The Computative Assistant to the Acting Vice-Director of Apportionment Compliance for the local subdistrict stopped counting. For an hour he did nothing but stare at his screen and its pattern of numbers that veiled the white certainty beyond. Keys clicked throughout the office except at his desk. Over several fiscal quarters, he had not thought about the purpose for his computations. Results had occurred to straightforward data out of simple operations and formed neat stacks of finished work product that met their own needs. He’d known he was finished when the last page printed. But an hour into his day, the day he stopped counting, he read the number 4774 as Allah. It was all he could see. The inconceivability of there being not just one but several meanings for the pointless signifiers in the innumerable columns took his breath away. Other words appeared, both more and less meaningful than the one that had broken the code. By the end of the day, he had produced nothing new that would pass as work, so he submitted a second copy of the previous day’s reports. The following day, he did the same. It was all he could do to choose a route to the office. The path of his commute was a geometry of turns which, seen from above, spelled words he could almost decipher. The first word of each page of a book read through told the story of man in a sentence. At the same time, nothing meant anything it was intended to mean. Not a consequence followed from his new approach to apportionment computation, but from his clear-eyed reading of the same report each day and from his openness to every meaning of which each sign is capable came a richness of awareness that was utterly incapacitating.

Copyright © August 27, 2009 David Hodges

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