Getting the CAT Scan

Marie is a woman and a wife.

He was eating a bowl of ice cream in the restaurant and suddenly he was stabbed in the side by a terrible pain. He clutched at his side.

What? she said.

Pain, he answered.

You okay?

Yes. It has faded.

Sitting in a hospital waiting room in the morning bored, watching ABC.

I like numbers you know.

I can tell.

I like knowing things like seven is a Woodall prime.

Hardness holds a hatred of bully boys.

Eating nothing alone in the television room suddenly he was stabbed in the side by that same terrible pain. He clutched at his side and applied pressure, and the pain faded.

He worried.

Drink the first half bottle of barium.

I also know that seven is a factorial prime.

It’s something to know those things.

I know. I love it.

Man, it’s a sunny day.

He called the Gastroenterologist and made an appointment.

I need an appointment, he said.

Tuesday next week?

That would be fine.

Five o’clock.

That would be fine.

What’s the problem?

Pain in my side. Stabbing pain that comes and goes.

All right see you next week.

All right.

Watching Good Morning America.

I also know that five is the natural number following 4 and preceding 6.

Where did you learn all this.

Oh, here and there—

You must be good with numbers.

Not really.

Drink the second half bottle of Barium.

It’s pleasant temperate and warm here.

The pain does not return. Days pass.

He cancels the doctor’s appointment.

The pain is gone, he thinks—it was just one of those things.

I’m good with facts about numbers.


Yes—like as a perfect number, 6 is related to the Mersenne prime 3, since 21(22 – 1) = 6.

Do you really understand all that?


Watch the end of Good Morning America.

Sticky hot and sweaty was Ti before he died.

Week after week passes with no pain.

He forgets it.

There’s something else I know.

What’s that?

Nine has a unique aliquot sum 4 which is itself a square prime.


Drink the third half bottle of barium.

Friends and foes keep their distance.

He is in the office typing into the computer when he is nearly sliced in half by the stabbing pain. Grimacing, he clutches at his side. It feels like something’s moving inside. The pain stays; he presses; the pain slowly fades.

My God, he thinks.

My God.

I need a doctor.

You’re a wealth of knowledge about numbers.

I know.

Do you know any other facts?

Sure—I know that six is the only even perfect number that is not the sum of successive odd cubes.

Amazing. It’s like you’re reading it from your hand.


The way you hold your hand up like that.

Watch the beginning of Regis and Kelly.

The crew runs on rubber wheels over the asphalt.

He makes another doctor’s appointment, this one he intends to keep, the pain was so strong, though it came only once.

Once is enough.

The way I hold my hand up like how?

Like that.

You mean like this, when I say things like 9 is; and can be, the only square prime with an aliquot sum of the same form.

Right. Here. Hold your hand up to me.


Nothing there.

Drink the fourth half bottle of barium.

Bump and grind and run, Do.

The doctor presses and prods his stomach and side.

I don’t think it’s anything internal, he said.

I think it’s a muscle pain.

In the abdominal wall.

Let’s get a CAT scan.

Come on up front we’ll schedule it.

Of course there’s nothing there—what did you think I had all this written on my hand?


How could I have things like being perfect, six is the root of the 6-aliquot tree, and is itself the aliquot sum of only one number; the square number, 25, written on my hand?

It’s just that you look at your hand like you’re reading from it.

It’s just a habit.


Watch more of Regis and Kelly.

Insults, which are verbal, indicate hatred.

He walks out with a blue prescription for a CAT scan of the pelvis and abdomen.

You know what?

No, what?

I bet you didn’t know that unrelated to 6 being a perfect number, a Golomb ruler of length 6 is a “perfect ruler.”

Of course I don’t know things like that. Only you know things like that.

I know.

Isn’t it funny?

Wait for the barium to settle into the system.

Hate, love; love-hate.

He gets pills to take before the CAT scan because he has allergies and asthma and the doctors want to be safe because they’re going to pump him full of that contrast that makes you feel hot and like you’re going to pee.

The doctors do not want to be sued.


Yes funny.

I wouldn’t call it funny.

Sure it is—say here’s an easy one for you—four is the natural number following 3 and preceding 5. Did you know that?

Of course I knew that.

Watch the end of Regis and Kelly.

Kidding men will not walk the dog.

He takes the little white pills—one the night before the CAT scan, one the day of.

I also know that seven is a lucky prime.

Lucky prime? What does that mean?

Who knows? But it’s a fact.

He sneers.

Wait for the barium to settle into the system.

Cuddly women lost in your arms are soft.

