My Guy

I struggled as quietly as possible so the cool November air wouldn’t carry the noise to the guards around front. Not being young anymore, it was really hard to lift myself through the side window. In my haste, I had ended up stuck in place–one leg hanging on either side of the extra-wide sill–as my torso contorted like a goddam mummenschanz.

After several convulsions, I eventually squirted through and landed with a grunt inside the dimly-lit school hallway. I pushed myself up from a kneel with one hand to reach my feet. At least no one saw that.

“Stop there!” barked Jimmy. I rolled my eyes as his voice echoed off the trophy cases and down the hall. Of course, it would be Jimmy.

His doughy form was covered in tight-fitting para-military camo. Plates of black plastic and plexiglass with big-button pouches were held together with various straps that hung off his form like a low-rent cosplayer.

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As long as anyone remembered, K…(that’s what they called him: “K”– the letter, not the nickname)…K was always counting: One, two, three as he walked. He measured time when his teachers talked, usually thousands, when his friends played tag (Edgar was the best, he always tagged someone before eight)– his first kiss was a one. But later him and Sally kissed all the way to seventeen before his friends caught them behind the school and made fun of them…

K sat in his room one night, long after everyone was asleep, and stared at the Sudoku book on his lap. It was a gift from his parents. His “focused” behavior– no one used the word “obsessive” in their house– was a source of shame for his parents. But they also realized that his genius wasn’t all bad. K got to hear his Dad tell people lots of jokes about visiting Vegas.

K was ashamed of how well he did at number puzzles. But he was proud, too.

He stared at the first puzzle in the book. He saw a grid of eighty-one squares, nine-by-nine– or, if you prefer: a grid of nine 3-by-3 grids. Selected squares had a single number, one through nine, inside them. Most of the squares were blank and you were supposed to fill those in. Each row, each column, and each 3-by-3 box within the overall grid was supposed to contain only one each of the nine digits, one through nine. That was the puzzle.

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