Applications in Mathematics

from Beloit Fiction Journal – Spring 2018 – Vol. 31


It was true that Julia hadn’t knocked, and deliberately so, but she feels an obligation. Every time some sociopath shoots up a school, the TV focuses on parents who could never have imagined their sweet boy was capable of such a thing. Well, Julia could imagine it with Patrick. He hadn’t gone full goth, but with his all-black wardrobe and sullen demeanor, he just lacked the jewelry and eyeliner. He was a quiet boy, slow to make friends, and his grades had started to slip, especially in the math and science classes he once loved. He was taking a course called Applications in Mathematics this semester that was supposed to teach algebra and entry-level calculus using real-world examples. It was a course she thought he’d ace, but he claimed that if he needed to find the time a train heading east from Denver at 90 miles per hour would meet a train heading west from Chicago at 75, he’d plug it into Google Maps and find out the easy way. And why would he even care in the first place? They’d meet when they met and he couldn’t do shit about it.

So when she occasionally barges into his room unannounced, it’s some measure of relief to find him working on his schoolwork or playing video games on the computer, certainly worth the inevitable protest he’ll lodge. Sure, there is the risk of discovering him in flagrante, but she also has to brace herself for the slim but not inconceivable possibility that she might interrupt him in the midst of tinkering with pipe bombs or stashing handguns under his mattress. In those moments when she can imagine such a scenario, she feels like a horrible mother.

Read the full story in the Spring 2018 issue of Beloit Fiction Journal.