|Author Ted Galdi|
The next morning Sean scurries down the stairs of his house in
, a suburb of Pasadena , nothing on except pajama pants, eyes still
sleepy. He turns into the kitchen, his
Aunt Mary at the counter sipping coffee and reading the Los Angeles Times. “Morning
bud,” she says, attention on the paper. Los Angeles
“Morning.” Running a hand through his messy hair, he walks to the refrigerator, grabs a gallon of orange juice, and chugs from the bottle.
She realizes what he’s doing just from the noise. “What did I tell you about that? Get a glass you animal.” She holds a stony look on him, but he can sense she doesn’t mind deep down. Living with her the last ten years, he’s accustomed to every line and curl in her expressions and their meanings. He decides to have some fun and test her. He swigs again. She rolls her eyes, then says, “Me and my friend from book club are going bowling a little later. Want to come?”
He feels a hint of accomplishment knowing she wasn’t going to question him again about drinking from the bottle. “I’ve been putting off that independent study. The Traveling Salesman thing I told you about.” He takes another gulp. “I want to get it out of the way. I feel bad for the professor. He thinks I’ve been working on it.”
“Oh yeah, I kind of remember. You need to find the shortest distance between all the cities a salesman has to visit on a business trip?”
“That’s the one.” He puts the jug away and knees the refrigerator shut. “Nobody’s been able to come up with a formula to automatically do it.”
“Not one that would work in any case.”
“Jeez. My head would explode trying to figure that out.” She folds the paper to the Opinion section. “Chicken on the barbecue okay for dinner later?” she asks, skimming a column about violence in videogames.
“I’m gonna eat at Kyle’s. His parents invited me over.” He opens a cabinet and snatches a bag of M&Ms.
She hears the crumple of the package and asks with disappointment, “That’s your breakfast?” With a smirk he scampers out. She groans and returns to the videogame article.
He goes up the steps and into his room, passing an unmade bed with a Die Hard poster above, scattered clothing on the rug, and a brown dresser with half the drawers open, half shut. He scoops his laptop from the floor and sits at his desk.
He closes Netflix, Family Guy episode paused on the screen, then creates a new Microsoft Word document, titling it “Solving the Traveling Salesman Problem: Computing the Least Cost Cyclic Route Through All Nodes of a Weighted Graph in Polynomial Runtime.”
He grabs his phone and scrolls through its music library, selecting the album Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins. He fishes his headphones from a drawer and plugs them in. Wrapping them around his ears with one hand, he hits play with the other.
As the first song starts he tears the candy pack with his teeth and pours some in his mouth. Chewing, he empties fifteen or so pieces on the carpet by the chair, situating them a few inches from each other.
He pictures each M&M as a city a salesman could visit on a trip, envisioning all the possible paths connecting them. Closing his eyes, he pumps his right knee to the rhythm. The large studio-grade headphones cover the full of his ears, giving them a toasty feeling as his mind rips through mathematical questions that have dumbfounded the world’s top scholars for decades.
In an hour or so he stops the music. He figured it out. The whole thing. He doesn’t appear excited, rather, disappointed. He cracks his neck and begins typing the answer in the Word document.
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