Flynn Favero was an apt student, capable of calculating columns of equations in mere moments - an act which impressed students and professors alike. His odd displays of intellect had earned him a reputation as being both a genius and an eccentric.
Perplexed were the children who shared a school yard with young Flynn Favero for while they kicked a ball or chased bugs, he stood, quite statuesque, counting and measuring the distance between branches of a nearby tree.
The patterns were peculiar to him for he knew the tree was once a seed, and he knew within that seed the patterns must have existed. He also knew that one day the tree would die and perhaps that knowledge was in the seed as well.
Death was not an unaccustomed concept to young Flynn Favero for exactly five days after he began his fourth year of school, his father abruptly died.
His mother could not explain how or why his father was gone, only that he was not coming back. Young Flynn Favero, desperately attempting to forge an explanation, began staring at the tree in their front yard.
For several days, he stared at the tree and its branches until a pattern revealed itself to him.
But having neither the seed nor the tree from which it fell, young Flynn Favero was left with only his theories and his careful measurements.
He had no desire to exhibit his gifts, but on many occasions crowds of bookish mathletes pushed their way into his small office to observe his work.
The office did not, in fact, belong to young Flynn Favero, but instead to a tenured professor by the name of Noah Raines.
The reality that a student had commandeered his office bothered Noah Raines very little for he was so close to retirement that he had trimmed his curriculum and classes to nearly nothing and, as the saying goes, had his foot halfway out the door.
The one peculiarity that struck Professor Raines occurred while he was removing the few personal items still remaining in his cluttered office. While reaching for his potted plant, his arm accidentally collided with the corner bookshelf.
The potted plant had been a gift from the studious Flynn Favero after taking several of the professor’s classes. The plant, which Flynn presented as both a gift and his thesis, was remarkably ordinary in appearance.
The one detail that distinguished it from any other plant was the odd and unsymmetrical manner in which its leaves and branches grew.
Chaotic was not the term young Flynn Favero used, but it was an apt description for the branches and leaves of the otherwise ordinary potted plant took sharp and abrupt twists and turns, making right angles and dejunct spirals in unpredictable places.
The unmoved Noah Raines believed the gesture to be nothing more than a careful and tedious pallor trick. It was only after the plant continued to grow at random and awkward angles, that Professor Raines took an interest in young Flynn Favero.
The petulant plant would not submit to sun, water, or wear. It moved as if regulated by an invisible and unapologetic hand.
This was, Flynn quietly explained, not a discovery of nature; it WAS nature - a notion the knowledged Noah Raines begrudgingly entertained.
He cursed and bent over to pick up the binder that had fallen from the rickety shelf. As he lifted it, slips of bar napkins and torn bits of paper scattered across the cheap carpeting.
He did not make a habit of bending over twice in one day, but leaving such a mess this late in his career was hardly professional. The modicum of self-respect still remaining in him pondered the opinions of his ex-wife and child.
Grace Raines, Noah’s third, last, and ex wife, was, contradictory to her name, neither graceful nor particularly refined. She was, however, attractive enough to garner Noah’s peculiar and particular tastes.
Her blond hair bobbed and grazed against her shoulders, and she made a habit of carefully brushing it from her cheek after she quickly turned or lifted her head.
It was this mundane tick which captured Noah Rains’ attention, and he found it quite difficult to lecture with young Grace in the front row of his class, brushing her thin fingers through her bright, blond hair.
Young Grace was dainty but hardly delicate. Her four sisters, for which she was the middle, provided her with a daily, and often literal, struggle for the limited niceties their parents expected the rivaling sisters to share.
Young Grace learned early and often that life was, and to her lament, always would be, a struggle. Whether she was fighting for clothes, makeup, food, men, or her parent’s affection, she knew her satisfaction would not come easily.
Her stratagem, which had taken years of refining, involved supplication, subjugation, and (most importantly) subtly. This is not to say she was a tenacious tactician, merely an observationalist of human nature.
