This post is a continuation of the story which began here.
Life for the teenager Computer Science was not entirely lonely, since he had several half-brothers, half-nephews, and lots of cousins, although he was the only one still living at home. In fact, his family would have required a William Faulkner or a Patrick White to do it justice.
The oldest of Mathematics’ children was Geometry, who CS did not know well because he did not visit very often. When he did visit, G would always bring a sketchpad and make drawings, while the others talked around him. What the boy had heard was that G had been very successful early in his life, with a high-powered job to do with astronomy at someplace like NASA and with lots of people working for him, and with business trips to Egypt and Greece and China and places. But then he’d had an illness or a nervous breakdown, and thought he was traveling through the fourth dimension. CS had once overheard Maths telling someone that G had an “identity crisis“, and could not see the point of life anymore, and he had become an alcoholic. He didn’t speak much to the rest of the family, except for Algebra, although all of them still seemed very fond of him, perhaps because he was the oldest brother.
The next oldest was either Analysis or Probability, CS wasn’t sure. They were both a lot older than he was. Analysis was a half-brother to CS, who visited all the time. He was Maths’ child all right, but CS had never discovered who his other parent was. One of the kids at school had told him that it was someone called Enlightenment, but CS did not know if this was true. Anyway, CS did not like Analysis very much – he was very bossy, always telling the others in the family what to do and even telling strangers what to do. No matter what the season, Analysis always wore a black suit, white shirt and a thin, black tie. He reminded CS of the painting he’d once seen of a mid-western farmer holding a pitch-fork standing with his wife. There was not an ounce of fat on Analysis, since he ran marathons, and he was tall and thin. He was always prodding Algebra to do some exercise, but Algebra ignored him. Apart from the marathons, Analysis had no hobbies and did not seem to mix with people much. He used to meet up sometimes with his ex, Economics. In fact, Analysis and Economics, when both of them were quite young, had had a son, called Mathematical Economics. Lately, though, ME had got himself mixed up with a bad crowd, through his own half-brother Finance, who was apparently now in trouble with the police.
CS was always a little scared of Analysis, since he had a sharp tongue, and talking with him it always seemed that you had failed him in some way, and he was about to tell you. He told anybody what he thought of their failings. This was especially true of the twins, AppliedMath and MathPhysics, who Analysis was always berating, both to their face and behind their backs. CS could never tell the two apart, and it was always confusing when one of them visited without the other. They were usually friendly to him, although they were always trying to persuade CS to do little stuff for them, like running to the shop to buy some cigarettes or designing a new operating system for their latest supercomputer, which CS thought a real bore (since he’d now done it so often for them already).
His favourite half-brother was Algebra, who was the opposite in every way to Analysis. Algebra was bald and short and pudgy, and never stopped talking. Yadda, yadda, yadda, all day long. He never wore a suit and tie, only ever a tee-shirt, or when he dressed up, a polo shirt. As far as CS could tell, his only exercise was golf, which he played 2 or 3 times a week. Algebra had a son who was only a little older than CS, called Category Theory, although he insisted you call him Cat. Although only slightly older, he seemed way more mature than CS; for example, he smoked dope and had a girlfriend. In fact, one time, when Philosophy had taken CS to visit Philosophy’s French friend Existent (“Call me X, daddyo”), who worked in advertisting and listened to jazz, who should they find there in X’s basement apartment but Cat. Like his uncle Geometry, Cat always carried a sketchpad and was always drawing. But he talked more than Geometry, which he probably got from his father. Cat was always friendly to CS, and was the only person in the family, apart from Philosophy, who took him seriously. Cat was also a very good bongos player, and had even once been to West Africa to learn African drumming. He told CS he was planning to go to India to spend a year meditating, but not to tell anyone about this yet. Only years later did CS learn that Cat’s parents were in fact Algebra and Philosophy, although Philosophy had abandoned him, so Cat was both a half-nephew and a half-brother to CS.
Then there was CS’s other half-brother, Logic, whose parents were actually Philosophy and Theology. Philosophy had abandoned him too, like CS and Cat, while Theology had gone to help guerrillas in South America and was now living in Saudi Arabia. So poor Mathematics, the only one with a regular job, had had to raise Logic too. By the time CS was born, Logic had already left home. To CS, Logic seemed like a younger version of Analysis, thin and single-minded, although he was much friendlier than Analysis, at least to CS. Everytime you saw Logic, he had a new word puzzle or a card trick or magic trick to show you. He hung out a lot with Philosophy and even visited Uncle EE now and then. Apart from Philosophy, none of the others seemed to like Logic very much, although CS got along with him fine, and Cat used to visit with him. He would always help CS with his homework, and he had clever ways to turn the question the teacher had given you into another question which you could answer using a bit of algebra. Sometimes, this even worked in tricking the teacher.
The only other regular visitor to Maths’ house was a great aunt of Philosophy, called Philosophy of Math. Phil, as she liked to be called, wasn’t married, smoked cigarillos, and wore sensible shoes. She seemed to have only other single-women her own age as friends, such as her sisters History of Math and Philosophy of Science, and her good friend Epistemology, and CS thought she had a crush on Mathematics. She would always arrive late at night without any warning, and without any definite date for departure, and stay for a few weeks until Maths was forced to ask her to leave. What upset Maths the most was not that she never contributed a dime to the food bill while she was visiting, or that she never helped with the washing up, but that she slept late each night and did not get up till noon. This was just the height of idleness, in Maths’ view, wasting the best part of the day. Phil kept a diary, which she wrote in before going to sleep every night, and Maths was sure she was writing down everyone’s conversations. Sometimes Phil would even read excerpts from her diary over dinner, particularly if she thought she’d written something witty or clever. This just drove Maths crazy. “Such boring, obvious piffle!”, is what Maths would say to CS, later. Maths never had the courage to say it directly to Phil, though, because she knew word would get back to Philosophy, and all hell would break loose. Phil always talked a lot with Logic whenever he visited and would ignore everyone else, although lately she’d starting talking to Cat. No one knew just how she made her living.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
This post is a continuation of the story which began here.