(…) A week later he was attending a conference in Paris, politely deflecting inquiries about his progress and requests to speak publicly. He sought out the secluded company and guidance of his friend and fellow Nobel Prize winner, Dimblebee Hawthorne, the learned economist.
“Ah. The ratiocination. Indeed. The illation, the sequitur.”
“The end, yes,” replied Zigafredo.
“And your daughter mentioned a duck?”
“Most intriguing. Anas Platyrhynchos, I presume?”
“A duck, yes.”
They looked hopefully at each other.
“My God,” said Dimblebee Hawthorne suddenly. “This could undermine the smooth-curve model of endogenous microeconomic theory.”
Professor Zanyatti made an appointment with the famous Russian mathematician, Pupkin Dynamovich, who happened to be in Paris getting drunk.
“Zigafredo! Comrade!” he boomed. “Have a drink!”
“Just one, per favore.”
“One? Nonsense! They don’t serve just one in this bar.”
“What are you working on?”
“If it’s Tuesday, the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture. Na zdaroviya!”
“Uurgh, and if it’s not Tuesday?”
“The non-trivial zeros of the Reimann hypothesis. Another shot?”
There was a pause while Dynamovich examined how much vodka was left in the bottle.
“Oi, you mean the zeros? 10 trillion so far.”
“Computer broke. Na zdaroviya.”
Zigafredo explained his problem. He watched the mathematician’s eyes widen hysterically, and realised he was furiously re-calculating 10 trillion zeros with a duck at the end of the equation. But the Russian genius had grasped something else, something infinitely more troubling.
“How many Ducks?” he spluttered.
Zigafredo left him blubbering tearfully into his vodka and travelled to Berlin, where he talked to Madame Zelda Stract von Hinkenlooper, the renowned German psychologist.
“But vhy ducks?” she asked. “Verrry interesting… Did it quack?”
He consulted the finest scientific and analytical minds on both sides of the Atlantic and, feeling frustrated and somewhat bewildered, he eventually returned to the seclusion of his villa and a further two years of contemplation, study and extensive rewrites of the manuscript.
He called Dimblebee late one night.
“It’s not about the duck,” he announced.
“It’s not? My dear boy, what a relief.”
“Well not exactly.”
“Sweet Lord! Not exactly? Per se, intrinsically, in and of itself?”
“Not really, no.”
“You’re killing me. What is it then?”
“It’s what the Duck…. means.”
There was a pause on the end of the line.
“The intellectual world is in ruins, my dear Professor,” replied Dimblebee.
The London publishers quietly slipped out notification that the publication date had been delayed indefinitely due to ‘unforeseen
ducks circumstances.’ The news spread through online literary forums and caused a furore. Speculation was rife. Snarky critics asserted that Professor Zanyatti had never been up to the task, and supporters told them to “fuck off.” Mavis Mapplethorpe, a housewife in Vancouver, looked up from a pan of eggs and sausages frying on the stove and asked her husband, “But what am I supposed to do now?”
Zigafredo took an extended sabbatical and travelled the globe. He visited the pyramids in Egypt, explored the Mayan ruins of the Yacután Peninsula in Mexico, and walked along the Great Wall of China. He stood before the ancient monuments of Stonehenge in England, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the Parthenon in Greece. He climbed to the base camp of Mount Everest, looked over the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and saw the Zambezi River crash over the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. He watched the sun set behind the Taj Mahal in India and gazed at the sweeping sails of the Sydney Opera House. He returned briefly and unhappily to Paris to study the Eiffel Tower, and saw also a drunk and destitute Pupkin Dynamovich on a park bench, scribbling tiny circles and ducks in a scrap book.
“Blyat!” Pupkin screeched at him. “What have you done?” (…)
© andrew wheeler