Aside from the body-sized freezer, the store room contains the hot water heater and the enormous stand my father built to grow seedlings inside, which is so old I have no memory of it in use. It now functions as an inconveniently bulky shelf, along with three or four other sets of inconvenient shelves that contain the following: eleven billion dusty cardboard boxes. Winter clothes. Summer clothes. Shoeboxes of negatives. Old letters. Biology textbooks. Sundry photographic equipment. Twenty-five cookie tins. A fake Christmas tree (boxed). A picture of Pushkin, my mother’s guinea pig. A paper machĂ© stegasaurus. Eight baskets. Three shelves of Christmas decorations. A plate from Russia. Stickers from Denmark. Two sewing machines, clearly a dueling set. Two slide projectors and two screens, perhaps for the same purpose. Enough scrap fabric to clothe the Von Trapp children twice. One large Pound Puppy. A longhouse (small-scale). Twinkle lights galore. And thirteen bags and two days’ worth of garbage.

There was also a box of games that were too boring to be played but in such perfect condition that they couldn’t be thrown away. It was an impasse, and that was how my parents and I found ourselves sitting in the basement with a little delight called

It’s hard to tell, but that says

*O! Euclid*. It is an amusing and scholarly card game for ages 9-99. On the side it says

O! Euclid, the geometry fun game, provides the following instructions

with which you can also build an ultra cold atom collider if you are of a mind to.

My mother, who is a tutor in math among other things, knew every question, which was good because I mainly abstained except to occasionally say, “Oh yeah? Can be divided by its diagonals to form six equilateral triangles, eh? Prove it!” I have, in the past, been accused of Not Liking Math, which is not true, and in fact, I liked geometry best. I even liked geometry proofs. And adding picas in base-twelve always brightens a dull workday. But I am the Harold Skimpole of math. What could I possibly understand about the world of numbers, being but an English major?

Just enough, it turns out, to have some profound doubts about the geometry fun game.

Is it possible that the educated professionals who made up a game that requires the players to have the formula for calculating the area of a trapezoid readily at hand are the same people who came up with the following questions?

There is no such thing as a loperbola. That is ridiculous. Why would one introduce the idea of a “high-perbola” having a “low-perbola” counterpart? While you’re at it, why don’t you give the kids a list of misspelled vocabulary words, too, just to, you know, warn them of possible pitfalls. Or, er, push them in ahahahahahaha!

Again. No such thing as a left triangle. This seems deliberately confusing, and since the copyright is 1988, I can only conclude that these so-called teachers are actually Russian infiltrators who, in their desperation, have resorted to planting false information in children’s games so as to poison the mathemetical consciousnesses of future American cosmonauts with such foolish concepts as a “left triangle” and a “loperbola.”

[Blogger hates me. The answer to the last question is: "Betsy Ross used this method to form five-pointed stars for our flag." I guess those 9- to 99-year-olds are ALL American.]

Now that the innocent students are failing geometry, thanks to Russia, we’re going to come at them from another angle (no pun intended) and make them feel stupid about geography and history as well -- but unjustifiably, because the Pentagon is not called the Regular Pentagon. I expect it is more often described as “irregular” if anything. And the fact that you can make a pentagon by tying a knot in a strip of paper (which I’d like to see, Betsy) is one of the most useless facts a person could possibly know. How many would-be astronauts went mad before the age of twelve trying to tie a pentagon in a strip of paper? This must have put off the development of a space station for at least ten years.

Communists 1 NASA 0

Clipped? Is that a technical term?

And no, I’m not sure you can just paint an octagon red and put it up as a stop sign. The Department of Transportation is very strict about regulating road signs. Children should not be encouraged to put up their own.

Here I begin to suspect not a nefarious misinformation campaign, but simple sloppiness.

A line that goes around? Goes around what? The mulberry bush? And since when do circles have holes in the middle? They have a point in the middle. A point is not a hole. A point is defined by coordinates. A hole is a denomination used to measure donut parts.

This is how Wikipedia, not even the paragon (not a shape) of collected human knowledge, defines a circle: “A two-dimensional geometric figure consisting of the set of all those points in a plane that are equally distant from another point.”

Let’s revisit the definition on this flashcard once more, just for comparison: “A Circle is a line that goes around and has a hole in the middle.”

The conspiracy theory falls apart here. Let’s face it, Soviet spies are just smarter than this.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A BOLA. Though if there were, it would explain why the two symmetrical bolas are called a “pair o’ bolas.”

Hey, my father thought it was funny.

No longer able to support a proper conspiracy theory, I’m faced with only one other explanation. The geometry fun game is not supposed to be called, “O! Euclid.” It’s supposed to be “Oh,

*Euclid*.”

Needless to say, we kept it.