Through scrupulous experimentation, she learned how to effortlessly manipulate those around her until her mannerisms became so natural that even she was unaware of perpetrating them. It was in this method that she unknowingly drew Professor Raines to her.
He did not think to marry her, nor did he divine a future with her after the semester had ended; but, when he learned of her pregnancy, he knew that he would lose either his freedom or his career. The choice, even now as he reminisced, was not an easy one. And he often pondered the path not taken.
It was only after Grace revealed her most recent affair that the two made official what they each had been feeling for years. They filed for divorce without hesitation or hard feelings.
Calvin had been pressing Grace for a more substantial relationship than the sordid and sporadic weekend affairs she was willing to indulge. He did, in fact, love her. A truth he never ceased in reminding her.
He was not the kind of man to placate infidelity, and his conscience often weighed upon him while he was in her presence. The weight, which would have been insufferable under any other circumstance, seemed to fall away with each article of clothing he removed.
Upon hearing of her divorce, he immediately purposed to her, presenting her with the ring he had purchased months earlier for that specific purpose.
Grace, having no interest in shackling herself to another man’s fate, told him no and refused to respond to his subsequent soliloquies and phone calls.
Though Grace had delatched her fate from her ex-husband and her current lover, she would not uncouple her fortune from that of her son’s.
When her ex-husband, Noah, was cold and distant toward their impressionable child, which was often, if not always, the case, she was warm and close. Her love for the child seemed immeasurable, all the more because Noah’s seemed so shallow.
When she left, James left with her. She cared for him as best as she was able, but her hugs and bedtime kisses did little in preparing the young lad in the ways of men.
Happy was not the word she would use to describe her later years, but she was content in her choices.
He wearily kneeled and scraped the slips of paper into a pile.
The scraps contained equations and formulas unlike any he had seen. Each equation was bizarre - in some ways more like poetry than mathematics.
He began piecing together the strange formulas, and did not realize he had spent the whole night doing so until the morning sun shone through the adjacent window.
The last night Noah Rains had spent awake was nearly fifteen years prior when his son, James Rains, was born.
Noah, though he sometimes tried, could not articulate the sensation he felt upon seeing his infant son for the first time. Disappointment was not the right word. It was, unfortunately, the word in wrote in his journal.
Four days after the aged Noah Rains was found slumped in his office chair, dead from a heart-attack, his son James began the difficult and daunting task of categorizing, moving, and disposing of his father’s belongings.
Noah, though controlling, was hardly organized. His home office was stacked with books, papers, journals, newspapers, and any text, which having adhered to his strict standards, was deemed historical. Mess was a justifiable understatement.
After several days of diligent cleaning, James came upon his father’s old journal - the one that took great pains to articulate and ultimately fail to describe Noah’s underwhelming feelings at seeing the birth of his son.
James, already aware of his father’s detached nature, was soon confronted with a new notion of his father which was far less pleasant. His father’s hardened nature was not constructed from resolve, but instead from regret.
James sat back, knocking a stack of books to the floor. He pathetically and uncontrollable sobbed. His pedigree of toughness lended little to crying, but having lost himself in the moment and his anguish, two feats he seldom indulged; he relinquished the knotted feelings toward his father and sobbed even harder.
He was overcome and undone in the same instant, expecting what he could only express as MORE. It was not that he disliked his infant son, but he did feel encumbered by him as if he was being forced to wear a thick winter coat while attempting to walk along the beach.
Noah knew this feeling was wrong, perhaps even inhuman, but he knew no way to resign himself from it.
He grabbed the binder, shoved the remaining scraps into his pocket, and hurried home to examine the equations further.
The elegance and simplicity with which Flynn constructed his mathematical theorems brought the aged Noah Raines to the brink of tears. Never before had he seen such imagination or boldness in a student or scholar.
It was as if the fabric of life had been pulled apart thread by thread and splayed out before him. Each scrap of paper and torn napkin contained upon it answers the old Noah Raines expected to find carved in stone tablets revered in a religious institution.
