The Seven Nos of Svetlana Servinsky : Friday Fiction 1

Before I start this story I would like to apologize for not posting about the reading and signing as it did not go quite as I thought it would and I am still thinking bout it. Without further ado, please enjoy the first installment of Friday Fiction, the written alternative to Friday Photos.

The Seven Nos of Svetlana Servinsky

Zalman Tobias counted just about everything, from the number of zebra stripes in the crosswalk to the number of windows, horizontally and vertically (and the sum total) on any given tall building he passed. He regularly looked for patterns and tried to find them, even though to date he had not found any particularly meaningful — to him — patterns. Avenue crosswalks had more stripes than street crosswalks, but sometimes street crosswalks had ten stripes, and other times they had eleven, twelve, or thirteen stripes.

He saw where there was a tendency for an event to reoccur, or for a mannerism or seemingly unusual behavior of a person to regularly manifest itself.

Zalman noticed when a person on the subway wore the same shirt for two or more days in a row.

It was his colleague, coworker, and occasional nemesis Svetlana Servinsky that baffled her, and she did it all with one word that she repeated — a two syllable word : NO.

Svetlana almost never said no just once. She almost always, however, said it seven times. Exactly seven times. Sometimes, he noticed, she would say it more than seven times — but the majority of her nos came in seven.

The first time Zalman realized that the nos came in seven was probably the fifth or sixth time he counted her nos. He wouldn’t have even counted had he not heard what definitely sounded like more than three nos, which to him seemed the maximum number permissible to be considered emphasis. Over three had to mean something else — but what?

Zalman sat on a park bench and sipped on a hot cup of Earl Grey tea that he had prepared in his office and carried over in a heatproof thermos. He numbered the nos and renumbered them and attempted to visualize them floating like pollen dancing around a cottonwood tree. The seven nos were perplexing because there seemed to be no need for them. Why emphasize what has already been emphasized? It was a bit like hi-lighting a word, underlining it, and then circling it — it was understood to have some significance from one of the three and the other two were not needed.

While imagining the nos freely flowing from her mouth, Zalman realized that he had been going about it all wrong. There was definitely a pattern there, but it didn’t have to do with the number so much as it had to do with the form. The nos did not come out rapid fire, one quickly after another. Rather, it went something like this :

No no,
no no no,
no no.

It could not be any more simple. It was clearly meant to be a negative expression, but it wasn’t repeated for emphasis — it was for the sake of forming a haiku. Haikus are always five, then seven, then five syllables. Here there were two words, followed by three, followed by two. Most good haikus he had ever seen had exactly that pattern. It really all made sense.

Later that day, Zalman saw Svetlana in passing and asked her about her relationship to haikus.

“How do you feel about haikus?” he asked.
“They’re okay,” she replied, somewhat quizzically.

Zalman felt relieved, and almost stopped counting Svetlana’s nos.

You never know when a new pattern will emerge.


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