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“Numbers” by Melody Burris was a finalist in the 2012 Four Centuries of Mormon Stories contest. It was originally published online at Everyday Mormon Writer on October 17, 2012.

Art by Ryan Houston

216 paces to the end of each row. Six rows today so far. The numbers swirl around in my head. I cannot help myself. I showed great promise, they said, in the small school room I attended until father left on his mission. Now numbers were just the way my brain entertained me while I walked behind the slow plow mule. 27 tail twitches since the fly landed on the mules rump. 35 cents a bushel for corn last year. Five acres of corn. No those numbers were too uncertain. I must not add my profits in my head lest the Lord find other ways for me to spend my imaginary wealth. 5673 steps from the front gate to Anna’s porch. Two days and two more fields to plow before I can see her. One beautiful smile upon her beautifully symmetrical face, just for me. 10 fingers that I will grasp with tenderness. These numbers were not as forlorn as the others because I knew I could trust in Anna and in our promises. 130 days until harvest when Anna and I will be married. 47 miles to the Salt Lake temple where Anna and I will be sealed one day. Seven rows today so far.


37 minute stitches in each rose. 52 roses in all around the delicate tablecloth. I like to count the progress of each stitch towards the end result. John likes numbers. He is often counting. 16 roses complete. With every stitch I grow closer to our wedding. 10 for dinner instead of nine on Sunday night after church. 15 minutes of time on the porch with only Abigail as a chaperone. Those 15 minutes to share dreams and plans. Two days until Sunday.


16 days my father has been home from his mission. Three anxious days of preparation for the wedding. One tired but happy smile from my Anna. Well, she is not mine yet but she soon will be.


4039 steps to the chapel doors. I can see John counting too. His lips move on the words in a reassuring and familiar way. Two hands clasped together in joy and love. One new family created.


213 days together. Three months Anna has been with child. 216 paces down the row behind my mule. One country under God, torn apart. The country of my birth. Two sides in bloody conflict. One weighty decision and countless prayers. Though it rejected me, can I reject it?


One kiss goodbye. Two beautiful children born. 473 days since John left. One little toe, two little toes… I count for them. They will love numbers like their father.


One letter from home. Three kisses sent on the wind. Eight miles of track patrolled today.


One funeral held at the edge of the family farm. 11688 days of waiting. Six spires in the air. One sacred altar. One eternal family.

About the Author: Melody Burris is located in western Iowa. She manages a complex household of distracted adults, moody adolescents, and hyperactive children. She likes to escape into the realities she creates in her stories. Aside from writing, her hobbies include Korean dramas, exercising, avoiding laundry, reading, and spending time with family.*

*Author information as of the publication of this story.

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