The Mandelbrot Set


Mandelbrot had an ass like a bifurcated cantaloupe, the two halves set side by side in the squishy paisley of his great room loveseat. Mandelbrot sat alone. His party furled around him, tinkling and chortling in the usual way; his choice of friends, his choice of rivals, half a gross of go-getters academic and political, divorcs, heirs and CEO's, the crme de la Birmingham, Alabama, each with a murderous desire for the esteem of colleagues they found contemptible. A merry band!

Nearest him, the batch from neuroscience had got into celebrity sightings and couldn't seem to find a way out. Franklin Yorke claimed to have bummed a light from Steve Martin in the lobby of the Lyric Hammersmith. Cantor Swinney had shared an elevator at the Hotel des Artistes with Francois Truffaut. Curvy Helga Koch had run into Dustin Hoffman in a hooded parka on Fifth Avenue, and in their moment of eye contact he had made a silent plea that she not blow his cover. She was proud to say that she had not. How they admired her! How they were invigorated to remember their moments with Debbie Reynolds, Dick Cavett, Doris Lessing, Henry Kissinger-not ten feet away in the street, the corridor, the bar, the dining room, the pool!

Mandelbrot alone sat despondent. A man of order and control. A man well known for his unflappable, imperturbable, slightly cynical take on the world (some said his raised eyebrow, the single wafting lock on top of his bald head put them in mind of Jack Nicholson); a worldly man, slightly jaded, something of a rou, a bit louche at worst, but through it all a mensch of regular habits, regular meals, regular bowels. Overwhelmed.

© Janet Burroway. All Rights Reserved.