How I Saved the World From Almost Certain Destruction
My Aunt Peg is four years younger than I am. My grandmother's sister, Great Aunt Freida, and Great Uncle Otto, her Bavarian husband, had too much to drink at Octoberfest a little over 30 years ago and Peg was born nine months later.
Great Uncle Otto quit drinking.
When she was born, my mother tried to explain how she was a first cousin, once removed. Being four at the time, I had all kinds of questions about why she was removed, where she was removed to, how she got back. My father just said, "She's your aunt."
The first sign of Peg's genius was when she learned how to count. She was fascinated with the idea of keeping track of how many there were. She could care less what it was; she just liked to know how many. Whenever the old folks got together for Canasta, you just know one of the stories Frieda told was about the day she walked Peg to the park when she was a little over two years old. Frieda, being way past the normal age for keeping up with an active two year old, made for the nearest unoccupied bench near the swings. They were both sitting down and Frieda had one of Peg's feet in her lap, tying a shoelace that had come undone on the walk when Peg said, "847."
"That's nice, Munchkin."
Nothing more was said about it and Peg played on the swings and the slide and even the merry go round when the mother of one of the other kids was pushing her child.
Freida took her hand to go home and Peg said, "77 swings, 18 slides and 43 circles."
"How many of each I did today."
"Aah, that's nice."
Freida thought it was just the imaginings of a child and had no basis in reality.
They walked home, stopping along the way for Freida to hear the latest gossip from Eloise Borkus, the widow on the corner, who had an excellent view of everyone who came by from four directions and always seemed to know who was stepping out on whom and which couples were headed towards divorce.
When they got home, Peg said, "879. That makes 1726."
"1626 what, Boopsie?"
"Steps. I gotta go baffoom."
Freida eventually found out that it took Peg 847 steps to get to the park that day and 879 to get home, partly because of the detour to Mrs. Borkus' and partly because of a butterfly Peg tried to catch. Peg evidently had the ability to set up an automatic counter and would count anything she felt needed counting. Which was pretty much anything that happened more than twice.
If Freida had been a modern mother, a generation younger and brought up in the good old USA instead of the old country, she probably would have convinced Peg that what she was doing was impossible and talked her out of her ability before she reached her third birthday. But Frieda was ignorant and just told Peg that it was "nice". Frieda wasn't the smartest grape in the bottle, and pretty much anything she didn't understand was "nice".
It didn't take Peg long to find out that there were only three people she could tell her numbers to. Her mother and father were two of them; I was the third.
We lived on the other side of town, maybe nine miles from Peg and her family. My father had ridden in on a white horse and swept my mother off her feet and taken her away from the old neighborhood. He always said it was because he couldn't stand the smell of borscht. Mama always said it was because he couldn't stand her relatives around him all the time. There was probably some truth to both statements. I know we only had borscht on the rare occasions when my father had to go out of town for a "union meeting". I think filling the house with the odors of the red soup was Mama's way of showing her displeasure of Papa's cavorting when he went on his trips. That's the word I got from Peg, years after his death. And it came straight from Eloise Borkus' mouth, so it had to be true.
Peg was the model student, always paying attention in class, turning in her homework, scoring well on her tests. She finished high school with a 3.98 GPA. She's never forgiven her Home Ec. teacher for the B+ she got. Even now, over a decade later, if you want to set Peg off, make some comment about her cooking, no wonder she couldn't pass Home Ec. She also missed perfect scores on the SAT by 3 points on the English, 1 on the math. She was forced to sit down and go over her answers because nobody can finish those tests in that amount of time. She turned the papers over and took a nap.
Peg went on to Berkley and MIT and Cambridge and three or four other schools. She's almost thirty and at last count, there are 16 letters after her name when she writes one of her scientific papers, starting with PhD and going on from there.
Her parents, being simple folk, but wise beyond their level of sophistication, just showed pride in her accomplishments. Realizing that she was ten times smarter than the two of them put together, they never told her the way to be or to act. They did provide a perfect example of loving, civil, caring people, and it seemed to rub off on her.
When Peg gave the Valedictorian address at her high school graduation, excoriating those in power for the way they had raped the planet and 95% of humanity and stating that it was the duty of every person there, from students to parents to faculty and administration to stand up and make things right, she got a standing ovation and her mother and father looked like their faces would split, they were smiling so much. I was pretty proud of her, too.
Peg was something between an A and a B cup. She would disparagingly call it an A+, like her grades. The day after graduation, she went under the knife and came out from the anesthesia as a D++. Her papa had told her she could have a car for graduation, but she said she would get more milage from new tits. A car would be scrapped after 6 or 8 years; those puppies would last decades. Papa said it was her present and that was fine with him. Mama had her own big babushkas, so he saw nothing wrong with it.
Peg was always working for some government agency that doesn't exist, doing something that can't be done. She doesn't talk about it, but once when we were watching Bones complaining about the transporter, she let the comment "Primitive" slip out. After Kirk had screwed his latest alien and the show was over, she took both of my hands, looked me in the eyes and said, "You didn't hear that."
We got together for some family thing when she was about 23 and only had nine letters after her name. I pointed at her tits and said, "How many miles so far?"
She said, "I'm a scientist. We use kilometers. As of last night it was 33,577."
That was not the answer I was expecting. I had divorced my second wife four months prior and was dating a girl who wanted to take me to her senior prom in high school in a couple of months. If there's something worse than the black sheep, that's what I was in our family. Peg, on the other hand, was the paragon of virtue, thought to still be a virgin by many in the family. Most had resolved themselves to her being married to her job, never to know the love of a good man, blah, blah, blah. She'd made it clear that she would never bring children into the world until all the things she brought up in her high school speech had come to pass. That pretty much counted out this lifetime.
I asked her about the figure and she said it was accurate to within 3%. Fascinated, I dragged her outside and we talked for the better part of an hour. It seems she can do a lot more than count steps and rotations of the merry go round. Her mind works pretty much like a super computer. She just comes up with a problem, sets up the parameters and routines and lets it go. She claimed the 3% accuracy was because of early estimates; else it would be 100%.
.... There is more of this story ...