In that moment, Noah reflected on the few and fleeting accomplishments he could claim.
He thought about his son.
There was a feeling he wanted to express to the boy, but the words fled at every opportunity. He could not divine the path to chart when it came to the boy. But the numbers...Flynn’s formulas...they were like a compass forged from his very heart.
Noah clutched the scraps and pressed them tightly to his chest.
Flynn Favero arrived at the office only moments after the professor’s departure. The door was open and paperwork had been strewn across the floor. The room was such a mess that Flynn could not tell if items had been subtracted or added to the disorder.
Having no desire to tidy, Flynn took a few scraps of paper and left for a nearby cafe.
The BlueShift Cafe had been built only a few years after the unveiling of the university by a high school dropout named Joss Hewitt. Joss loved science, but lacking the intelligence to appease his teachers and their tests, he entered the work force hoping a paycheck would sooth his bruised ego.
Pride was the word Joss’ father, Linus, preferred. Linus had one simple tennant: a man was meant for hard work and tending to his family.
The specifics of the labor were unimportant only that the work was done with the vigor and circumstance of the laborer’s full fortitude. The work, in turn, was only a means to secure the safety and success of his family.
Linus was a doting, demanding, and devoted father. He loved his six children with the full capacity of his heart. His wife, Laura, was the source of this passion.
Laura spoke only small phrases of English, and the forty years she had lived in America had done little to soften her thick Dutch accent.
She liked and repeated the phrase “I love you” the most and used it almost exclusively during stressful arguments. When one of the children misbehaved, Laura would stomp her foot, point to the child’s bedroom, and demandingly shout, “I love you.”
When a child would return home with a bad grade or a reprimand from their teacher, Laura would shake her head, and disapprovingly sigh, “I love you.”
When a child was bedridden and sick with fever, Laura would gently dab their forehead with a cold, wet towel and softly sing, “I love you.”
The Hewitt children, over the course of a day, might hear the word love at least a hundred times associated with a hundred different intentions. They, of course, knew their mother well enough to divine her meaning, but hearing the phrase from anyone else, and they would hesitate and speculate as to its true purpose.
And while Linus was driven by his obligation to her and his children, his ambition never wavered beyond the stringent and rigorous path his father had laid out before him, just as his father and grandfather had done before him.
Ambition required a degree of uncertainty which Linus knew might compromise the security of his children. His younger brother, Wes, made just such a miscalculation shortly after his wife became pregnant.
Wes, a baker by trade, sought to make a name for himself by opening a pastry shop, Just Desserts. His skill with dough and sugary mixtures was apt, but his planning was not. In his haste, he purchased a storefront in a diminishing and desolate part of the city, and despite the deliciousness of his desserts, few customers patroned the shop to taste them.
Within six months he had run through his credit. The following six months left him deeply in debt. On the same day that his wife revealed being pregnant with a second child, the bank foreclosed on Wes’ shop. Not only was he penniless, he had amassed a debt his children would certainly have to pay.
Linus provided his brother with small sums of money, enough to stay in the creditors’ good graces, but Linus refused to entertain his brother’s lofty and lavish pursuit of a new bakery.
It was with this same skepticism that Linus refused to provide his son, Joss, with the funding to open his own restaurant.
“The risk is too great,” he told his son in as kind a way as he could manage.
Linus lived this tennant to the fullest each and every day of his life, and he expected his children to do the same. Joss, after failing the first, second, and third time to enter higher education, consigned his scientific passions to the leisurely life of his retirement years.
He was, like his father, a simple man and opted for the tangible benefits of work and money instead of the fleeting, floating fog of his aspirations.
His skills as a chef and businessman proved a successful mixture for his cafe was quickly profitable and spurred a lucrative chain of sandwich boutiques across the American East Coast.
After ten years of profits, he sold the franchise for a healthy sum of money; that is, all the cafes except for the original which he continued to run with his oldest daughter and his brother-in-law.