Prescription in hand, he drives to the hospital.

But you didn’t know that Eight has an aliquot sum of 7 in the 4 member aliquot sequence (8,7,1,0) being the first member of 7-aliquot tree. Did you?

Of course not.

I don’t know things like that.

You’re weird.


Watch the start of Rachael Ray.

Wild noisy dogs bark and bark.

He drives up to the entrance of the parking deck. Press the green button and take a ticket, it says. He presses the green button and gets a ticket and the barrier swings up and he drives on in. He drives around and around. Clergy only. Doctors only. Level one, no spots. Level two, no spots. Level three, a spot. Get out,, slam the car door. The slam echoes off of the concrete overhead. Three. The green level.

Why is it weird to know things like six is a congruent number?

It’s just weird to be able to spout off those things like you do.

There are things you can spout off too.



I can’t think of anything I can rattle off like that; unless you count things like your face is white, that tree is rooted in the ground, trees have bark, like that. Things like that.

Gordon Ramsey comes on the show.

I sleep and eat, thinks the cat.

He takes the elevator down to the lobby level and enters the building. He knows where radiology is he’s been there before. He heads for it across the slick tiled lobby.

Sure—you can rattle off things. Like I can rattle off seven is a happy number.

A happy number?


What’s a happy number?

Wait for the barium to settle into the system.

The leash is leather and long.

A blueclad security guard stands at a podium. She is chubby and fresh-looking. He waves. She smiles. He flashes his prescription. She nods.

He passes.

Well, that I don’t know. I just know these facts. Like six is the first discrete biprime (2.3).

Oh so you don’t know things like what is a biprime—like that?

That’s right. I don’t know what it means necessarily. I just can spout off the fact.

Watch Rachael Ray cook some chicken.

Fluid and flexible is the handle.

In radiology there’s a receptionist.

I’m here for a CAT scan, he says.

Let me see your insurance card—let me see your ID. Here’s your name—


Fill out these forms. Go sit and fill out the forms.

All right.

Here’s another one about biprimes—six is the first member of the (2.q) discrete biprime family. There you go.

That’s weird. I still would like to know how you have absorbed all this.

I never absorbed it.

I just know it.

But you must have learned it somewhere.


The barium has settled in; wait to get the IV.

Snap goes the catch on the casket when you die.

There seems to be a ream of forms. Where to sign is highlighted in yellow. So many words. So many pages. Hurry. Hurry. The pen writes smoothly on the clean white paper.

You couldn’t just have been born with all these terms in your head.

But I must have been.

How can that be?

I don’t know—hey, listen—ten is the sum of the first three prime numbers and also of the first four factorials.

How do I know you’re not just making this up.

You mean that it’s all nonsense talk?

Right. How do I know?

Watch Rachael Ray cook some pork.

The end will be over when you’re alone.

Bring the forms up. He gets back his insurance card.

Go sit and wait, she says.

He sits and waits patiently and watches Good Morning America.

Well, look it up—look up eight is symbolized by the Arabic numeral (figure) 8.

That’s a simple one.


Yes. That’s like the letter a is written as A.

There you go. You’re getting it.

Watch the nurse pat the veins to find a place for the IV.

The woods are full of leaves, the dog wears a collar.

Sir? she says.


Come with me.

He walks to the CAT scan room.

I even know things like Eleven (B’z album), is a 2000 album by Japanese band B’z.

Why should you know that?

Because it has to do with a number. In this case, eleven.

Like I could say I have one cat, is a use of the number one.

That’s stretching it a bit.

I know.

Watch the beginning of The View.

Numbered tags are on the dug up old bones.

Did you drink your Barium?

What do you mean you didn’t drink your Barium?

They didn’t give you your Barium?

You need to drink your Barium.

Come with me.

Hey but listen—the aliquot sequence of 9 has 5 members (9,4,3,1,0) this number being the second composite member of the 3-aliquot tree. There. That was a good one.

But what does aliquot mean?

I haven’t the slightest.

Well—there you go. You don’t know everything.

I never said I did.

That’s true.

Go in and get the CAT scan and go home.

Computed Axial Tomography.

Computed Axial Tomography.


Are you sure it’s not Computerized?

No it’s Computed—

I bet it’s Computerized.

No—it’s Computed—



He spat on the floor.

See I told you I knew what it was.

I’ll be damned—but I don’t know—I think its Computerized—

He fisted the table.

Then look it up. If you don’t believe me.

Okay I will.

Good. You’ll see.

Damned straight I will!

by Jim Meirose

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