On the morning of her thirteenth birthday Mona Sue Perrin completed the necessities: left foot out of the bed first, touch the foot; then the right; touch the floor; twenty-four steps clockwise around the bed three times; teeth brushed left to right, left to right for eleven passes; replace the cap; set the tube exactly upon the outside right corner of the old glass shelf; three revolutions counter-clockwise round the bed, etc. etc. etc. etc. Forty-five minutes later to the dot she left the room because today she was careful and nothing had been skipped, left on, or become dangerous in the night. She timed sitting down to breakfast so that exactly when the pleats on her skirt fell without overlapping anywhere Mona said good morning to her mother.
Many people complained about her carefulness but Mona knew what they did not— if she made the slightest mistake Mars would crash into Jupiter, bounce back off Mercury and knock Earth out of its orbit or something even worse depending upon the day, the moment and her error.
This morning, just as she was eating her fourteenth pair of blue Fruit Loops, Mona Sue had a thought quite new to her. A thought so tantalizing, so tempting and amazing she couldn’t fathom why it had never crossed her mind before. Every day the balancing of the solar system required that she attempt something she had never done before and do it perfectly. Today, she, Mona Sue Perrin would decide to do something wrong. Not something important but something that other people thought was wrong. She would make a regular mistake.
There were precedents, after all. Leonardo Da Vinci was convinced of that all things worked on the same great model; therefore, our planet had to work by the same mechanisms that our bodies did. He assembled many marvelous and accurate observations to support his theory but the theory itself was basically stupid.
And Bishop Berkeley applied rigorous thought to proving the existence of God and succeeded in proving that all we know is what is in our minds and therefore we could not know god. Then, being a bishop, he had to scramble through some slippery thinking to get God back into the picture. The Chinese kill or give away their baby girls and then are surprised to discovered that there aren’t enough wives for all those boys. Quantum mechanics gets more and more head-bendingly complicated but further and further away from a unifying theory because nature obviously works on the strictest of simplicities.
So what unimportant mistake could Mona Sue make today? Write a play that was so awful no one would come to it. Somehow she thought that had been tried and failed. Write a philosophical or psychological treatise on the will to error? Design airplanes built of solid lead? She stared into her bowl of rotating Fruit Loops until the milk had gone pink and blue but eventually she knew what to do. It was age appropriate and within her capabilities. Today she had to take the SAT so she could go to college early. She’d miss every question. Instead of a perfect score she’d produce a perfect zip, bottom of the bottom, least of the least. So wrong it was right or so right it was wrong and the Earth continued another day.