Math Problems

There was once a man who was given a particular set of math problems to solve during his lifetime.  Everyone on earth was given some kind of problem, and for him it was math.  He was a great orator, saying many things at length, but over the years, people eventually saw that his speeches were lacking in substance, for he couldn't solve his math problems and was just saying a lot of things without saying anything, although how impressive were his words!  And his confidence!  And his voice!  Thankfully he was discovering this his growing teenage daughter could solve the math problems.  He'd call her into his office and say, "Iris, solve this for me."  And she would.  Happy to move on to the next problem, he'd thank and dismiss her.  By the time he was in his fifties, he was overwhelmed.  The problems were getting too complex for him.   Although he loved the attention he got for the sexiness of the problems he was getting assigned, he hated math, and didn't like spending time on the equations when he could be speaking in the market square.  He needed to give the entire assignment over to his daughter.  He organized a big ceremony in the neighborhood to honor her, made great speeches about math, how coincidentally gifted his daughter was, and at the apex of the night, in front of her family and all her neighborhood friends, handed her his entire folder of math assignments.  The attendees cheered, and so, under pressure to be smiling, but feeling her eyes sting with tears, she clumsily curtsied and accepted the "gift". 

The party continued late into the night, and when people came up to congratulate her, only a handful of people noticed that now Iris had two sets of assignments in her arms- her fathers bourgeoning folder, and a smaller, thinner folder.  Her own assignments had only recently been delivered to her, and the delivery person had his face covered when he came, so she had very little to go on.  Not nearly enough to pay attention to.  So the next day, she packed up her things and went on a long journey to find the answers to her father's math problems. 

The journey took many, many years.  She travelled all over the world by foot, by boat, by cart and bus, and after quite some turmoil, ended up at a fair in a dry and dusty desert.  She walked past a booth where a young, enterprising man was speaking to a small crowd- a handful of people only- maybe just 5 or 6 men; and she stopped and joined the crowd.  He was the creator of her father's math problems.  He had three small, white packages in his hands, and he was explaining what happened when someone didn't complete their own math assignments.  With the first package in his hand, he explained that if someone completed all the math problems themselves-- he held it above a pool of water-- it floated above the surface of the water, and no damage was caused to the contents of the package.  With the second package in his hand, he went on to explain what happened when a student saddled other people in his life with his math problems here and there.  He dropped it in the pool of water, and this one stopped short of falling in the water, but just touched the surface of the water.  Slowly, through osmosis, the contents of the package became wet and were ruined.  Finally with the third package in his hand, he demonstrated what happened to a student who gave his assignment completely over to someone else, and he dropped the package in the water, and it was fully submersed.  The men around the booth gasped; the contents were completely ruined-- at least they thought so.  Knowing that the math problems that the weary, dust-covered woman was carrying were not her own, the teacher leaned down to open up the third package.  He pulled out its contents and gave it to Iris.  It was a gift for the person who carried someone else's assignment: a set of tarot cards sealed in a plastic wrap.  The cards were dry!  And they were for her!  They were beautiful, too; the reverse was black with little designs of jewels and flowers, and the pictures themselves looked hand-drawn by a real artist. 

Iris couldn't contain her happiness, she left the booth smiling broadly with the cards in her hand.  Over the next few years, she taught herself how to use them.  With them, she made friends and established a life for herself in her new country.  She still had her father's math problems with her, but she never carried the folder around like she used to.  She could go out and leave it at home.  Every once in a while, she'd peek in, but mostly she was concerned with her own growing assignment.  She was eager to understand the problems in her own folder- they were not math- they were of a different nature- her set of assignments dealt with music, but she couldn't figure out how to solve them, an they were growing heavier and heavier with each passing year.  She tried doing what her father had done- "sub-assigning" them to hapless passersby, but nobody took the bait- at least not like she had with her father.  Resigned to being burried under a mass of music assignments, she carried them as much as she could in a carry-on strapped to her chest, and as the paper piled higher, she noticed how they covered her face, and she was glad to note one day that if no one could see her face, they couldn't hand her any more assignments!

One day, the answer came.  She was in the market square with two of her friends.  They were at the garlic and ginger seller's booth, when a short, well-dressed man approached them from behind and tapped Iris on the shoulder.  She whirled around quickly, and amidst loose assignment papers flying around her, she saw a stout, important-looking man holding a pen and paper, looking up at her.  He wore a white, ruffled shirt and from within the ruffles around his neck arose a dignified voice.  "Iris", he said, "a committee has met and noticed how strong your ab muscles are from all that carrying you're doing."  He motioned to her laborsome carrying pack.  "Every year, the most talented musicians and lyricists are commissioned to write three songs for three lucky winners, and with that powerful diaphragm of yours, you are one of them.  I am the composer of one of the three songs."  Iris was caught off guard and had to hold on to the ginger booth behind her to support both herself and her carrying pack.  She wasn't used to winning anything, but she loved the idea and she accepted a time to meet with the man to learn his song. 

The next day, at the agreed upon practicing space, he asked her to leave her carrying pack at the door.  She walked to the piano in the middle of the room on her tippie toes, surprised at how light she felt, and she sat down at the piano.  He taught her how to play, and he wrote her lyrics for her as she played.  She was to be ready to perform at next year's big concert, and ready she would be.  But for now, Iris was overjoyed at the beautiful music she was playing and singing.