When anna saw the house for the first time, she was quite taken by it. She loved the oak wood paneling and the wooden floor. She liked how the Sun filtered through the massive stained glass window in the kitchen. The house had a certain ‘old world’ charm she was a sucker for. What she liked most, though, was how the house had an even number of windows, doors and rooms and how the number of tiles on the floor of each room was exactly the same – 128. The house seemed perfect for her, the material of her dreams, and she felt a connection with it. She didn’t think twice and purchased it, even if coughing up the down-payment was a little difficult.
Moving in was a different experience altogether. She hated how the ‘Movers and Packers’ guys had piled the cartons one over the other despite her instructions. She had labelled the cartons in detail explaining what-goes-where, but nothing was in it’s place. She felt worried and anxious and set about unpacking and keeping her things in their proper place. She started organizing the ground floor and stopped for rest only when the kitchen and living room were in perfect order. Then she took out the custom-made nameplate and ran her fingers over her name; ‘anna’ it read, with shiny gold letters on dark oak wood. She had rebuked the lady at the shop for spelling it with a capital ‘a’ the first time. “No symmetry there!” she had pointed out. After fixing the nameplate on the front door using an even number of nails, she carried a carton and went up the stairs to ‘fix’ the bedroom and study. She paused as she reached the top of the stairs. Wait! Did I count that right? She went back down to the bottom and shaking her head, she counted the stairs again as she came back up. 11. Disturbed, she decided to count once again and make sure there wasn’t any mistake. 11. How could it be? It’s supposed to be an even number just like the rest of the house. I suppose I should count it even number of times, she thought and went back down and counted the stairs again. Still 11. Feeling apprehensive, she put the carton down in the study and went back and sat on the topmost stair, deep in thought, trying to figure out a way to make the staircase ‘proper’.
She tried to divert her thoughts from the constant nagging in her brain to find a solution to the ‘staircase problem’. After a few minutes of contemplation, only two solutions occurred to her. Either she could build a stair to make it 12 or reduce one to make it 10. Destroying one stair seemed to be an easier (as well as an immediate) solution. For half an hour she sat thinking about whether a missing stair would look proper. Finally, she gave way to her even-numbered brain. She went downstairs to pick up a hatchet from her deceased father’s toolbox and then went up to the 5th stair. She started hacking away on the sixth, paying zero attention to her sweaty palms and heaving breath. Once finished, she looked at the end product with a critical eye and chipped away the jagged edges. She felt strange that she found her solace in something missing. Satisfied, she jumped up to the now-sixth stair, relieved that she could now pay attention to the rooms upstairs.
© Dola Basu Singh