Kissing Number

Kissing Number

by Philippe St-Jean

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Overview

Kissing Number by Philippe St-Jean

Shred Wallace's Oblivion, Pynchon's "V", Leyner's Sugar Frosted Nutsack* and Ouřednik's Instant Propice. Gather in a 2 Gallon Ziploc® Brand Freezer Bag. Shake, half-bake. And here's this subtly crusted bilingual English/French-Canadian novel entitled Kissing Number.

Keywords? Sure! Pseudo-thermodynamics. Limerence. High finance as an art form. Cuban cattlehead refrigerators.

Why you, the well-advised, polymath reader ought to spend hard-earned money on this book on the sole basis of self-proclaimed cross-references and a few keywords is beyond reason. To tell you the truth, you're currently holding a pure akratic object in your hands, yet reasonably priced at single-digit dollars and 99 cents.

Good luck with that one.

* This novel by Leyner isn't yet published as I go to press, the influence here being non-causal, making the two books entangled in a quantum mechanical sense. Can't wait to see how The Sugar Frosted Nutsack turns out as it will instantly determine the opposite content of KN. Exciting!!!

Later note: Leyner's book just came out a minute ago. Pure genius. Well, so much for this book! Put it back on the shelf, now.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475905700
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/11/2012
Pages: 196
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.45(d)

Read an Excerpt

KISSING NUMBER


By Philippe St-Jean

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Philippe St-Jean
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-0570-0


Chapter One

—Seriously? Texting? While I'm just across the hall?

—The apparatus moved last night.

—I mean I even heard you type.

—Check it out, though.

—Who touched it?

—No, no. All by itself, the little guy. 'bout a quarter to one. I looked at the video, no one was there.

—Antenna? Piezo? Nothing there?

—Nothing on the antenna. A little something on the piezo starting about 5 minutes earlier, but barely detectable ... could have come from a train passing by far away. Although 5 minutes sounds a tad long for a train. I wouldn't have picked it up if I weren't looking for it. Of course I don't know what happened after, since it knocked off the piezo once it popped out of the socket.

—Gamma burst?

—Nothing on the semi.

— ...

— ...

—Ça n'a aucun sens.

—I know.

—On se bat pour en sortir une douzaine d'électron-volts, combien pour le faire sortir de son socle?

—I know. We're in macroscopic country here. Boggles the mind.

—It can't be.—Show me the clip.

* * *

-1988-

Calvin avait l'habitude de marcher rapidement dans le corridor de son école secondaire sans lever les pieds. C'était possible, car le plancher du corridor en terrazzo était maintenu impeccablement propre—assez pour y patiner. En marchant, il laissait toujours sa main gauche traîner sur le mur, ne la retirant que lorsqu'il passait à côté des protubérances en bois compressé—peintes du même marine très foncé que le mur lui-même, fait de béton—qui servaient à masquer des tuyaux d'où provenaient des coulisses de rouille. Elles étaient couvertes de 2 à 3 centimètres de poussière. Le nettoyage de leur surface supérieure ne faisait pas partie de la description de tâche du personnel d'entretien. Zach et Javier regardaient Calvin venir vers eux en s'échangeant un sourire qui disait: on devrait lui dire de ne plus marcher comme ça, mais on ne le fera pas.

—C: I thought I'd find you guys in here. Couple of things I wanted to talk to you about.

—Zach: Hence the hyper-drive walking.

—C: You know Ganacks? From 304? The dude just got a step closer to the first Dexter Slam in modern history.

—Zach: No fudging way. He got to three? When?

—Javier: Dexter Slam?

—Zach: When, Calves? And most important, with whom?

—Javier: ...?

—Zach: You're kidding, right, Jav-boy? You never heard of it? Calves, would you mind explaining to our socially inadequate friend here.

—C:I can't believe you've never heard of this, Jav. It goes way back, like thirty years ago or something. It's a contest. Very challenging. Been won three times. First by Jean-Paul Maquette back in '66, then by another guy a couple of years later, though no one seems to remember his name which is strange considering the detailed descriptions of his achievement that has been well-documented, graphically speaking, frescoed on a somewhat hidden wall in the 3rd floor boys' bathroom. Then finally, by Bruce Longhorn, most recent in line, 1978.

Most guys now believe that the last one really was the last ever and that it just can't be done anymore.

—Jav: De quoi on parle?

—C: Je dirais que l'évènement a été victime de sa propre légende, parce que les parties intéressées sont désormais mises en garde à chaque début d'année, d'après ce qu'on dit, lors d'entretiens privés avec certaines enseignantes ayant elles-mêmes étudié ici à la belle époque. On devine facilement les raisons pour lesquelles elles ressentent le besoin d'organiser ces entretiens.

