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Charlie Hatton
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#14. My house has fourteen steps between the first and second floors.

The fact that I know this -- and that it's actually important to me -- is further evidence (as if you need it) of my shaky, borderline-compulsive personality.

For what it's worth, there are twelve steps between the first floor and the basement, and thirty-nine steps (boo!) from the street to the house. (Yes, we live in the 'creepy-house-up-on-the-hill'. It gets us some funny looks, but it keeps the children away, so it's worth it.)

So, anyway, I used to be quite a bit more, um, insane with my compulsions. I like even numbers for reasons I can't even begin to imagine, so I would always take an even number of steps when going somewhere. Assuming that I was paying attention, of course -- many happy walks went by without me thinking about it, but when I did, look out!

Because it wasn't enough for my mind to make me take an even number of steps. Oh, no. That would be too easy. I had to take an even number of steps on each surface. On the sidewalk? Even number. Crossing the street? Even number. And if you're on the white part of the walk sometimes, and the black part other times, even number on each. Step on a crack? Then step on another one. And on and on and on, ad delirium.

I suppose the best thing you can say about it is that it kept my brain occupied, and therefore out of trouble. (As Exhibit A, I'll mention that I had no time for writing crap like this back then. So you can see, it wasn't all bad.) But it did make many things -- like, oh, walking -- rather difficult. But it never got really out of hand.

These days, such oddball obsessions only seem to arise when I'm nervous, or practicing old habits. If I'm cheering for my favorite team, I'll likely clap my hands an even number of times. Always. And stamp each foot in multiples of two. I often kiss my wife an even number of times, at least when I'm, er, capable of thinking about such things while they're happening. Which is not always the case, of course. But I'm sure we always end on an even number, even if I'm not keeping track. No, really, I'm sure of it. Let me have my delusions; they keep me company while I'm trying to sleep at night.

And, of course, if I'm walking down a staircase with an odd number of stairs, I'll tap my 'other' foot against the very last stair, so that I've touched the steps an even number of times. It's second nature at this point; I'm not sure I could help it if I tried. But, of course, all that toe-tapping does create rather ample opportunity for tripping and falling on my face. So, it's a very, very Good Thing™ that the steps inside my house have had the good sense to arrange themselves in even-numbered groups.

Now, if I can just find room for one more step leading up to the porch...

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