Math is Funny by Amy Burns

Amy Burns's character, obsessed with numbers, tells the story of her husband's death.

My mother was fourteen years older than me. My name has fourteen letters.

I married a man who was twenty-eight years older than me. He divorced me after seven years of marriage. He had a daughter who was seven years older than me and a granddaughter who was fourteen years younger than me. His name also had fourteen letters.

After the divorce I moved in with his daughter.

After the divorce he bought a cabin in Tennessee.

His dream was to be an artist. He set about it. He bought a fourteen inch chainsaw capable of cutting logs up to twenty-eight inches in diameter. During the day, he used the chainsaw to sculpt animal figures from tree trunks. During the night, he sipped Jack Daniels, smoked Jose L. Piedra cigars and wondered at the Tennessee night noise.

July 28th, 2007: he shot himself in the thigh with a Magnum .357. Goodbye femoral artery. He bled to death before help arrived. The human body has eight to ten pints of blood which the heart circulates about 2000 times a day. When help did arrive his new wife, a mail order bride from Japan who was 357 days older than his granddaughter, showed the sheriff to the body.

Although I know the mail order bride's name I like to call her Madame Butterfly (Madame Butterfly from the fifth and final version of Puccini's opera which he rewrote in the year 1907).

At the funeral Madame Butterfly asked me: I know picture of you, right?

I said: Probably.

She said: No hard feeling between us, ok?

I said: Why would there be?

She looked at me for what seemed like a long time but was actually only seven seconds. Madame Butterfly said: Never mind.

Later my ex-husband's daughter asked: What do you do with a mail order bride if the groom dies?

I said: I think I've heard this one before.

She said: I'm serious, legally speaking what's the deal?

I don't know. Do you think he kept the receipt?

Does she just go free?

I don't think you inherit her, if that's what you mean.

She only been in the States for fourteen months, does that make her an American?

I don't know. How many mail order brides does it take to screw in a light bulb?



You know, that sheriff didn't even swab her for GPR.

What's GPR?

Gun Powder Residue.

You've been watching too many crime dramas.

Maybe she killed my father.

Maybe she did. He was a nut case.

I know. I can't believe he married her. She's only a year older than Lila.

357 days older, to be exact.


  1. really enjoyed this, clever, but too short. How short?.....
    well done, really good idea.

    Michael McCarthy

  2. Fun read! Short crisp sentences (46, to be exact) keep the reader (me, in this case) moving right along. This is flash fiction at its best, though, I agree with Michael - it's rich with the longing to be longer. ;-)

  3. I enjoyed this, wish it went on much longer. The humor was top-notch, yeah, I know someone died but the dialogue was great. To be completely honest, this was the first time I enjoyed math.

  4. This is the sort of thing a person should read when they wake up in the morning to get their brain going. The cleverness and the detail had me reading more closely than what I tend to settle for, looking for more meaning than what was on the surface. Lovely story.

  5. I did a word count, hoping for 357.... Over by a few, but nice story.

  6. Great story! So clever, and the beginning pulled me in right away.

  7. Arrgh. Can't sleep. Multiples of seven, grumble, multiples of seven. Haha, fun story, but I'm too lazy to do the math to figure out how old everybody is.

  8. I began my day reading this story. I think it was a good start :-)

  9. Amy, this is a really weird story. I’m not sure what to make of it, so I’ll just take it as fun—quirky, yes, but fun. I’m not certain what the real point of it is; perhaps, “such is life,” as Kilgore Trout would say. I had fun, thank you.