Best Regards to Albert

by Diane Brady

Two days after he attended the carnival in a small New England town, impressed with the special talents of people young and old in the big canvas tent, the 8-year-old boy sat at his desk, teaching himself how to write backwards in cursive. Developing this skill made perfect sense to him because he had always solved math problems in reverse and assumed if his mind operated backwards then his handwriting should reflect that. It didn’t take long to learn how to the form the letters -- he practiced them in reversed order, starting with the Z and ending with the A and then made simple words until he could write entire sentences; years later he stood at the blackboard in his high school Latin class and wrote a homework sentence on the board entirely backwards, in Latin, causing the teacher to grumble and mutter something about it looking like Greek. At the university he excelled in quantum physics, often challenging his professors to look at the world from his reverse perspective, emphatic that his view was the key to new scientific discoveries. Colleagues in the graduate program laughed at him, of course, but since he was accustomed to such reaction, he ignored them and continued developing his own theories about the physical world and spent weekends in the lab performing experiments no one understood. On the last day of the Fall semester, he wheeled a large metal cabinet of reinforced steel into the lecture hall during a freshman class, wrote a few equations never seen before on the blackboard, opened the cabinet door, stepped inside and waved his hand, a sly grin on his normally sullen face, and then closed the door, latching it tightly from inside; no one ever saw the graduate student again, for when they opened the cabinet he was gone, and no one, even his honored professors understood what had happened, aside from pondering the odd equations he had written just before his disappearance; ten years later he was awarded the Max Planck Medal for his work, which the department chair proudly accepted in his honor; the former graduate student, then attending a German university using his great-grandfather’s name and studying aerospace rocketry, read about the prestigious award in a local paper, prompting him to quickly pen a letter of congratulations to the American school -- he laughed deeply when he posted it for inside the envelope his letter was written on round stationery with START on the outer edge and the rest of the words spiraling inward all in cursive, backwards in German, his true initials prominently displayed in the center.


Diane Brady, author of Lucky No. 7, hasn’t perfected the disappearance act yet, but she can write backwards in cursive. She lives in Denver.