At 7’7” Alam Channa used to be the tallest man alive. According to the Guinness Book of World Hoaxes he really wasn’t. Every red-blooded Pakistani begged to differ (Take that Bob Wadlow!) Alam just wished the red-blooded Pakistanis would stop paying him so much damn attention and let him milk his cows in peace.

     At 72.718281828… inches Aisha was the tallest member of the Merchant family. She didn’t own a ruler as precise as that, but she liked to think there might be a little bit of a transcendental number in her somewhere. When she was little (young, that is), her dad called her Alam in honor of the late great but stopped doing it when her mom started to think it inappropriate that her daughter be addressed via a masculine moniker.

     Amina alternately worried that she mothered Aisha too much or not enough. She always had an urge to confide in Aisha her own problems. It may have had something to do with Amina’s comparatively diminutive stature. At 5’3”--she was actually a quarter of an inch taller but insisted on rounding down for a nice clean or in her words “saaf sutri” height--Amina was no colossus but she carried herself well. She couldn’t understand why her daughter wouldn’t settle down with a decent, respectable height like six feet and three quarters of an inch. Even six one, a white lie strictly speaking, would’ve been “A okay” as far as Amina was concerned. To Amina, e (i.e. 2.718281828…) was one in a long (and unbroken) line of dirty channels on TV and Euler rhymed with Ferris Bueller (the irresponsible conniving prototypical American male, according to her) and not boiler as Aisha kept insisting until she decided it didn’t matter whether her mother called her favorite t-shirt (the front of which read “F+V=E+2”) the Oiler shirt or the Yooler shirt. Amina routinely tried to get rid of the shirt, partly to put an end to the bickering which occasionally reerupted and partly because of her hatred of all things math related, but Aisha always managed to pull it out of the Goodwill-bound clothes in the nick of time.

     Aisha loved Euler. She could still remember the first time she learned that e raised to the product of theta and the square root of negative one was equal to the sum of the product of the sine of theta and the of the square root of negative one and the cosine of theta. As Mr. Gomez, her overzealous pre-calculus teacher, was busy constructing the proof for Euler’s formula on the board, Aisha’s brown eyes widened as she became increasingly excited. She couldn’t believe that imaginary numbers, the trigonometric functions, and e (her favorite number next to pi) could all be related with such graceful brevity. When he wrote “Q.E.D.” at the bottom, she nearly came.


     Aisha had a little sister, ten years younger than her, called Khadija. Khadija was her parent’s second chance. Amina and her husband, Tariq, made sure to do everything right the second time around. Khadija’s hijaab wearing days started not long after her fetal caul wearing days came to an end. To her, Aisha’s perpetually uncovered short brown hair was out of place, unnatural, and just plain weird. To Aisha, Khadija resembled nothing more than a teletubby.

     Aisha was twelve when her brother was born. Khadija was two. Shehzad was supposed to be the prince of the family, Tariq’s ally against the menacing Merchant mademoiselles/Madame, Amina’s baby boy, and a cooties vaccine for his sisters but he returned to his kingdom by the sea before the week was through.

     When her brother succumbed to influenza, Aisha changed. It was as if a part of her was forever pledged to carrying on Shehzad’s memory. That night, while her father (drunk for the first time in his life) and her mother sat in the living room of their home answering phone calls congratulating them on the birth of their son, too shaken by the relentless “ Mubaraks” to say anything other than “Thank you,” she cut her hair a dozen strands at a time with an Exact-O knife. She snuck out with the black and gold topi that would never adorn Shehzad’s head and made her way to the mosque.

     It was thirty minutes before she reached the mosque, a converted two bedroom house nearly two miles from her home. It seemed empty and Aisha, sweaty, out of breath, and determined adjusted the topi on her head and made her way to the alcove at the head of the mosque and started to recite the call to prayer. With every “Allahuakbar” came more tears. She didn’t understand much Arabic, but did her best to intone each verse as sarcastically as she could manage. “God is great! Just great! Fantastic! Super! Great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great!”

     As Aisha stood there sobbing, a shadow in the back began to move. It approached her slowly, and as it did it spoke “My boy, excellent job, excellent, but it is late. You have missed the evening prayer by over an hour. You must come during the day.” The imam placed his left hand on her shoulder and raised the other to shake hers. When she turned her head, the imam’s hand froze and he blinked with uncertainty. “Y-you are a girl.” Had it been any other day, Aisha would’ve said “Duh.” Now she just stood, the unwiped tears drying on her pale face, staring at him. His right hand, raised in congratulations, now rose even higher and struck her left cheek in condemnation. “This is America, asshole!” she screamed as she ran from the mosque and back into the night.


     “Look dad, I made a paratha.”

     A bleary eyed Tariq looked at the proffered plate. On it was a flat and perfectly circular piece of undercooked dough. Then he looked at his daughter, Euclid reincarnated as a ten-year-old girl. Guiltily peeking out of the side pocket of Aisha’s blue overalls was a steel geometer’compass. At the center of the paratha the compass’s pivot point was still visible. “It’s lovely, baita.”

     ”Then the paratha leaped out of the plate, powered and driven by an intense hate. It started to grow and also to glow. While changing its hue to green as it grew it let out a shriek that left them all weak. Compounding its mass, the maverick bread, switched from mocking the Merchants, to space-time’s fabric instead.

     “Resistance is futile!” Then, its growth seemed to subside. Unbeknownst to the Merchants, its mass was still growing. Eventually its density was sufficient to significantly alter temporal causality. “Bless you”s preceded “achoo”s. It kept going. Then, as its mass continued to grow, it started to shrink. “Finally,” thought the Merchants in chorus, “the madness has come to an end.” But it was too late. The point of infinite density had been reached. Time stood still. The dream is over. What can I say? The dream is over. Yesterday.

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