Three Times Three
John A. Ward

All of my working life, whenever I locked a door, I checked it three times. I’m compulsive.

Anne can tell you that. Anne isn’t here tonight. She said she needed a day off. Compulsiveness can do that to one’s partner.

I could have said your partner, but I don’t do that anymore because somebody in my writer’s workshop told me that the reader is the second person and doesn’t want to be saddled with my problems. Another thing I try to avoid is upsetting my reader.

One day, when I was locking the door to my office, I looked around and the janitor was watching me. He said, “One of these days, you’re going to pull the knob off that door and you won’t be able to leave. What are you going to do then? You’ll have to stay all night.”

I don’t know why I do it. I get caught in a strange loopiness where what I’m doing doesn’t register in my mind as being done. Sometimes, it might last past three. If it does, I can’t just stop at four. I have to do it three times three. It was ridiculous. I broke that habit fast. I became very careful after that to concentrate on three.

There’s something magical about the number three, maybe because it’s the first prime number after one. A prime number is a number that can be divided evenly only by itself and one. Everything is divisible by one, so three is special. My looping in threes lasted until I was seventy-five. Seventy-five divided by three is twenty-five. Twenty-five divided by five is five. Five is also a prime.

After that, I retired and moved to Virginia. I lost my obsession with threes. I don’t think it has anything to do with Virginia, but it could. Virginia is for lovers. I have a license plate that says that. Virginia is not for OCDs. Now I only do things twice. I’m tired of being odd. I’m getting even.

First published: August 2018
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