the house card, and I certainly didn’t mind. I had a muffin and some tea.”

“How was the weather that day?”

“Ugh. Dreary. Wet with a wind.” Andi paused. “Why are you asking me all this?”

Mister Stone smiled. “I think the real question is… how are you answering all my questions?”

“I… just… remember. That’s all.”

“You’re an athlete. What was the score of the first softball game you ever played in?”

“I never played softball. My first cricket game in the Under 9s we lost to Emley two-forty-two to two-twenty-eight.”

Mister Stone paused. “Wait… kids under nine and both sides scored more than two hundred points?”

“Yes? That’s not unusual, you know.” Andi sighed. “Of course you don’t know. You know, cricket is the second most popular sport in the world. More people watched the India versus Pakistan test match last year than actually live in your country. The least you could do is actually recognize a cricket score when you hear it.”

Mister Stone shrugged. “I’m not exactly a sports kind of guy. All right. Your memory’s pretty good I’d say. And by pretty good I mean photographic.”

“There’s actually no such thing. Eidetic memory isn’t quite the same thing, but people just kind of assume.”

“Where did you learn that?”

“Article in the Times, a few years back.”

“Of course. Last October — you remember the book we were working on?”

Andi made a disgusted sound. “Ethan Frome. It was so dull.”

“So I’ve heard. What’s the second paragraph from chapter five?”

“‘When he returned to the kitchen Mattie had pushed up his chair to the stove and seated herself near the lamp with a bit of sewing. The scene was just as he had dreamed of it that morning. He sat down, drew his pipe from his pocket and stretched his feet to the glow. His hard day’s work in the keen air made him feel at once–‘”

“Enough, enough. Dull, huh? At least you read it.”

“Skimmed it, more like.” Andi paused. “And yet… thinking about it now… I remember every page, even the ones I barely looked at. On page one sixty two there was this smudge — a fingerprint that rubbed the ink off a bit. And… you know, I’m wrong. It’s not dull. It’s not dull at all. Oh, the morals are hammered into you and the smashup’s a bit contrived, really, but…” Andi took a deep breath. “I get it now. The locket, the sled, Zeena caring for Mattie the way Ethan cared for Zeena before. Ethan’s strength of body and weakness of will compared to Zeena’s strength of will and weakness of body. The starkness of the countryside reflecting the harshness of social convention… how did I not see all this?”

“If I could answer that, I’d be teacher of the year.” Mister Stone smiled. “Well, clearly whatever’s caused your sudden intelligence boost, it’s not limited to math.”

“Clearly.”

Mister Stone got up and walked over to his bookshelf. He pulled out a thin paperback. Shakespeare’s Sonnets, it read. “You said you skimmed Ethan Frome,” he said. “Let’s test what that means. Have you read any Shakespeare?”

“No, but I’ve heard a couple of those sonnets. ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds–”

Mister Stone laughed. “I believe you, I believe you. All right, so you know Sonnet 23–”

“Sonnet 18.”

“What — are you sure?”

Andi nodded.

Mister Stone thumbed through the book, reading. “I’ll be damned,” he murmured. “Okay. Well, here.” He tossed her the book. “Skim –fast as you can.”

Andi took a breath, and opened the book. She turned the pages, glancing at each. Barely looking, though making sure to at least let her eyes run over the pages as she did so. She closed the book after finishing, and considered.

She remembered every page. Every poem. Every line.

“So what is Sonnet 23?” Mister Stone asked.

Andi responded smoothly, not simply repeating but reciting, putting some emotion into the work:

As an unperfect actor on the stage 
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart. 
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say 
The perfect ceremony of love’s rite, 
And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay,
O’ercharged with burden of mine own love’s might. 
O, let my books be then the eloquence 
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast, 
Who plead for love and look for recompense 
More than that tongue that more hath more express’d.
   O, learn to read what silent love hath writ: 
   To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.

Mister Stone listened. “You’re good at that,” he said, softly.

“I… it’s just kind of a sad poem, you know?” Andi said. “Being scared to admit your love, especially when, you know. It’s clearly… I mean, clearly the speaker’s gay. I can’t imagine that went well in Elizabethan times.”

Mister Stone arched his eyebrow. “You got that? You didn’t get that from the liner notes or an essay?”

“There weren’t any notes — it’s just a reprint of the poems. And yeah — the whole thing — first he talks to a man he clearly fancies, and he’s really — he’s clearly gay, but he doesn’t want to be. ‘A man in hue, all ‘hues’ in his controlling, much steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth. And for a woman wert thou first created–”

“Sonnet 24, right.”

“Sonnet 20.”

Mister Stone chucked again. “I’m gonna have to get used to you correcting me.”

“Anyway — there’s all this lament, and then this women gets involved with both of them, and it all goes pear shaped and it wasn’t that great for the speaker to begin with. Why are these such a thing, anyway? I mean, it’s depressing.”

“They’re ‘such a thing’ because they redefined what poetry could be. The same way plays like Hamlet redefined the sense of what a tragic drama could be, and set the stage for our modern understanding–”

“Oh. So it’s more what they are in, like, the evolution of the poem?”

“Well, and some of the sonnets are pretty bloody good.”

“Sure sure. But… taken out of context a lot, aren’t they?”

“Welcome to the study of literature.” He looked at Andi. “You just read and decoded a sonnet sequence scholars have been debating literally for generations. You developed an interpretation of the individual poems and of the sequence as a whole. And it took you less than five minutes.”

“Well… yeah. I guess I did.” Andi suddenly felt very tired. “Are we done here? I’d… sort of like a chance to get used to all this. And change out of my Lacrosse uniform.”

“Oh — of course. We can talk more about this tomorrow.” He paused. “I’m going to have to call your parents, you realize.”

Andi shrugged. “If you can get them interested, more power to you.”

“You don’t think this will get their attention?”

“You’ve called them for parent conferences. You ever get the feeling anything I did would get their attention?”

Mister Stone sighed. “I’m sorry, Andi.”

Andi shrugged. “I’ve gotten used to it.”

“Yeah. We’ll talk again tomorrow?”

“Sure sure.”

As Andi was walking out, Mister Stone called after her. “Miss Gannett?”

“Gannett-Moore.” She looked back over her shoulder. “What is it?”

“I know this is all new, but assuming it lasts, you’ll get used to it pretty quickly. It’ll just be part of who you are. Something very special.”

“I’ve no interest in being ‘very special,’ Mister Stone.”

“Maybe not, but here we are.” He looked serious. “Just remember. Being able to figure out the right answers to the things that come up? That’s an amazing gift, and an amazing tool. But intelligence isn’t wisdom. Whether or not you have the right answers, you’ll also need to make the right decisions. That won’t just show up in one day.”

Andi looked at him for a long moment, then nodded. “Understood. Thank you, sir.”

He shook his head grinning. “How many times have I told you not to call me ‘sir?'”

“Nineteen.”

Mister Stone looked at her. “Right. Have a good night, Miss Gannett-Moore.”


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