Mitt work hard enough, but only just barely enough. He avoided responsibility, or more specifically stress, with the same fervor that Joss sought it out.
As if by a divine and uncanny sense, Mitt knew when Joss was about to scold him for his doddling, and he immediately increased his efficiency, avoiding a painful lecturing. It was in this manner that Joss and Mitt ineffectually operated the BlueShift Cafe.
Haley Hewitt, Joss’ oldest daughter, worked at the Cafe more as a necessity to her father than to her wallet. Half the work she did at the Cafe was off the books, and only done in an effort to pick up the slack for Mitt, her “casual” uncle.
She would have considered her family obligations a great burden, but the sad truth was that her social life was so miniscule it was barely, if ever, troubled by her occupation.
She knew ways of slipping free from her employment shackles, but she discovered the guise of work shielded her from the pain of social commitments and the emotional uncertainty that was surely to follow.
Mitt admired the Hewitt philosophy, but made no effort to become one of its elite acolytes. It was his casual and nonjudgmental outlook that pulled at the heartstrings of Wendy Hewitt, Joss’ youngest sister, and despite their financial troubles he felt, or made certain not to feel, any pressure to change.
Linus, being as stubborn as he was loving, spoke little of his youngest daughter, Wendy, for he knew his utterance would certainly contain more bite than bitterness.
Wendy was his first and only child to attend college, and the magnitude of pride that possessed him, he felt, must have been sinful. He had unknowingly and foolishly placed all his hope upon the slender shoulders of her future.
He had spent his brutal and battered days working for the betterment of his family, and young Wendy would be the embodiment of his endeavors, or so he believed.
While at the University, young Wendy met Mitt, a charming rapscallion who knew the best ways to make a promise and the worst ways to keep one.
To describe young Wendy as enamored would be like calling a volcano inclined to leak. And so, as if ready to erupt, Wendy and Mitt eloped and scattered themselves across the country in a lazy and lurid journey of discovery.
Linus did not realize his daughter had fled school, nor that she had gotten married until she revealed it to him in a hemingesque postcard: Left school. Married now. Travelling too. Love you Pa.
Normally, Joss would have fired Mitt for his laziness, but Joss did not want to risk losing Wendy in the process. Her return to the family was recent and more fragile than anyone wanted to admit.
With Mitt under his employ, Joss hoped to hook Wendy before she flew away like an untethered kite as she had done so many times before.
He had tried to instill a love of science and astronomy in his three daughters, but to his great lament, none of them shared his passion. So, slightly disheartened, he continued to work at the BlueShift Cafe near the university with the hopes of one day returning to his abandoned scientific pursuits.
Flynn sat along the corner window in quiet solitude, organizing his disjointed thoughts. He wrote each idea on a separate napkin and placed the napkins in altering grinds on the table.
His thoughts were not strictly mathematical. One scrap of napkin described the pleasure he felt while drinking orange juice. Another reminded him to buy milk on his way home. A third contained no words at all, but instead a rough portrait of the woman behind the counter who fascinated him in a way he could not explain.
Flynn had attempted to capture the strange emotion with a mathematical expression that calculated the anatomical proportions of her body (which he guessed at), his pheromone levels before and after seeing her, the quantity and variety of chemicals in his brain, changes in atmosphere, even his reactions relative to the movement of heavenly bodies, but he still could not find a tautological truth nor a arithmetic explanation.
Flynn had always, and perhaps to his detriment, found comfort in numbers. Since his father’s death, so many years before, he felt a vacancy inside himself, an unknown value not unlike a variable. He attempted, vainly and vehemently, to understand the imperceptible absence within himself.
He crafted long lists of values and equations to explain the deficiency, but never to solve for it.
Lacking numerical confidence, Flynn had yet to discover a method to describe his feelings for her, to her, or even to himself. Full of self-doubt, he began constructing a formula that did not rely on established equations or mathematical logic.
