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Just a Number

by Dr. Vince

Shortly before he moved into his apartment, Frank contacted the phone company to have his service transferred. Having given the man from the phone company the necessary information, Frank awaited his instructions.

"Thank you, Mr. Sharstick," the voice on the other end said. "Your service will begin tomorrow between 8 and noon. Your new number is 734-1963."

For a moment, Frank felt nothing. But then he suddenly found himself shaken by this new information.

"1963," he said to the man. "1-9-6 freakin 3. What the Hell kind of number is that?"

The voice on the other end was shaken. "I’m sorry, Mr. Sharstick, but I don’t understand."

"You don’t understand," Frank said. "What the hell don’t you understand? 1963 is no kind of number as far as I’m concerned. As far as I’m concerned you’re just tossing me into the fray with a number like that. Why don’t you give me a real number like 9999 or 6666. 1963 – Jesus Christ that’s just plain and stupid."

The voice on the other end became harried.

"I’m sorry, Mr. Sharstick, but these numbers are selected by our computers. It’s a very complicated process. And I regret to inform you that the numbers 9999 and 6666 are already taken."

"Ohhh," said Frank, who was always three guns shy of a militia, "I’m just sure they are taken – by some corporate capitalist bastards who don’t give a damn for the little guy. I’m telling you now – I want a number that I can sink my teeth into. I want a number that reeks with charm. Get on that computer and tell me what other numbers you have!"

The voice on the other end scrambled. "Well, sir," it said, "I have a 1333."

"No," Frank said. "The one pisses me off."

The voice darted. "Ah – I have a 5249."

"5249," Frank screamed. "524 freakin 9 – that’s no god-damned better than 1-9-6-3. What in the hell----"

The voice on the other end spoke. "Mr. Sharstick," it said, "It’s only a number."

Frank snapped. "Oh, I see," Frank told him. "It’s oooonnnnly a number. I guess Mr. ‘It’s only a number’ that propinquity is only a word. Well, let me tell you something Mr. ‘It’s only a number,’. I don’t think there will be too many mathematicians calling me at 1963. Why not just go with 2674 or 3538. This is a god-damned deliberate attempt to obscure me."

The voice on the other end hesitated. "Mr. Sharstick, I have a 9111 available."

This seized Frank and, if ever a man could be smitten by a number, Frank was smitten by this particular one.

He thought of 911 and all that it entailed. He thought of himself at parties. "Hey baby," he thought, "if you’re ever alone and you need company just call 9111 – you’re the emergency and I’m the one." He thought of how cool he would sound with that line, and he thought of ways in which he could use it generally. He even thought that after his number caught on in social circles he could refer to himself simply as "The One." All of this appealed to him greatly, and he told this to the phone man on the other end of the line.

"Well, Mr. Sharstick," the voice said, "I’m glad to have found something that appeals to you. That number has been sitting around in my computer bank for weeks. I just assumed that nobody was interested in it."

"Well," said Frank, "let that be a lesson to you Mr. god-damned ‘just another number’. The next time you go making people into numbers, make sure those freakin numbers count!"


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