May 21, 1995

Wasn't feeling like old self. Didn't have old zip, as in
zip-a-dee-doo-dah. Didn't have zip at all. Getting out of bed
every morning was agony. Work was prolonged muddle. Relaxation
at night was replaced by exhaustion. Needed help. Went to
doctor. Doctor ran tests. Said I should change number to 23.

''Number?'' I asked.

''Your uniform number,'' doctor replied.

''Don't have uniform,'' I said. ''Basically wear jeans and
sweatshirt around house and have killer dark-blue suit with
subtle chalk pinstripe that I wear to important meetings. No
numbers on any clothing.''

''Well, put 'em on. Number everything.''



Sounded silly. Doctor wrote number in Roman numerals, XXIII, on
prescription pad, just so I would remember. Doctor said amazing
things had happened when certain patient in Chicago tried
treatment. Silly. Went home, put number 23 on every article of
clothing I own. Numbered all 14 blue button-down shirts.
Numbered jeans, sweatshirts, killer blue suit with subtle chalk
pinstripe, T-shirts, undershorts, neckties. Even numbered socks.
Silly. Ridiculous. Put on first set of number 23 clothes.

Began to dance.

Tango. (Never had done tango in life.)

Bossa nova. (Ditto.)

Funky chicken. (Had not done funky chicken in years.)

Cartwheeled through living room to kitchen. Cooked four-course
dinner while speed-reading collected works of James Joyce.
Learned to speak French fluently in hour after dinner. Ran five
miles at five-minute-mile pace. Cleaned basement. Painted den.
Learned to play guitar. Wrote dozen songs. Yodeled while taking
shower. (Never had yodeled.)

Suddenly felt exhausted again.

What the....

Put number 23 on front and back of pajamas. Put on pajamas.

Never slept better.

Next day, more of same. Wrote first novel in morning, epic saga
of old sea captain chasing after white whale. Sold novel in
early afternoon for seven figures. Sold movie rights in late
afternoon for eight figures. Wrote screenplay while riding 30
miles on stationary bike. Fit in round of golf. Shot 71,
including first eagle and first hole in one. Became computer
literate. Went on-line. Learned to sail. Learned to juggle.
Two-stepped to country music. (Never two-stepped before.) Put on
number 23 pajamas. Slept like baby.

Expanded horizons in ensuing days. Car had been giving me
trouble. Painted number 23 on side of passenger door. Car purred
like Siamese cat. Probably could qualify for Indy. Wrote 23 in
dirt next to dandelion-filled lawn. Eighteenth at Augusta
National does not look any better. Shared secret with my kids.
Asked them to wear number 23 T-shirts, just for me, just as an
experiment. Kids put on shirts, immediately turned off
television sets, cleaned rooms, did homework, including projects
for extra credit, and then asked about possibility of taking
violin lessons. Shared secret with neighbors. Neighborhood
became most beautiful neighborhood in town. Neighbors shared
secret with other neighbors. Town became all-American city.
Entire atmosphere changed. Potholes repaired. Mail delivered
three times per day. Merchants greeted customers with smile and
a pleasant anecdote. Customers always had exact change instead
of credit cards for purchase of two newspapers, pack of gum and
one Tootsie Pop. High school undefeated in all sports, heading
toward state championships. Scholarships available for everyone.
Dancing and yodeling abounded.

Only problem seems to involve family dog. Dog has been tired,
slow, moping around house. Resembles old me. To remedy
condition, placed dog on kitchen table. Used clippers to
inscribe number 23 on both of sides of dog. Waited for results.
Nothing happened. Waited more. Still nothing happened. Called
doctor again.

''What did I tell you?'' doctor said. ''Isn't that number 23 the
cure-all of all time?''

''Even better than aspirin,'' I said. ''One problem, though,
with my dog....''

Told doctor the problem. Doctor thought for minute.

''What color sneakers does the dog wear?'' he asked.

Sounded like sensible question to me.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [four armed man wearing the number 23 on his suit, tie, shirt, and socks, and simultaneously reading, writing, painting, and cooking]