He shuffled the scraps around, hoping to see some commonality between them - some thread that he might twist into a formula. He knew this game was founded more in nostalgia than science, but he enjoyed playing it while he thought of what he might say to the beautiful woman behind the counter whenever the chance might manifest - though, unfortunately, it had not yet done so.
There was one occasion in which Haley Hewitt, the beautiful woman behind the counter, had taken notice of the friendless Flynn Favero. Haley, flustered by her idle uncle, tripped, spilling a half glass of cold coffee down the back of Flynn’s grey shirt.
Flynn, more awkward than agitated, took off his shirt in the bathroom and squeezed the cold coffee into the sink. Haley, bellowing apologies, waited outside the door, begging and hoping for his forgiveness.
The pleas were more a surprise to Haley than to the gawking customers around her. She was embarrassed, that was more than apparent, but she felt something else too.
Flynn was her best and most loyal customer. He tipped generously and was always polite, which in itself was reason enough for her to beg for his compassion and continued patronage, but such a bold and vocal act was unlike her.
Flynn, having little experience in matters such as these and knowing of no other means of escape, simply left with his shirt in his hand, a trail of cold coffee dripping behind him.
He returned to the Cafe the next day at his usual time, in his usual seat, expecting his usual order. He made no mention of the previous day’s incident, nor did he respond to Haley’s continued apologies. And so it was as if the episode had never taken place.
He spent every mid-morning sitting in the same chair at the same table, ordering a small glass of orange juice and an apricot danish. He followed this routine so consistently and precisely that he no longer needed to order. The food and drink would appear in front of him the moment he sat down.
Haley, the waitress that was so amendable to his routines, had not taken an interest in his order simply because he was a customer. She had, to her surprise, felt something toward him. Friendship is the word she repeated to her father and uncle, but she knew her feelings went deeper.
The regularity in which Flynn Favero visited the Cafe, and the calm, consistency of his order provided Haley with a sense of familiarity she was unaccustomed to from someone outside her family. In truth, she had come to rely on and enjoy Flynn’s habitual visits, though he spoke seldom, if at all, to her.
His lack of communication she took as a sign of distance, or as her grandfather described it: “a respectable working relationship.”
Having neither tangible evidence, nor the glimmer of something more than work related respect, Haley directed her attention to a man who had no reservations in speaking with her and made certain his intentions were clear and often repeated.
Will Romero was, as he would often admit, not a bright young man, but what he lacked in intellect, he made up for with charm. Should a conversation ever tread a path unknown to him, he would smile and nod.
“Fascinating,” he would say, “Just incredible.”
His compliments, though gushing and gluey, were always genuine. In fact, everything unusual about young Will Romero was indisputably authentic. His Arkansas drawl had been acquired in Arkansas, where he had been born and raised. His gentle, though chastising personality had been a genetic gift from his father. And his slight sauntering walk was a result of summers moving cattle through Oklahoma and Texas.
He was an oddity in a North Eastern college town, and on occasion young brooding intellects would chastise his homespun ways.
He would smile and laugh. “How smart can a man be if he isn’t honest?” He would ask taking hold of the other fellow’s boney shoulder.
Young Will Romero, upon seeing the bewitching Haley Hewitt, knew at once that she would be his wife and told her exactly that the moment she approached him with a menu.
It would take five months before Haley agreed to have dinner with him and another nine months before they were engaged.
During quiet nights in bed, as she waited for sleep to take her, she would dream of Flynn and the life they might have, and how he might fiercely and vigorously love her. The following day, in the Cafe, she would, with fearful ambition, allow her hip or arm to gently graze him as she passed.
She was never certain exactly what she wanted from him, only that she wanted it.
Flynn thought that, perhaps, this was a sign of something intimate, but he did not want to presume too much. His hope left too many variables unaccounted for. Instead he sat quietly, eating and working, casually glancing her direction when he thought she might not be looking.
When he returned to the office a large group of students and professors were pushing awkwardly through the doorway to Professor Raines’ office.
Professor Noah Rains stood at the center of the group, holding in his hand a carefully plagiarized equation, specifically the formula he had procured from Flynn Favero’s notes only moments before.