—Zach: It's a bit of a weird thing, though, when you think about it. I mean, what's the point of warning thirteen-year-olds about a thing like that? Old folks have this notion that we lack some sort of maturity that they are entitled to pass on to our age and, quite frankly, I find the whole attitude towards us quite contemptuous, plus the perception widely inaccurate. For instance, take any thirteen-year-old girl and consider for a minute the choices she has to make about encounters with boys. Completely unconstrained choices. Complete freedom. Projecting herself in the relationship, in the long-term, is just a kicker at her age. I look at my half-sister who's now 23 and I can see her making poor decisions over and over—sentimental ones I mean—'cause now she's starting to think about selecting a viable partner for eventual reproduction down the line, one that would also be able to contribute regularly to a mortgage and joint RRSPs and so on. So when I turn to her and ask what she sees in whatever new guy she's dating, her answer is systematically: "I think he's funny", and while I typically restrain from commenting on this criterion I sometime feel gripped to confront her and tell her that measuring compatibility with a potential soul mate based on the limited fact that the counterparty can produce a single witty line under the influence of three beers might fall short of doing the trick, over the long-term that is, but I look at her and I can tell that she knows this already. Of course. But that's all she's got, and the realization of this shortcoming, I think, weighs heavily on the management of the sentimental realm of her life. So my point is: talk about a girl who needs guidance. She's the one—along with of her same-aged friends, which incidentally probably includes some of the teachers Calves was referring to earlier—who could use a word of advice about guys. You know. While our thirteen-year-old girls, on the other hand, being a) already well-aware of all bio-mechanical considerations concerning the matters at hand-thanks to ass-kickin', government-sponsored,—approved sex ed—and b) completely willing to engage in such relationships with the prior understanding that the counterparty might be a total ass, as long as he can perhaps pretend to be exclusive for a period of about a week or two, while as well practicing proper hygiene—minimal—and keeps wearing those cool sneakers. That's about it. Plus the non-spoken rule that age difference with the counterparty shouldn't exceed 18 months. Now I'm asking you, my friends, what's wrong with throwing a little dextering in, assuming that proper hygiene is ensured throughout?

—Javier: Who's Dexter?

—C: I've heard those annual awareness presentations are lead by Miz McClatchy. I think it makes sense. You can tell she has a past. Something in the tone of her voice, comme quand on a le trois heures de bio en ligne le vendredi après-midi et qu'elle fatigue vers la fin.

—Z: You bet she has a past. And a great future too, with yours truly, hopefully. But do tell about the Slam, I heard the set of rules once, I can't seem to remember.

—C: You need to succeed in four different public spaces under the following categories: a) Transportation—either city bus or school bus, basically. There's been discussion about whether the minivan for the sports team would qualify, but it's been ruled out as "not public enough". Also the vehicle must be in motion. b) Corridors and Classrooms—this one is pretty self-explanatory. Labs and the Art Room are allowed, but not the Phys. Ed. rooms c) Entertainment Venues—usually movie theaters, yet we've seen a few planetariums here and there and even a museum, although the entertainment value of a museum has been questioned and the verdict is still pending. And finally d) Cafeteria. That last one's the real bitch, 'cause the locker area is out of bounds. And with all the different counterparties across the board, of course, else where would the fun be. A lot of guys reach two, but that's sort of a plateau, 'cause the word usually starts spreading pretty quickly.

—Z: Wasn't there some sort of time limit too?

—C: Before you reach the age of fourteen, and all four must register in a single academic year. You have to produce either a passport or a birth certificate. It's a Junior Cup. I heard there's a similar kind of extravaganza at the more senior level, but no one will tell me about it. I guess the oral tradition learned from its mistakes. Or perhaps there are some legal issues with the senior one.

—Z: How old is Ganacks anyway? Is he even thirteen? That cute bastard. They're all just mad about him. Something about his hair, and him mixing red and orange in his clothing. I wonder if he'll grow fat, as an older guy. His physiognomy seems to indicate so. —Well, keep us posted on the story, Calves. Who knows? He might be the one to finally pull it off.

—Javier: I still don't understand what you guys are talking about.

—Z: Then it's none of your business, kiddo. You need to grow up. I mean literally. You should consider hormonal therapy, you look like nine or something. Calves, anything else?

—C: Oh! Jav, I came here looking for you, actually. —Y'a Monsieur Schnauzer qui te cherche.

—Javier: Le directeur? Qu'est-ce que j'ai fait?

—Quelque chose de grave, apparemment. L'ai jamais vu comme ça. Catatonique.

—T'aurais pas pu me dire ça en premier?

—Ça m'était sorti de l'esprit. Il t'a même fait appeler dans la cafétéria et tout le monde a dit: " Houuuu .... " en te cherchant du regard. T'as manqué ton moment Academy Awards, Jav-man.

—Bon, j'y vais

—Z: Jav, tu fais quelque chose ce soir?

—Pas si on ne me met pas en prison, pourquoi?

—On a un petit projet marketing/réaménagement urbain. On va à la bijouterie Rubis pour enlever la patte à 45 degrés du R sur l'enseigne. J'ai trouvé la bonne teinte de duct tape en boutique.

