The Mediocre

“They call me Einstein,” Henry says.

“That’s great, my boy! What a compliment,” Albert replies.

“They say it when I miss a math problem or stumble over my words or forget to wear pants. It’s humiliating!”

“What’s humiliating?”

“When they call me Einstein. I just said that.”

“Oh, I thought you were referring to the pants. Funny story, that happened to me once too. So, it was right after I moved to America—”

“I wish I could just disappear.”

“That is physically impossible, son. We are made of matter and matter can’t just go away.”

“You know what I mean!” Henry shouts.

“Of course, of course. But if you disappeared, who would I talk to? I don’t have any friends.”

“I don’t know. Your wife?”

“They’re long gone by now.”


“Yes, I had two.”

“At the same time?”

“Oh no, of course not. That’s an odd thing to suggest. Why would you ask that?”

“I don’t know. I’m eight. I don’t know how life works.”

“Neither do I. But I have a lot of theories.”

“Any theories on how I can change my nickname?”

“Well, obviously, I’m quite partial to the name, but if it really bothers you, then prove them wrong. Make them say your name with respect!”

“Easy for you to say.”

“Is it? I’m actually not sure how this whole thing works. Maybe I’m using an immense amount of energy just to form words. Do you know?”

“Again. Eight.”

“Oh yes, and you’re no Einstein.” Albert chuckles.

“Really? You too?”

“No, my boy. They called you Einstein. I said you’re no Einstein, meaning you’re not hyper-intelligent or meticulously groomed.”

“They mean the same thing.”

“Do they? How can opposing statements mean the same thing? This language is very unusual.”

“It’s called irony, I think.”

“That’s definitely not irony. When they call you Einstein, that’s irony because you’re just not that bright. It’s funny.”

“It’s not funny. And that’s what I meant.”

“You meant what?”

“Irony. I was trying to explain irony.”

“Well, you didn’t do very well. You need to be clearer in your speech, my boy.”

“You’re not helping.”

“Have you heard of Alanis Morissette?”

“What? Uh, yeah, my mom likes her music. Why?”

“‘It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.’ So ironic.”

“Is it? It just sounds unfortunate.”

“Don’t question The Great Morissette. She is all-knowing. But you’re right, that just sounds like a bad day to me.”

“Can we get back on point?” Henry asks.

“Yes, yes, sorry. I haven’t talked to anyone in a long time, just figuring it out.”

“So can you help me?”

“With what?” Albert asks.


“Oh, I remember. Well, I can help you with math. But you’ve got to learn to put your pants on yourself. That’s kind of a necessity in life.”

“Where do we start?”

“One leg at a time.”

“Enough about the pants!”

“I’m only joking, let’s start with the basics. Can you count to 100?”


“Good! You’re halfway there?”


“Of course not! Look alive.”


“How was school today?” Albert asks.

“Terrible! Your math was all wrong and they started chanting ‘Einstein, Einstein, you’re as smart as an apple pie.’”

“That doesn’t even rhyme.”

“I know that!”

“Did you do the math just as I showed?”

“I think so. I don’t know. I just can’t do math.”

“Fiddle sticks! Anyone can do math. You want to know something? When I was a lad, I failed a math class. And everyone made fun of me about it. Kids called me stupid. Teachers scoffed at my intelligence. But did that stop me?”

“I’m guessing not, since you’re like a famous smart guy.”

“You have guessed correctly! It did not stop me. I worked hard, continued to fail, but then after years of work, I became Albert Einstein, Physicist. Now people use my name ironically, which still confuses me, and I’d like to talk to someone about that, but the point is, you can be someone special one day, even if you’re just a lump of coal right now.”

“Gee thanks.”

“A lump of coal, given proper pressure, can become diamonds. Boy, you are a diamond! Don’t let other kids or teachers or even me tell you any differently. You can do anything you want in life. If you just work hard and believe in yourself.”

“Did you always believe in yourself?”

“That’s an interesting question. I could tell you I did, but that’s not true. I doubted. I doubted until the day I died. But it never stopped me. Don’t let it stop you, Henry. Go back to school with your chin up, your eyes focused, and your pants on, and you’ll do just fine.”

“You really think so?”

“I do. Pants are key.”

“You’re ridiculous!”

“I have been told that multiple times by multiple humans.”

“Thanks, Mr. Einstein, for everything.”

“Meh, it’s nothing. It’s not like I have anything else to do. I mean, I think I disappear when you go to school, so these chats are kind of keeping me alive.”

“I thought it’s impossible to disappear.”

“Everything I have learned tells me that is a scientific fact, but somehow, in this case, science seems to fail.”

“It does?”

“Indeed. I think this is just one of those things unknowable to mortal minds. Like how a woman’s heart works. It’s impossible to determine.”

“Doesn’t a woman’s heart work just like a man’s?”

“Technically, but in practice, I have observed that is in no way reality.”

“I have so much to learn.”

“So do I!” Albert agrees.

“Can we try the math thing again?”

“If that’s where you want to begin, yes.”

“Actually, no. I have another question that’s been bugging me.”

“Proceed, my boy. I will answer the best I can.”

“Why do cats exist?”

“That’s an easy one. They were sent here by an intergalactic agency to destroy the human race, kind of like the internet. The irony here is that cats ended up obliterating the agency and simply took over our governments.”

“Then we are doomed.”

“Yes, my boy, we are doomed.”

“Then it’s not ironic.”

“Isn’t it?” 

Culled from by Daniel Roueche

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