Living by numbers


She lived her life by numbers, expecting good luck on days which were multiples of six, weeks which were multiples of four, months which were multiples of two. The best luck of all arrived on days which involved all three factors, so Sunday April 24th – falling on the twenty-fourth day of the month, the 26th week, and the fourth month of the year, should have been a very auspicious day – the first of only three this year, counting Friday, 1st January as the first day of the first week of the year. She had woken up that morning to find her dog, Loopy, dead on the kitchen floor. The post mortem found that he had suffered a massive heart attack. He’d been sixteen (four squared) years old, his sight had been going, he was diabetic, he had athritic legs, and some kind of digestive problem which often resulted in her having to scrub and disinfect carpets, so dispite her grief, she looked upon his death in a positive light; he had died suddenly and relatively peacefully at a point where his life had been becoming a chore. Furthermore, he had saved her having to make the decision to have him put to sleep. All in all, it had been a good end for her old companion.

The second super-lucky day was Saturday, 18th June. A lorry lost control coming out of the junction opposite the front of her house, and ploughed through her wall, grinding to a halt with its wheels in the centre of her living room. Her bedroom was above, and her bed was pushed across the room, while the ceiling collapsed on top of it. It was 6am, and she would normally have been in bed at that time, but a bout of indigestion had made her unable to sleep, so she was in the kitchen pouring milk of magnesia into a cup. She considered herself extremely lucky to be alive.

The council moved her into another house, and she was just getting settled when the
third especially lucky day arrived, on Friday, 12th August, which happened to be her 50th birthday. She wanted to take stock of her life, as this was her half-centenary, so for the first time ever, she looked through her diaries. She had begun keeping a record on her tenth birthday, which was the day she had begun her system of numerification. The only entries she had made had been on her lucky days, both minor and major, but she skipped the minor ones (written in gree) and only read the major ones (written in purple).

The first entry told her that on Tuesday, 24th April 1976 she had ridden a horse for the first time, but had fallen off and broken her leg. She had spun it into a happy result – the nureses were very kind to her at the hospital – but her leg had become infected, and had never healed properly.

On Thursday 8th March she’d still been in hospital. There was a brief mention of the news that her father had left her mother, but a long description of the gifts he brought to make his daughter feel better about it.

Already she was beginning to see a pattern. She read about fall-outs with friends, the death of her cousin, her sister and her mother, several attacks by a group of three bullies who had made her life miserable over an eighteen-month period, a car crash, two burglaries, ambitions crushed by failed exams… the list went on and on in this vein, and yet she had put a different spin on every entry, so determined was she to believe in her lucky dates. She pictured herself, a poor, lost child who had taken up he needle and darned fantasies over her hollow life; whose only consolation had been her faithful Loopy, and now even he was dead.

She remembered how he laid his head on her lap when she was feeling low, how pleased he was to see her when she returned from her cleaning job, or from shopping.

She lived her life by numbers, always planning to end it on a lucky day, a tidy day, a day with round numbers, She was a round, tidy, fifty today. It was a very lucky day. She had fifty pretty little pills and she was going home to Loopy…

Written for The Daily Post Prompt #Fifty

©Jane Paterson Basil



24 thoughts on “Living by numbers

  1. It’s clever, I’ll sat that for it. But depressing. Reminds me a lot of what I do now and then — the putting a positive spin on things. Or I used to. I’m learning not to do that since I’ve been on here. I was believing my own “fiction” for a long time, as Plato refers to it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. During the very worst times fooling ourselves may be all we can do. In a real crisis we have to use whatever stategy we can find, until we come up with something better.
      I suppose my story is depressing, but some say Leonard Cohen is depressing. I adore him. I devour his voice, know all the words to many of his songs and have either listened to or sung them almost every day since I first heard ‘Suzanne,’ over two-thirds of my life ago. He makes me feel happy 🙂
      That’s something you probably didn’t know about me…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually I’m not at all surprised. Plato loves Cohen’s stuff, too. He introduced me to him a year or so ago. I don’t mind sad, deep songs that make you think. I can be riding in the car with Drollery — well here’s an example. “If Tomorrow Never Comes” came on the radio. Do you know the song? The chorus is:

        If tomorrow never comes
        Will she know how much I loved her
        Did I try in every way to show her every day
        That she’s my only one
        And if my time on earth were through
        And she must face this world without me
        Is the love I gave her in the past
        Gonna be enough to last
        If tomorrow never comes

        I can’t hear the song without crying because I wonder always if Drollery knows how I feel. Now you’d think listening to that song with your wife boo-hooing beside you in the car would make you examine your relationship with her, wouldn’t you? Naw…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m sure Drollery has many fine qualities, but sensitivity does not appear to be one of them – which is very sad, because if he was, he would know how easily you are bruised, and that you need reassurance.
          I know someone whose wife has cancer. Since it was diagnosed he’s talked about nothing but his scars, his diabetes, his mysterious chest pains, stomach cramps, aching back, sore throat… he can’t understand why she’s always angry with him. How’s that for insensitivity?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That’s pretty crappy. Is that the way he’s dealing with his panic, but ignoring it and one-upping it to downplay the seriousness of her illness because he’s frightened? If so, he sure ought to tell her…

            Liked by 1 person

            1. No, it’s not – he just wants the attention to be on him. I had a converstaion with this guy the other night. He asked about Paul, so I told him that the parole board has refused his release, and he could be in there for another year. I said I was feeling depressed about it. He changed the subject immediately, saying (while lighting up a cigarette) that he thinks he has cancer, and he’s sure his heart is giving out.
              I said “It’s good to talk,” but he didn’t get it 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

                1. I feel ambivalent. I’m worried that rather than helping him, it may send him spinning off course. I don’t know if he’s ready to be set loose, but I think a year is too long. He had plans to move into a really good place for vulnerable young people (away from this area), but now he’s been assessed as high risk, even if he gets out, I don’t think they’ll take him.
                  I’m worried because he hasn’t rung me for a almost a fortnight, and he always rings at least once a week.

                  Liked by 1 person

    1. True – It’s OCD, and OCD is a way of trying to control the world around you, because you don’t know any other way – so you make strange rules that have to be followed, to stop the world spinning off its axis. Once a rule has been made , it;s hard to break it…
      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂


        1. Obssessive Compulsive Disorder. The sufferer has obsessive rituals, for example, having to touch a door handle ten times after he’s closed a door, walking 32 normal paces and the one long one, having to step on drain covers (or being unable to step on them). An OCD sufferer can work out all sorts of rituals. Many of them involve numbers, most often (not always) involving multiples of four.


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