He took special care to rewrite the words and numbers in his own hand and in a manner more associated with his methods. Deception was not an act he was practiced in, but he found himself swiftly familiarized with it.
He presented his toothy smile and the formulas to the students and professors who gathered anticipating a great revelation.
Unfortunately, the great revelation was never fully realized as a revolution. Since Noah Rains knew so little about the formulation of Flynn’s formulas, he spoke very little about them and left the world’s great minds to tinker with them indiscriminately.
Soon after, a behemoth bioresearch corporation purchased the rights to the formulas, paying Noah Rains more money than he could spend in three lifetimes.
Noah immediately and eagerly purchased a large house, several sports cars and other frivolous things which he knew he did not need. Not to seem uncharitable, he paid his son’s college debt and most of his ex-wife’s bills.
He spent so much money, which he had not rightfully earned, that he became paranoid his fraud would be discovered. Flynn was brilliant enough to construct the formulas, surely he would discover their theft...or so the nervous Noah Rains believed.
Fearing the loss of his fortune and reputation, Noah sealed the doors of his mansion shut and isolated himself from the world.
To combat his lonesome, pestering paranoia, he addictively wrote in his journals. By the time he had died, he had filled nearly three large bookshelves with his ramblings. Stacks of books, articles, and scraps cluttered the rooms of his house in what appeared to be a feverous though failed attempt at creating a new formula.
When the authorities finally discovered Noah’s remains, it was clear that he had died in a state of shock and psychosis for words, numbers, and fabricated symbols had been scratched into the walls and furniture of his study, obviously done by his own hand.
The authorities determined an autopsy should be preformed, but said the chaotic and deathly scene was merely a result of a brilliant though troubled mind.
The media would, like everyone else, need to wait for the final results.
They were not disappointed.
In deep, bellowing breaths, Professor Rains professed his stolen findings. The group stood silently, dumbfounded and disbelieving as if the world had suddenly forgotten how to spin.
As Noah concluded, the group was thrust into discussion and descent.
“Was it true?”
“Impossible...if it wasn’t so simple.”
The genius mathletes hurried to their white boards and computers in a frantic attempt to check the values and outcomes Professor Rains flung upon them. To their elation and dismay, they found his impossible theories not only possible, but probable.
Not all of Noah’s admirers were elated. His son, James, had one final semester of college remaining and saw graduation as an opportunity to return home as a man and his father’s equal.
It would not be the warm and loving homecoming James had wanted, but he hoped it would be a new beginning, an opportunity to relate to his father in a way he was not able to as a child.
Though he had a small sum of money saved already, James thought living with his father for a few months after college might afford him the opportunity to build the new relationship he had hoped for; unfortunately, just as James was putting the plans into motion, news of his father’s genius and formulas spread across the campus like a fire.
It was not that James disapproved of his father’s achievement for he had more reason than anyone to be proud; it was the sudden unraveling of his hope that left him so dejected. He knew that becoming his father’s equal (or even his father’s friend) would be a task beyond his abilities.
The formula was beyond his imagination. He could not decipher it nor even comprehend its purpose. It was like a language he was seeing for the first time.
With a quiet and tightly wound depression, James knotted his melancholy into resolve and suppressed his hopes of strengthening the bond with his father.
Instead, he found a job that would send him to the other side of the country where he would eventually find a wife and start a family of his own with little involvement or mention of his genius father, Noah Rains.
His brilliance was a surprise to everyone, and they all agreed his discoveries would have a profound effect on the world.
Flynn did not think much of it, for it was common to see crowds gathering in and around the doorway, though usually he was the one trapped at their center. Instead of competing with the compendium of people, Flynn walked to the library and sat in the quietest corner of the lowest floor.
He laid his scraps of paper on the table in even rows. He rearranged them in different shapes, forming the semblance of a pattern like branches on a tree. He stared at the pattern, hoping a formula would reveal itself to him.