* * *

Quelques mois plus tard—

La mère de Javier est américaine, née à Boston, qu'elle s'obstinait à prononcer à l'anglaise malgré la prononciation d'usage avec la nasalisation de la deuxième syllabe. Elle protestait avec raison que même les Français prononçaient le nom de sa ville natale correctement, ce qui n'était pas peu dire selon elle. Javier se pliait à la prononciation maternelle en sa présence, mais n'osait plus le faire à l'école où l'on s'était moqué de lui. Il en allait de même pour son prénom, que ses parents avaient choisi comme une solution de compromis, n'étant pas parvenus à s'entendre alors que chacun souhaitait un prénom dans la langue de l'autre. Ainsi, ils s'étaient résolus à trouver un prénom hispanophone et on imagine bien que la mère de Javier insistait par respect pour les cultures hispaniques à s'arracher une jota grattante du fond de la gorge à chaque fois qu'elle s'adressait à son fils, de l'éveil criard du matin par ailleurs très efficace au " hhhhrrRrrravier, baby, have you brushed your teeth yet honey? It's late time to go to bed ". À l'école, on l'appelait Javier avec un J à sa demande.

Javier avait appris le décès de son père de la bouche de son directeur d'école, qui avait trouvé si difficile d'avoir à faire cette annonce qu'un arrêt de travail s'était imposé. Le directeur n'était toujours pas de retour. Javier était lui retourné à l'école une semaine plus tard. Javier passait normalement un Noël sur deux aux États-Unis dans la famille de sa mère et parlait très bien anglais avec ses oncles, tantes et cousins, ses parents s'étant entendus pour l'élever dans les deux langues. L'année dernière sa mère s'était un peu fâchée avec son plus jeune frère Ulysses qui n'avait que 22 ans et qui laissait régulièrement échapper des jurons bien sentis en référence à quelque politicien américain d'ascendance républicaine. Javier riait beaucoup à chaque fois, ce qui n'était pas sans encourager son jeune oncle et contribuait à enrager sa mère davantage, sans égard au fait que Javier insistait qu'il entendait des gros mots de toute façon très souvent à la télévision et qu'il était assez grand maintenant.

Il se demandait comment serait Noël cette année.

* * *

'90

Zach and Javier saw Johann some ways away getting out the door and walking towards the bus stop. Zach grabbed Javier by the sleeve and started running towards Johann.

—Johann, wait up!

—Hey, guys, I thought you were walking home, now that the nice weather is back.

—We are. I just wanted to thank you for what you did in class. The way you humiliated Mr. Carton, that was amazing. It felt so good, man!

—I didn't humiliate him. I just asked a question.

—And quite a question it was. Did you see him turning all red? Tell me now that you didn't want to humiliate him. You knew it! You knew he wouldn't know the answer, didn't you?!

—I knew he probably wouldn't know, but I never intended to humiliate him. And I don't think I did. I just wanted him to realize that his understanding was incomplete, and that if he expected us to understand his explanation fully he needed to make an effort beyond what was covered in the textbook. See, when sunlight strikes on a droplet of water in suspension in the lower atmosphere, while it is true that the light that strikes at wide angles will mostly go through, and that the light that comes at a certain angle will in turn incur refraction, color separation and then internal reflection, it doesn't explain why light coming in at even shallower angles—

—Yeah, yeah, whatever. You knew he didn't know, that's all. If you didn't intend to mortify him in front of everyone, you could have asked the question after class.

—I've tried this a couple of times, but he never got back to me with proper answers. I though that making the question more public would incite him to dig a little more.

—So you did it for his own good, is what you're saying?

—Well, I guess you could say that. His, and ours too.

—You're so cruel. And a good friend. Thank you for this wonderful day. I really don't need much, when you think about it. Happiness is a low-hanging fruit, for me anyway. Johann turned to Javier who seemed lost in his thoughts.

—Hey, Jav. Comment va la boule d'aluminium?

—Elle grossit vraiment lentement. Don't know why. You'd think I'd get better and better at it, with time.

—Well, the radius goes as the third root of the mass.

—What's that supposed to mean?, added Zach.

—It means that doubling the size will take about 7 times as long as it took to get it to its present size, explained Johann.

—Why seven?

—Eight minus one.

Zach whispered to Javier that it was time for them to leave Johann while it could still be argued that this was indeed a good day.

* * *

TO STAFF PERFORMING INTERVIEWS:/AU PERSONNEL CONDUISANT LES INTERVIEWS:

[dagger] The following protocol should be understood as a set of guidelines for interviews and not as a rigid sequential procedure. Try to respect the order of the questions as much as possible and we invite you to ask follow-up questions and use good judgment in trying to obtain as much information as possible from this exercise. Bear in mind that the main objective of the protocol is to get a complete description of the psychological and sociological history of the subject./

[double dagger] Le protocole présenté ici doit être utilisé [...] une description complète de l'historique psychologique et sociologique du sujet.

A) Please tell us a little bit about yourself: What you do, where you come from, etc. / Parlez-nous un peu de vous: ce que vous faites, d'où vous venez, etc.

B) Where did you first hear about this project? / Où avez-vous entendu parler de ce projet?

C) What made you consider participating in this project? / Qu'est-ce qui vous a convaincu de participer à ce projet?

D) Have you ever ...

* * *

A)

(Continues...)



Excerpted from KISSING NUMBER by Philippe St-Jean Copyright © 2012 by Philippe St-Jean. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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